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US Public Gardens Bring People, Plants Together


The United States Botanic Garden located across from the U.S. Capitol is one of the many tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. Visitors can see thousands of beautiful and fascinating plants in the garden and this summer they can experience greenery from across the U.S. As VOA's June Soh reports in a special exhibit, 20 institutions have combined to show the impact of the nation's public gardens. Amy Katz narrates the story.

"Celebrating America's Public Gardens" is the title of the special exhibit at the United States Botanic Garden. Visitors not only can see beautiful and exotic plants displayed in the national garden year round, but also can "visit" the other gardens that they might otherwise never have a chance to see.

The Associate Director of North Carolina's Botanical Gardens, Andrew Bell, points out different plants in the garden. "This is a piece of coast plants of North Carolina, a very unique ecosystem in the southeast. And we want to bring a piece of them up here."

In the summer-long exhibit focusing on the work, diversity and importance of public gardens, 20 institutions from across the nation have constructed displays representative of their work.

Holly Shimizu, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden, says the gardens tell a story and have an ever-increasing role in people's lives, "We are in Hawaii right now. This is done by the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii. And it tells the story of the native plants there and it is all tied in their rich cultures. Because as natural areas are shrinking, we rely more and more on our public gardens, not only for the plants that they are saving but also the places where people can connect with plants and nature. This is an issue that faces humans around the world, whether you are in Africa, Asia or United States, we need public gardens."

There is one display garden [in the exhibit] that suggests that plants can play a diplomatic role too. Executive Director Stephen Bloom says his Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon was conceived after World War Two as a way of bringing two nations together. "That was successful. There are now over one hundred Japanese companies, which have offices or company headquarters in Oregon. We continue that wonderful relationship with Japan through gardens. These places are my favorites at the garden," he added.

The U.S. Botanic Garden's officials say the wide variety of living exhibits attract one million visitors annually.

Carly Rippel and her family are on their second visit from New York. "We want to come to the garden because it is just calling to us."

Jared Beard, of West Virginia, says it is educational for first timers "I (learned) just the kind of effort and care that has been put into things like this for the public, the way they take care of the garden, and its beauty and their choice of plants."

Beng Ulep is a foreign tourist from the Philippines. " I have seen here so many species of flowers that we don't have in the Philippines. I enjoyed very much. My heart feels dancing because of the beauty."

Her feelings underscore the goal of public gardeners: to nurture the human soul. They say it is time for people to recognize the importance of these places and the critical role that plants play in our lives.

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