International interns thriving at Toledo Botanical Garden

Transplanted workers taking in local sights

7/27/2013
BY ARIELLE STAMBLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Magdalena Borowik, 28, weeds at Toledo Botanical Garden. She just finished a master’s degree in horticulture at Warsaw University of Life Sciences and came to Toledo in March.
Magdalena Borowik, 28, weeds at Toledo Botanical Garden. She just finished a master’s degree in horticulture at Warsaw University of Life Sciences and came to Toledo in March.

Kneeling on a green foam cushion, Caroline Dewi meticulously uprooted weeds crowding out the yellow daylilies in one of the Toledo Botanical Garden’s perennial beds Wednesday afternoon.

Ms. Dewi, 24, traveled a long way to get there. In April, she left her home in Bogor, Indonesia, to participate in Toledo Botanical Garden’s six-month international intern program.

The program began at the botanical garden in 1985 through a partnership with the Ohio Program, an international exchange program run by Ohio State University that draws college students and postgraduates from around the world to the United States for internships in agriculture, horticulture, and turf-grass maintenance.

Josh Miller, superintendent of gardens and grounds and the interns’ supervisor, said the interns work on seasonal display installation and maintenance, removal of invasive species, and plant conservation. In the spring, they planted the annual beds outside the garden’s main Elmer Drive entrance.

“It’s great to see a plant that you’ve planted grow,” said Ms. Dewi, who graduated in 2012 from Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia with a degree in landscape architecture.

The interns work five-day, 40-hour weeks, earning the wages of a seasonal horticulturalist and living in a house on the garden grounds. Although Mr. Miller declined to state the program’s total cost, he said expenses are offset by donations from area garden clubs.

Lin Xia Huang, a 22-year-old Ningxia University student from Yinchuan, China, started working at the garden in March, armed with a background in agriculture and plant protection. She said she has enjoyed watching the garden grow at her fingertips.

Lin Xia Huang, 22, of China, left, and Caroline Dewi, 24, of Indonesia work together under sunny skies in Toledo.
Lin Xia Huang, 22, of China, left, and Caroline Dewi, 24, of Indonesia work together under sunny skies in Toledo.

Magdalena Borowik, 28, just finished a master’s degree in horticulture at Warsaw University of Life Sciences and came to Toledo in March.

She is particularly interested in medicinal plants and beneficial insects and hopes to conduct research on one of those topics next year.

But for now, she is enjoying the garden’s wide open spaces and the opportunity to explore Toledo.

Garden clubs have taken the interns to the Toledo Zoo, the Toledo Museum of Art, and to Shrek: the Musical. They are planning a trip to Chicago in August.

“The garden as a whole takes these students under its wing,” Mr. Miller said.

Today, former interns hold impressive jobs, said Janice Lower, the garden’s horticulture committee chairman.

One is head horticulturalist at the American Embassy in London, another is a professor at an English horticulture college, and others work in the National Arboretum’s herb garden and on world-class Indonesian golf courses.

When she returns to Indonesia in April, Ms. Dewi said she might start her own landscape architecture consulting firm. But she hopes to work in the United States again one day.

The perennial bed where Ms. Dewi was weeding Wednesday — filled with Shasta daisies, lavender coneflowers, and cream-colored hydrangeas — was a far cry from Bogor’s tropical environment. Even so, kneeling over the soil, she appeared as at home in the landscape as the flowers did.

Contact Arielle Stambler at: astambler@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.