Saturday, September 12, 2015

Argentine Treasures

The best of significant others spent the past week on a business trip to Brazil, with a weekend side trip to visit a friend in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Ever the thoughtful one, he brought back gifts: lots of different alfajores stuffed with dulce de leche, chocolate filled with dulce de leche and a big tub of the delicious milky, caramelly stuff to boot, and two issues of the gardening magazine Jardín.

 I am spoiled

The gardening magazines are lovely - sleek, contemporary, with beautiful photographs. They are also very patriotic. Even just the titles of the cover stories suggest as much: "Primavera nacional" or "National Spring" for the regular spring issue, and "Encanto argentino: una mirada sobre nuestra identidad" or "Argentine Enchantment: a Look at Our Identity" for a special issue dedicated entirely to beautiful estates and landscapes in different parts of Argentina. This nationalist tenor continues throughout the elegantly illustrated articles. There is the extensive article about spring-flowering ornamental trees native to Argentina and the feature about flowering tobaccos (Nicotiana sp.) that pointedly distinguishes between species native to Argentina (Nicotiana alata, Nicotiana sylvestris, Nicotiana longiflora, Nicotiana langsdorffii) and all those whose origins lie elsewhere, whether nearby in neighboring southern Brazil (Nicotiana mutabilis) or further north in Peru and Bolivia (Nicotiana glutinosa) or even Central and North America (Nicotiana rustica). Then there is a column about how pests and plant diseases "enter" - that is, how they arrive in Argentina. Brazil is evidently to blame for most troubles unleashed on Argentine gardeners, including such horrors as the giant African snail (Achatina fulica), but plant material illegally introduced from Europe brought with it the plum pox virus or sharka. Now, the spread of invasive species and pests is definitely a serious issue, and the use of native plants - especially in a country with such stunning native vegetation as Argentina has - is certainly to be commended and a big topic in gardening publications in many parts of the world. Nonetheless, it feels as though here there is more in play - as if the verbal barrage of "national", "native", "indigenous," "Argentinian", etc., has as much to do with nationalist ideology as with environmentalism.


  1. That's snail is also a serious problem in my garden. This week I got more than thirty big snails on my tiny garden. They destroy my seedling patches.

    1. Oh no! Snails and slugs are one pest that we are relatively safe from here, at least for now.


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