Planting with Love
Recently a Guatemalan couple from Silver Spring, MD donated a tree garden “in memory” of the husband’s parents. When asked when his parents had died, the husband said, “Oh, they’re not dead. They’re doing just fine living in Santiago Sacatepequez.” Local businesses also have donated gardens and sponsored their upkeep.
Tomas and Barbara Cernikovsky started the garden project in 2001, soon after their move to La Antigua from New York’s Lower Manhattan. Whenever they stepped outside their home on the alameda—the divided boulevard running north and south on the west end of town—they noticed the trees were dying or dead from neglect.
There were 162 spaces for trees. Now there are 193, including new trees and flower gardens to replace the dead ones and new holes dug into the alameda’s concrete median and sidewalks.
At the memorial planting for Edie Kovick a week before Christmas, Tomas pointed to the holes in the sidewalk. “Yesterday, this was all concrete. They cut the holes, filled them with 30 bags of planting material, and today we have two new gardens!”Each garden, protected by a small metal fence, costs a sponsor Q800. “People pay for the garden and we do the rest—flowers, trees, topsoil, watering, maintenance.” This year, once it reaches its goal of 200 gardens, the project will concentrate on maintenance, which costs about $4,000 annually. “At least 15 gardens have been smashed by hit-and-run drivers, so there’s plenty of upkeep. Also, we go through three or four hoses a month. The heavy traffic crushes them.”
Tomas loves to tell the story of a New Zealander living in La Antigua who, having had a baby, agreed to sponsor one of the gardens on the condition that she could do what they do back home. “She planted the placenta under a new tree and took photos and sent them home to show she did the right thing. The tree’s growing very well with its special fertilizer.”
Always the optimist, Tomas hopes the municipality will eventually take over the maintenance. Meanwhile he’s working with Mayor Adolfo Vivar by providing supplies to municipal workers, who paint the tree bases and garden fences.
For more information about Proyecto de Jardinización de La Alameda Santa Lucía, see La Alameda Santa Lucía.