The Plant Whisperer

As Olas Verdes matures, it has emerged as a canvas upon where its many contributors can add their particular talents to the overall sustainable statement being developed by the hotel. Upon completion of the construction phase, the hotel subsequently received many awards and accolades; LEED Platinum, Stoke Certified, Costa Rica Tourism Institute’s CST – Certification of Sustainable Tourism initiative; as well as numerous articles praising the sustainable efforts and accomplishments of the operation.

But once open, the real show begins through the staff and its many contributors, continually renewing our sustainability commitment in kind of a “live-theater” atmosphere. The tone and personality of the hotel comes alive in many forms; food creations in the restaurant, staff pride and interactions with guests, upgrading equipment and systems to cutting-edge sustainability standards, eye-opening sustainable tours of the hotel by Luis, and the old salt at Safari Surf spinning tales from a lifetime spent on the ‘surf-hippy trail’!

I am honored to introduce one such unique and colorful contributor, Herman Gonzalez, whom I like to refer as ‘The Plant Whisperer’. Herman was originally called upon to identify and source adaptable native plant species during the hotels construction phase. Recently General Manager Luis Pardo invited him back to enliven the existing landscape. If you were walking through the hotel grounds and happened to catch a glimpse of Herman working you would likely think “he’s the jardinero (gardener)”. True enough; but having an opportunity to “hear his story” reveals a lifetime of dedication and passion for the natural world in which we all live, but few us really see.

Born in Costa Rica, Herman moved to the states after high school where he studied anthropology and chemistry. He received his PhD in public health and worked for the City of San Francisco as a city planner. It was here where he observed how important the relationship between society and the environment is. “Society’s health and effectiveness are a direct reflection of the environment that surrounds it” he maintains. Eventually Herman realized that his true calling was in the natural world. He returned to Costa Rica to study native landscapes and ecosystems and became a passionate advocate of ecology and environmental protection. Herman has a vast knowledge of native plants and animals. Currently he maintains nurseries in Moravia (San Jose), Quepos (Puntarenas), and Playa Negra (Guanacaste), where he grows everything from seed.

Before implementing new landscapes at Olas Verdes Hotel he draws detailed sketches of each area he is enhancing. “My ‘installations’ are done in segments. Each is its own micro-environment and I analyze all the elements to insure everything is in balance and harmony.  I insist on native species rather than exotics, which upset the natural symmetry of the habitat. Plants have abundant intelligence and also emotions, so it is vital that we match compatible species and lineage. I’m a child out in nature and these plants are my babies. I am also interested in introducing frogs and guppies into the ecosystem. They eat nuisance insects and add color and song to an environment”. It will be fun to observe the living transformations Herman initiates. One thing is for sure; a walk through the gardens at Olas Verdes will not be boring!

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