On June 18, a van full of Hmong girls headed out from their Northside homes to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen. They had been looking forward to the trip for weeks.
During the next three hours they followed the paths through acres and acres of beautiful flowers and plants. Their favorites included the roses, azaleas and peonies. They also came across the Minnesota state flower, the Lady Slipper.
They even saw huge flowers made out of Legos. The girls said the Lego flowers were beautiful, but didn’t smell as nice.
They also got of glimpse of what Minnesota’s landscape looked like before the forest trees were cut down and prairies plowed under. They saw and learned about many plants from Minnesota’s woodlands and tallgrass prairies.
They were surprised to learn that there are even prickly pear cacti that are native to Minnesota.
Many of the girls had lived in a Thai refugee camp before coming to the United States, and know how Minnesota’s severe winters prevent many warm-weather fruits and vegetables from being grown here.
As they rode along the Arboretum’s Three Mile Drive past stands of ornamental and fruit trees, they learned how the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Arboretum have played a decisive role in acclimating many plants such as apples, grapes, corn and blueberries to thrive in Minnesota’s cold climate.
And finally they came across a quaint greenhouse full of delicate plants and flowers that could not survive the harsh Minnesota climate. Many of the flowers reminded them of plants back in their native Thailand.
Even though they spent hours walking the paths of the arboretum, there was much they did not see, and they hope to come back again soon. The University of Minnesota CURA, MCNO and UROC made the trip possible.