Egg Harbor Township plant-lover going to Cuba to see gardens
Plant lover Michael Herman, of Egg Harbor Township, never thought of visiting Cuba until he heard National Public Radio’s Mike McGrath, of “You Bet Your Garden,” was leading a horticultural tour there.
“I was signed up within an hour,” he said. “Wherever I go, I want to look at the plants.”
Herman, 62, is a retired cook who worked for 24 years at Shore Memorial Hospital. He lives at Heathercroft Condominiums and said he gardens indoors, with one room entirely dedicated to plants — mostly cacti and succulents.
On Wednesday morning, Herman will take an hourlong flight from Miami to Havana with McGrath and 15 others from all over the U.S., he said.
In Cuba for a week, they will visit national parks, organic farms and public gardens, and interact with horticulturalists there. Included is the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, founded in 1899 by a New Englander and maintained for a while by Harvard University, according to Earthbound Expeditions, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., which is running the trip.
It is illegal for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for tourism, but U.S. visitors can go on licensed “people-to-people” educational trips, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees Cuban Assets Control Regulations. Such trips must provide a full schedule of educational events and meaningful interaction between the travelers and Cuban citizens.
The group will travel in a Soviet open-air truck to Topes de Collantes National Park, Herman said. They will visit the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion, art galleries and Ernest Hemingway’s home.
There is one drawback.
“I can’t bring back the three things I want: plants, cigars or rum,” Herman said.