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The Tropical Gardening School: The First Few Days

March 7, 2010

Day 1:

I arrived at Dokmai Garden in the late afternoon on a Saturday.   I had just arrived in Chiang Mai on the overnight train from Bangkok and taken a tuk tuk, a small, open-aired taxi, from the train station to Dokmai Garden.  I paid the tuk tuk driver and heaved my backpack on my back and headed for the garden.  Ketsanee, the president of Dokmai Garden, greeted me warmly and let me explore the garden for the first time.  I wandered in, entering through a Chinese gate in the restaurant area and heading through a covered walkway full of climbing plants and vines and buzzing with insects and birds.  I strolled through the different areas, pausing to read information signs and gaze at beautiful plants I had never seen before.  The quiet of the garden and the various bird calls that echo through the air were a welcome change from the loud train noises and the bustling city sounds of Bangkok.  I was pretty happy knowing I could call this garden my office for the next few weeks.

Day 4:

The sheer number of plants and animals at Dokmai can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially given that each tree has a botanical name and a common name.  Today, I took a walk around the garden with Eric as he told me about the different trees, flowers, and animals.  We walked for nearly four hours, and barely covered half of the garden.  It was exciting to learn about where each tree came from and how it was grown.  Although Dokmai Garden only opened a year ago, there is a mango tree that is over 160 years old, while others are only a year or two old.  My favorite section of the garden is the vegetable section, where you can see a variety of edible plants being grown including: peppers, tomatoes, rice, taro, pineapple, and macadamia.  I love seeing these plants, but it sure makes me hungry for lunch!

Day 7:

This morning I rode my bike to the garden with Martina, the other gardening school student.  We arrived at 8am, just in time for the morning meeting.  During the meeting, the Seehamongkol family, the gardening school students, and full-time workers discuss what is happening in the garden and what tasks need to be completed.  After the meeting, we set about our duties.  We began by doing a loop around the garden, noting which trees needed tending to and which ones were in good shape.  Later we planted a few Hiptage benghalensis seedlings for the nursery.  I ended the day walking Ruben, the family’s golden retriever, around the roads surrounding the garden.  As we returned to the garden, we passed a nearby query as the sun was setting over the hills.  Not a bad first week at the garden, I thought, not a bad week at all.

Madeline, U.S.A.

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