I remember well the summer of 1988. I was working for a grounds maintenance company, some place out of Bloomington. Clients were a number of big corporations which occupied large pieces of property. I got $8 an hour, but was called ‘the Professor’, because I knew something about plants.
The hired, including me, were hired to be laborers, were expected to be laborers, and confined to be laborers.
Few holes were dug…..nearly nothing was planted. There was a large mowing crew and then the ‘artists’ who were in charge of pruning, preferably something simple which would keep shrubs the same size and shape forever more whatever the shrub.
No matter what the shrub was or looked like, management insisted it be reduced to a ball or egg.
The company did have us plant shrubs when necessary……usually at newly developed grounds. Management was reluctant to do much planting. That required knowledge and so, might threaten a deviation from the one regimen the company had for shrub maintenance, developing globes or eggs.
My work was pruning. I knew the names of all of the trees and shrubs nearabouts and I was much older than the dozen or so worker-bee comrades with whom I worked. They were in their early twenties…..They got along well with each other, but there never seemed to be any interest among them to know much about what they were doing. Most of the plants we played with were spiraeas, yet the follows as well as the owner called everything not a tree, a shrub, or bush, often with a swear word placed in front of “shrub” or “bush”.
The public which would walk by the landscape laborers, no matter where located in the Minneapolis and greater Minneapolis area, were cold and silent toward the crew. It was as if they saw beetles on the grounds doing something to the vegetation.
Beauty was absent, so nothing in the landscape could be admired.
The weather was hot and very dry, quite remindful of this year’s serving of rain and temperature. It was nearly 80 degrees every morning when we started at 8:30 AM.
Yet no one in the huge numbers of the public which would walk to huge parking lots and back to their offices, never made the slightest comment to anyone regarding the weather or the well being of the work force.
The equipment was well maintained. Most of the guys were quite brainy about not only working the equipment, but how to maintain and repair it. They seemed to eat up the challenge to fix something……to solve a problem.
But the laborers, these young guys, were never given an opportunity to problem solve directed at landscaping. Thiey might as well have been slaves laying out the Roman road during its empire two thousand years ago.
Cost was the bottom line. Corporate owners didn’t look upon their ground to be beautiful……only to be kept somewhat neat as cheaply as possible.
Landscape gardening, although by far the most revered art form in the human experience, is usually in America looked down upon as work for young male slaves who weren’t smart enough to go to college.
That wasn’t the case in my experience, however. These were not unintelligents as a group. Nothing resembling problem solving was expected of them outside of keeping the equipment working. What a waste…….and the public saw us all as ‘the unfortunate’…..slave market material.
It is the hot of this season that reminded me of the hot of the summer of 1988. I am as proud of our Masterpiece Landscaping working crew as an astronaut off to Mars might be about the crews which keep him alive.
I quit that job of 1988 in early August. I quit on the spot and walked twelve miles home. Peculiar as it may seem, the job was very, very good for me.
It was then I decide that I would start my own landscape company and I would make certain that each of my workers would come to realize what a beautiful place a landscape garden could be……especially if you are creating one.