It’s so hot and humid in Cuba they’ve got airy shade “houses” to protect orchids and other tropicals from the intense sun while the rest of us must resort to expensive greenhouses in order to gather as much light and humidity as possible.
I took this photo at Jardin Gran Piedre, a botanical garden located up in the Sierra Maestra mountains on the site of an old coffee plantation. [You can read about our harried trip up to the garden here.] The plantation was once owned by the French and operated on the forced labor of Haitian slaves. The place operates as a tourist site and commercial Bird of Paradise flower grow-op but the bones of the old plantation still remains. The wall in this photo that now houses orchids and bromeliads probably used to be the sides of slave quarters. Opposite to this wall and not seen in the photo were intact slave houses now functioning as storage sheds for gardening tools and equipment.
Photo taken at the Cactus Garden outside Santiago de Cuba
I don’t know how it happened but Davin RUINED my highly artistic photo with his butt and apparently I did not notice until I looked at the film. Look at all of those spider webs among the leaves of the plant. I wonder what kind of Cuban spiders lived there?
Every information source I consulted bragged that Cuba does not have any venomous animals but I continue to remain suspicious of that factoid given that during our short week trip we encountered several instances in which Cubans tended to deny one thing or another.
“There is no crime in Cuba!” bragged one tour guide.
“We do not have any social problems here!” said another.
“There are no sharks in our waters.”
All of these proclamations seem a little unlikely so you can imagine why I’m not completely convinced that there are no venomous animals on the entire island. It’s not that I was afraid. The presence of venomous or deadly animals is not going to limit me. I’m not about to cower in my hotel room worried that stepping out into the world might lead to certain death. I’ll go in the water (albeit tentatively) if I know sharks are a possibility. I just like to know what I’m dealing with. I like all potential hazards out in the open so I can ascertain how to best ensure my safety.
That giant blob at the very top of the hill that looks just like another regular old tree is not in fact another regular old tree but a massive cactus. It was a pretty darn impressive sight for this born and raised North American cold winter dweller.
Background on the Location
I took this photo at a strange Cuban roadside attraction called “El Valle Prehistorico”. We paid 1 peso each to enter and 1 peso each to take pictures. Fidel’s revolution began in the Sierra Maestra mountains and the land this attraction sits on was a former farm that had been pertinent to their activities in the countryside. The premise of the place was cheesy; life-sized plaster dioramas featuring caveman era vignettes. There was a dinosaur area on the other side, but the place was so big and the sun so hot, we skipped it. Despite the cheese (which was awesome in its own right) the landscape was stunning, covered in carpet of flowing, golden grass, dotted with cactus and other interesting plant-life, and backed by the majestic Sierra Maestra mountain-scape. I love my grasses so it was pretty near heaven.
You must head over to Ping Magazine and take a look at this photo-essay on Guerilla Greening in Tokyo. With only 4% of the city allocated for green space and no yards to speak of, residents have found unique ways to garden and green public spaces. What an inspiration!
I found the part about three-tiered bleacher-like stands notable as just the other day I walked past and contemplated bringing home the very same that someone had put out on the curb for garbage day. It struck me as perfect for my roof garden but was made of dense wood, far too heavy for me to carry the long walk home with bags of stuff slung over my shoulders. I’ve got it in my head now to make one this spring.
Beyond the creative ways people are beautifying public space, I was also very taken by this quote about the lack of vandalism in Tokyo and peoples’ attitude towards public gardens as something to be respected.
“One possible reason might be what ethnographies describe as the respect Japanese have for public and private space. To generalize a bit: Everyone plays a part in keeping spaces nice, tidy and orderly for everyone else in Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe group.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ This possibly also explains all those times we see strangers picking up other peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rubbish in the streets. As such, (hopefully every) Japanese person would not think of littering or destroying a tiny flowerpot garden since, as a part of a shared common space, it is to be respected.”
Oh how I long for a public attitude of respect and mutual responsibility in my own neighbourhood. I was fascinated by the idea of seeing and experiencing the massive metropolis that is Tokyo in my early 20′s but have lost interest over the years. However, the sight of so much creative greening amidst an intense urban environment is very intriguing.
Thanks to Leela for the link.
Photographed in the countryside outside Santiago de Cuba.
I have to admit that I can’t say with any real authority whether this is sugar cane (Saccharum) or King Grass (Pennisetum purpureum). Sugar cane is a pretty major source of sugar and King Grass is grown as cattle feed. They looked so much alike out in the fields that it could go either way although with the thicker lower stalks I am leaning towards sugar cane in this case.