Mar 22nd, 2018

Connecting People Through Plants

Exchange students at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Honoka Sato and Olivia Appelrouth in the Orchid Wing at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Lewis Ginter works to connect people through plants to improve communities.

Although they’ve only known each other for two days, 16-year-olds Honoka Sato and Olivia Appelrouth have become fast friends. Sato, a Japanese exchange student from Municipal Urawa High School (Saitama, Japan) and Appelrouth, her host student, and a sophomore at Clover Hill High School, say they have learned much from each other already. Appelrouth explains how having an exchange student offers you a new perspective on your everyday life, “I learned that everything here [in the United States] is so much bigger [than in Japan]. It made me really thankful and I feel fortunate about stuff that’s just normal for us — simple things like being able to have cheap produce -– cantaloupe is really expensive in Japan.”

So far, much to Sato’s delight, they’ve been eating fruit at every meal, something, until now, Appelrouth didn’t realize was a treat. Sato’s first impressions of America? “It is very different here. [America] has a lot of trees and I feel like it is living in nature. Japan has lots of buildings. America has lots of trees. I love them.”

Japanese exchange students view the commemorative osmanthus planting connecting people and plants

The Japanese exchange students viewed the commemorative osmanthus in the Asian Valley, despite the rain. See the sister cities plaque at right next to the osmanthus tree.

Japanese student with optical toy

The Japanese exchange students then got a behind-the-scenes preview of M&T Bank Butterflies LIVE! exhibit. In this photo, one teen is looking through an eye-piece that helps her “see like a butterfly,” while the other takes her photo.

Connecting People and Plants

The group of about 20 students, 10 Japanese exchange students from Municipal Urawa High School (Saitama, Japan), and their 10 host students viewed a special plaque honoring the relationship between the sister cities of Richmond and Urawa (Saitama). The plaque commemorates a tree planting on October 18, 1999, when delegations from Richmond City and the Japanese city of Urawa planted a sweet osmanthus (Osmanthus x fortunei) tree.  Each autumn the fragrant blooms fill the Asian Valley as the tiny white blooms open in the sun.
Scroll down to see the detailed writing on the sign. (Urawa has since been consolidated to form the city of Saitama.)

Boys walking in the rain at the garden

Japanese high school exchange students visited Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with their host students on a very rainy first day of spring. The students are part of an exchange program between Clover Hill High School (Chesterfield County Public Schools) and Municipal Urawa High School (Saitama, Japan).

Sister City Plaque for Richmond and Urawa (Seitama)

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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