By Gabriel Dufurrena
To many, gardening is a chore. Most people want their yard to look nice, but couldn’t care less about how it gets that way. Landscapers are inexpensive and hardly noticed. Even if you’re home all day, the likelihood that you’ll notice some guy or girl bent below your shrubs with a pair of garden shears is pretty low.
To some, gardening is as good a pastime as baseball. It’s probably even better, because with gardening you’re working toward something to be proud of, whereas with baseball you’re working toward a good buzz and a farmer’s tan.
When you lease a house, it’s pretty common for the landlord to hire a landscaper to do your gardening for you. Typically, whatever they pay the landscaper is added to your rent, and most tenants don’t think twice about the cost. However, if you want to save a little money and take up a new, rewarding hobby, you may want to consider negotiating with your landlord about taking over the landscaping duties.
“I started doing my own gardening probably about a year ago,” says Kyler Mello, a returning student living in a beautiful house in east campus. Mello “already knew how to take care of the roses,” and learned most of what he knows about gardening from the Internet and his step mom.
Mello’s garden is a wonderful mix of wild and domestic. At this point of the season, all the wildflowers are mid-bloom, and there’s a blanket of purple wrapped around the porch of his house. Little yellow and white daisies pepper the perfectly-trimmed lawn, and the small tree and vines that surround the property are on the cusp of vibrancy.
However, Mello is mostly tending to his pride and joy, which has yet to bloom: a large rose bush just in front of the wood steps to the house. He bends over the bush and takes tender jabs at it with a pair of scissors, which he claims are irrefutably better than garden shears for this sort of trimming. He stands about a foot from the bush, leaning back and planning his next move, then swoops in and makes a diagonal cut against a chosen stem. He repeats this process, working his way around the bush, tossing the trim into a thorny pile on the porch. It seems a very zen process, which he admits to, but while the actual act of gardening has certain zen properties and connotations, Mello claims his favorite part is when he’s done and has “made something beautiful.” For this particular flower, the process of trimming is never ending, and the reward comes once a year.
For spring, the name of the gardening game is flowers, and Mello has embraced the bountiful bloom. He points out, however, that not everything in his garden revolves around the season. Above the brick path to the left of his house, a tamed nest of sharp, brown vines coils around itself. He sort of chuckles when I ask what went wrong, and says they are supposed to look like that right now. Apparently grape season is much later (which shows how much I know) and he claims that when they come in, the grapes are pretty fantastic.
No matter what exotic plants you have in your garden, if you have a yard in the Willamette Valley, you probably have grass. Mello’s former roommate and initial inspiration to start gardening, Scotty, was a self-proclaimed “grass-guy” who left a well-treated lawn behind when he moved. If nothing else, when you decide to ditch the hired landscaper, mow your lawn. If you fail to do so, your landlord will likely regret the decision to let you take over landscaping duties.
Above all else, remember: whether you find it fun or think it’s a chore, gardening has its reward. You save money, potentially find peace of mind (although that may backfire depending on who you are) and, of course, create something beautiful.