How To Find and Hire a Gardener

Looking for a Gardener?

Choosing a gardening contractor is not easy. The professional you hire needs to know their craft, improve your space, and offer reasonable rates.

And yet, gardening is necessary for almost any property. Many homeowners do not have the time or expertise to give their plants the care they need. This comprehensive guide will help you select a pro that matches your needs.

First, you should understand what a gardener does. Learn the various types of experts you might encounter. Based on that understanding, you will be better equipped to find someone who can solve your specific need. This guide will also help you find the right questions to ask, prepare you for professional gardening, budget correctly, and more.

On This Page:

  1. What Does a Gardener Do?
    1. Professional Services vs Self-Employed Individuals
    2. Master Gardeners
    3. Hiring a Gardener for a Day vs. Weekly Services
    4. Gardeners vs Landscapers
  2. Do You Need to Hire a Gardening Contractor?
  3. Tips to Find & Hire
  4. Interview Questions to Ask
  5. Checklist for Planning Your Garden
  6. FAQs

What Does a Gardener Do?

First, you need to understand what exactly an expert in this field does. Look for professionals with these areas of expertise:

  • Consulting on and planning the makeup of a garden.
  • Choosing which plants are best for your property’s climate and location.
  • Helping you purchase the right plants or seeds.
  • Planting new flowers and trees.
  • Watering and feeding plants.
  • Treating and preventing plant infestations.
  • Keeping the soil healthy for optimum growth.
  • Weeding and other tasks to maintain the garden.

To accomplish these tasks, any expert will need to know topics that range from soil ecology to plant physiology. Formal education and experience are pathways to gaining that knowledge. As you begin to research gardeners, you might come across professionals with a wide range of education levels and specialties.

Professional Gardeners vs. Self-Employed Individuals

You can find plant and yard experts working on their own, or as part of a larger gardening company. Each option has advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Larger companies like TruGreen and Scott’s are often more credible. They’re insured, licensed, and have streamlined their yardwork operations to respond more quickly to requests and questions. You might be able to schedule appointments or pay your bills online.

Self-employed gardeners typically cost less. They tend to have fewer clients and will be able to pay more attention to your yard and property. However, it falls on you to make sure the professional you hire is licensed and insured and has the necessary expertise to do the job right. You can find self-employed gardening professionals on websites like Craigslist, Facebook, Thumbtack, or HomeAdvisor.

What Does a Master Gardener Do?

Master gardeners are professionals who receive a certificate by the American Horticultural Society (AHS). They take theoretical gardening courses in universities across the United States.

Most experts for hire don’t carry this distinction. Those who do tend to be more research-oriented, focusing more on horticultural education than actually digging in. Look for one if you need help planning your garden. Simple weeding or other maintenance calls for a more practically-oriented expert. Master gardeners tend to work on their own, instead of being employed by a professional gardening company.

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Hiring a Gardener for a Day vs. Weekly Workers

You can hire a gardener either for one-time projects or on an ongoing basis. Make sure you know what you need before you look for professionals. Most experts offer both options, but prices and expectations may differ.

A single-day project may include planting a garden or flowerbed. It could also mean simply getting your property ready for the season. Weekly workers focus more on the maintenance involved every day. If you don’t have time for yard work at all, a long-term hire makes more sense.

Gardeners vs. Landscapers

Gardeners and landscapers are different types of professionals, even though many use the terms interchangeably. Look to hire a landscaper when if you need help mowing the lawn or trimming the hedges. These experts also spread mulch, level your yard, build stone patios, and install sprinkler systems.

Landscapers focus more on the large-scale projects on your property. Gardeners, on the other hand, focus on the individual plants in your yard and flowerbed. Some companies like BrightView offer both services but be sure to ask about both types if you do need comprehensive contracting work in your yard.

Need to find a pro for your Garden?

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Do You Need to Hire a Gardening Contractor?

Before you meet with a gardener, evaluate your lawn and decide what you are looking for. If you only need basic maintenance, lawn-mowing and pruning, a self-employed landscaper might be enough. To tend to a formal English garden, you might need an expert with a strong horticultural background.

Time is another important factor. Neglecting your garden is not just unappealing but can impact the ecosystem on your property. A bug infestation can have significant long-term consequences. If you don’t have time to tend to your property yourself, hire a pro who can do it for you.

When deciding whether you need to hire a gardening contractor, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What style is your garden? What would you like it to be? Choose from types like English, Oriental, Woodland, Formal or Informal. You can also incorporate elements from each style to create your own look. The style you choose will impact the experience or knowledge of any professional you want to hire.
  • What do you use your garden area for? Will you have garden parties? Is this a place of solitude for you? Will your children play in this area?
  • Are there other special considerations? Do you have or want Xeriscape? Would you like this to be an organic environment with no pesticide use?
  • Do you want to be part of the process? Gardening is an art. Do you want the space to rest in the hands of an expert? Do you prefer a mutual collaboration? Either way, good communication will be the key to ensuring your garden is exactly as you want.

The extent of services you need will greatly impact the cost of your yard maintenance. The cost for lawn mowing and maintenance averages $150. If you need regular maintenance, you might find monthly or weekly packages at a discount.

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Tips to Find & Hire a Good Gardener

Check the Gardening License

Most states require gardening professionals to get a license. Requirements include 3 years of relevant experience, as well as passing a comprehensive exam.

Read Online Reviews on Independent Websites

Authentic client reviews on independent websites build a baseline of credibility especially for self-employed experts.

Match Quoted Rates to Expertise and Experience

The rates you get can vary drastically based on the type of pro you hire. The services offered by different gardeners vary greatly and the lowest price doesn’t always mean the best deal A simple maintenance worker should charge no more than $30 per hour. Expert horticulturalists may quote as much as $150 per hour. If you’re unsure about past experience, get multiple quotes.

Ask for References of Past Clients

Take this step especially for large questions. It allows you to evaluate third-party opinions while asking the exact questions relevant to you.

Ask for a Free Consultation and Test their Knowledge

Finally, a free consultation can determine the right gardener for your needs. Walk around your yard with them and ask questions. The right professional should know at least 80% of plants on your property. Learn about their expertise and recommendations before you commit to any payment.

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Interview Questions to Ask your Lawn Care Professional

Your gardening contractor should have general knowledge of horticulture, pesticides, weed control, fertilizing and sprinkler system and timer repair. Without this knowledge and experience, mistakes are more likely to occur. Asking the right questions at the point of hire could save some big disappointments (or disasters) down the road.

Ask these questions during your initial phone conversation:

  • How much do you charge per hour, or per project?
  • Do your costs change with an ongoing engagement?
  • Are you licensed and insured against any potential problems?
  • Can you provide references of other clients like me?
  • Do you perform landscaping services, or do you partner with a company/professional who does?
  • Can you manage my yard organically and sustainably?

Then, follow up with these questions during the in-person consultation:

  • What would you suggest to improve this garden?
  • How would you approach that improvement in terms of an actual work plan?
  • How do you plan to stay in touch should you encounter any unexpected problems?
  • How can we communicate on a regular basis so I know everything I need to about my garden?

Answers to these questions before the hire will become crucial knowledge. In addition, remember that communication goes both ways. Communicate exactly what you expect from your gardening contractor before they put together a plan or start working on your property.

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Checklist: Planning Your Garden & Landscape

Your property might need a variety of tasks to stay healthy. Use the following checklist as a guide when planning, and budgeting for, tasks with your gardener:

  • Mow the lawn regularly
  • Mulch grass clippings into the lawn, or remove and dispose of grass clippings
  • Rake leaves regularly, especially during fall
  • Clear fallen branches and debris, especially after storms
  • Fertilize lawn and plants
  • Aerate the lawn
  • Edge the garden and grass areas
  • Prune bushes and shrubs
  • Control and remove weeds
  • Spread mulch and wood chips
  • Thatch the grass
  • Water the garden and lawn
  • Remove small dead trees and shrubs
  • Tend to your flower garden
  • Tend to your vegetable garden
  • Prioritize organic gardening
  • Composting for your organic waste
  • Diagnose sick plants or trees
  • Tend to your greenhouse

Mark each task that applies to your property, then find a contractor who can help you accomplish it. Full-service firms or self-employed experts can accomplish all of them. You will get deals by batching areas together, such as everything to do with your lawn or gardens. You can also save some budget by taking on some of these tasks yourself.

If you need multiple services, look to a full-service gardener instead of a simple dayworker who only mows or removes weeds. Optional additions, like garden art or a garden terrace, may require more specialized professionals.

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How Much Does a Gardener Cost?

The hourly rate for a professional gardener is between $20 and $150, with the average project costing around $750. Where exactly you fall depends entirely on what gardening services you need.

For example, landscape curbing costs between $700 and $1,700. Simple yard maintenance rates are between $130 and $400 per month.

Are Gardeners Insured?

The gardening pro you hire should be insured. If anyone working on your property is not, you will be liable for any damages or bodily harm. Only hire an expert with insurance to avoid a potential legal and financial nightmare.

How Often Should a Gardener Come?

The answer depends on your gardening needs. Some tasks need only occasional maintenance, while others require weekly attention.
Mowing the grass, weed removal, and raking leaves will need done once a month or more during some seasons. Thatching and aerating the lawn as well as spreading much only need professional help once a year. Building a composting system is a one-time project.

How Do You Become a Gardener? – Licenses & Qualifications

Gardeners need at least a high school diploma. Many take classes toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in horticulture. You can self-train, but many pros go through a trainee program with a major landscaping firm.

Once you have three years of work experience, apply for a license with your local state board. The American Horticultural Society is an invaluable resource throughout the process.

Get liability insurance and build up a local client base in your core area of expertise before expanding your services. Volunteer work with local and community nonprofits can also help you gain experience and credibility when you first start your career.

Where Can I Find a Gardener?

Enter your Zip code to find qualified gardening and landscaping contractors in your are. Then, follow the steps in this article to choose one that fits your exact needs.

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Compare gardening quotes

What’s the difference between a farmer and a gardener?

Farmers own land and cultivate it in order to generate a profit (either from selling crops or animal husbandry). Gardeners cultivate other people’s land and charge fees for their expertise in this area.

What’s the difference between a horticulturist and a gardener?

A horticulturist works and researches in the disciplines of gardening and landscaping, plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic engineering, plant biochemistry and plant physiology. Horticulturalists are generally more geared towards the research and consulting fields, whereas gardeners tend to be more hands on. It is common, however, for gardeners to have received education in the field of horticulture. They may be able to consult with you on that basis if that is the case.

When should you hire a gardener instead of a landscaper?

If you are happy with the general layout of your garden (or it only requires some light work to be perfect), and you are more interested in maintenance and plant care, a gardener is for you. On the other hand, if you want a complete remodel of your garden, you may require the services of a landscaper.

What are the benefits of hiring a gardener?

  • A gardener has the expertise to achieve your goals in a cost-effective and intelligent manner
  • They will also be able to advise you as to your future maintenance needs
  • They will save you the time and effort of researching, sourcing and carrying out the work
  • Gardeners will carry out the work safely
  • Your gardener having all the details in mind will save you hassle and avoid future problems

Get quotes from local gardeners and save up to 40%!

Talk to a gardener in your area to find out how they could streamline your garden maintenance. They will save you tons of hassle, not to mention time! A great way to do this is to collect up to 5 quotes at once from trusted professionals by entering some details into our secure portal. You will be able to compare their services and quotes from the comfort of your home. Get the best possible gardener for your needs.

Find a landscape contractor near you

Hiring a landscape architect is an investment in your home. Landscaping can reduce water bills, improve your home resale value, add to your daily living experience and significantly boost curb appeal. A landscape architect will draw the designs for your new landscape; you’ll want to hire a landscape contractor to carry out the plans. Many companies provide design-build landscaping services, with a company architect creating plans for your vision and the landscape contractor executing the vision. With the proper academic background and licensing, a person can be both landscape architect and landscape contractor. Here are a few tips for finding a great landscape architect:

  • Research online portfolios and find several landscape architects whose work interests you.
  • Read online reviews of client experiences.
  • Research whether the landscape architects you are interested in are currently licensed and in good standing with the licensing board, and check whether any complaints have been issued against them. Each state will have their own searchable database. For example, you can search for California landscape architects via the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
  • Request bids from your selected landscape architects.
  • Hire the one you like the most, taking care to have a clearly written contract outlining scope of work.

For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

Landscaping Companies Near You

The term “landscaper” is often used interchangeably with “groundskeeper” but they are actually not the same thing. A landscaper technically is one who creates new landscapes through planting and installing elements like water features and hardscape. A groundskeeper maintains an existing yard. However, whether you want your yard redone or kept up, a landscaping service near you should be able to help.

Hiring a landscape contractor nearby has several advantages:

  • They can be on-site quicker and may offer a discount if they don’t have to travel far.
  • They know your neighborhood so they can recommend specific plants, they can work within your area’s watering restrictions, and they know what pests may be problematic.
  • They may be familiar with other homes in the area so they can make yours stand out from the rest.

Before you hire a service, be sure to understand their specialties. If they specialize in installing new landscaping, they may not be the right company if you really just want a lawn mowing service. Also ask about guarantees, insurance, and how long they have been in business.

If your yard is in need of upgrades or updates, let HomeAdvisor help. Enter your zip code and we’ll connect you with landscaping services in your area.

Raleigh Landscaping

Landscaper Near Me

The bushes need trimming. There are leaves and sticks scattered everywhere. Your grass is overgrown and you are left wondering: “How can I find a reliable and affordable landscaper near me?” Fortunately, JT’s Landscaping is here to meet your needs and provide unbeatable services to homeowners and businesses throughout Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.

We are a team of highly trained and experienced landscapers who take pride in their work and are prepared to tackle any landscape project. Whether you need help with regular maintenance, preparing your lawn for the changing seasons or installing hardscape features, such as fountains and ponds, no job is too big or too small.

Residential Landscaping Services

Our residential landscaping services are designed to take the hassle out of creating and maintaining a beautiful landscape. Your yard should be an extension of your home and provide a welcoming and relaxing outdoor living space. We can take your landscape to the next level with lighting, irrigation and hardscape installations. Your plants, trees and turf will be healthy throughout the year and you can spend more time enjoying your yard rather than working in it.

Commercial Landscaping Services

JT’s Landscaping also works with businesses throughout Raleigh and surrounding communities to help them maintain a beautiful and inviting landscape that is sure to make a great first impression. From planting flowers and shrubs to installing irrigation systems and providing regular maintenance, we do it all. You can leave the landscaping up to us and concentrate on other areas of your business.

Stop wondering about which is the best landscaper near me and go with the area’s trusted source for landscaping services. Call JT’s Landscaping today to learn more and schedule an appointment to receive a free estimate. It couldn’t be easier to get started.

How to employ a gardener


1. Seasonal help
Problem Fiona Mitchell needs help three or four times a year getting her garden under control.

Solution “My gardener does the heavy jobs, which in spring involves sorting out the two compost heaps, mulching the beds and pruning the larger trees and shrubs. This year he also dug over a herb bed, took out a huge shrub and cleared a broken hazel fence. I do the weeding though.” This all takes about four hours, and Fiona pays by the hour.

Cost The hourly rate is £12.50. Fiona books him two weeks in advance.

2. Regular maintenance
Problem Mr and Mrs Soloman have a medium-sized garden in north London, including a formal lawn, which they like to keep beautifully tended.

Solution They use the London company The Botanical Gardener for lawn care, pond maintenance and the seasonal tasks, such as weeding, pruning etc. “We come weekly for four hours, and leave everything spotless,” says gardener Chris Warren.

Cost For this garden, the rate is £21 per hour plus VAT.

3. Restoring a bed
Problem Rosemary Sexton normally takes care of her garden herself, but she was out of action following an operation and needed an experienced gardener to tackle her 2m x 6m border that had become congested. It also needed a good mulching.

Solution “The gardener sorted through the bed, lifting the perennials, and restored the whole thing to order. I had complete confidence in what he was doing,” says Rosemary.

Cost Rosemary paid £15 per hour for a day’s work. “Money well spent,” she says.


Please note, this article was first published in 2014, so suggested hourly rates may have changed.

Finding your perfect gardener


You may want to consider whether your gardener has a professional qualification. There are many different schemes available, such as NVQ, HND, NPTC and RHS. A gardener with one or more of these qualifications is more likely to be professional in their approach to gardening as a career.

But there is more to gardening than pieces of paper. Your gardener needs to be sufficiently fit to carry out what can be hard physical work, they should be careful when using tools and above all, they should be reliable.

Always ask for references. Any professional gardener will be able to provide you with the phone number of a previous client or written testimonials.

Legal requirements

Gardeners should bring their own tools. If they use your tools and work regularly for you at a set time, that can become an employer/employee relationship, rather than them providing you with a service. This means you would become liable for any injuries they receive while using your tools.

Check whether your gardener has a public liability insurance certificate, which would cover any damage they caused to your property. Safe contractor or CHAS accreditation and evidence of a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check are other good signs of a professional business.

Getting quotes for gardening work

It’s a good idea to get three quotes from gardening and landscaping contractors.

A gardener will usually quote for very small and simple jobs, such as hedge trimming and lawn mowing, on the telephone. You’ll need to tell them about the size of the area and the nature of the work – is the hedge or lawn overgrown, for example? Remember to mention any parking or access restrictions too.

For most jobs, a good gardener will visit your property. No garden is exactly like another and a quick survey will help the gardener arrive at an accurate quote. Ask for the quote in writing and make sure it lists all components of the work in sufficient detail.

You need to agree exactly what you want your gardener to do. If it is a regular job, you should establish what day(s) they will be there and for how long. You also need to agree how you will pay for goods they may need for the garden – plants, seeds, compost for example. Will these be covered by a single fee or will they be itemised separately?

Also, you should establish how your gardener prefers to be paid. Some ask to be paid in cash, others will accept cheques or bank transfers.

How much should you pay for gardening maintenance?

Basic garden maintenance is often charged by the hour. Some gardeners will visit fortnightly or monthly. This can be a cost effective way of keeping a garden under control if you need a green-fingered helping hand.

“Gardeners who charge as little as £10 per hour are usually either cowboys or new to the industry. For a reliable and qualified gardener, you should expect to pay around £25 per man hour.”

Gardeners who are undertaking a larger job will issue a fixed price quote. Sometimes, quotes will only be valid for a limited period. Check this with your prospective gardener when the quote is issued. You may reasonably be expected to sign a contract for larger jobs. Ask to see terms and conditions before signing.

Waste disposal

Disposal of garden waste can add unexpected cost to a gardening job. Never assume that gardeners will dispose of green waste or other rubbish – ask them when you seek quotes for the job. It can be much cheaper to use your council’s green waste collection service.

More on this…

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  • Read our guide on how to look after your lawn
  • Tips on how to get rid of tree stumps

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Nearby Gardeners in Your Area

What exactly do gardeners near me do?

Gardeners transform lawns and gardens into attractive spaces. With a neatly trimmed lawn and a colorful garden, enjoy your home even more and increase its curb appeal. Gardening services vary, from individual casual laborers to skilled professionals and full-service landscaping companies. Here’s a list of typical gardener services:

  • Mowing lawns
  • Plant grafting
  • Trimming trees
  • Pruning shrubs
  • Fertilizing lawns
  • Weeding of garden beds
  • Sharpening lawnmower blades
  • Tree, flower and plant healthcare
  • Water irrigation and plant watering
  • Water garden maintenance
  • Insect treatments

The type of work will ultimately determine the gardeners cost.

How much do gardeners near me cost?

The national average is between $100 and $200 per month for gardening. This covers the cost of basic services such as trimming grass, cleaning the yard and planting grass, vegetation and other plants in your garden. Reach out to at least three gardeners in your area for prices quotes to get a sense of your area’s cost average.

There are typically three types of gardening services you can hire.

  1. Casual laborers – These are simply part time workers who carry out basic gardening services. They often cost $10 to $25 per hour, and they use basic hand-held tools (or a lawnmower) for their services.
  2. Gardening professionals – Hire professional gardeners who have appropriate experience and expertise. They cost $20 to $50, and tend to use more sophisticated equipment during service delivery. Professional gardeners can work with you to aerate soil, install an irrigation system, and add fertilizer to plants.
  3. Landscaping companies – If in need of more in-depth work, landscaping companies provide comprehensive services that include fixing drainage issues, planting new vegetation, and routine maintenance. They often cost $50 to $150 per hour.

Why should I hire a gardener near me?

Gardeners provide valuable services but more importantly they provide experience. The internet and local garden store clerks cannot compare to a hands on experienced professional standing in your yard selecting plants that grow well in your area. The gardener’s cost often includes adding fertilizer to soil, removing weeds and cutting grass. Gardeners may also provide edging services in order to clearly separate walkways from the main garden area. Irrigation is another complicated part of gardening. A professional can install the right sprinkler system or visit to regularly water plants.

Japanese gardener one of the last of a disappearing breed

His hands are like bronze mitts — cracked and weathered by labor, age and too much sun. But his touch is soft.

He cups the branch of a willowy shrub and nods toward the hills for which it is named. “This is a Hollywood juniper,” Tadashi Hamada says. He knows the breed well. An evergreen with twisted tufts, it is native to his birth country, Japan. This one is planted in front of his Mid-City home, where the paint peels and the stoop sags.

Fishing a pair of clippers from his pocket, Hamada begins to prune. Needles flutter to the ground. He squints. At 75, his eyes don’t always behave.

“Better,” he announces. “Too many bushes die inside because sun doesn’t hit it.”

With that, Hamada climbs into his white Chevrolet truck to begin his Wednesday route. He puts the clippers in the glove compartment. They won’t be touched again for the rest of the day.

Decades ago, when Hamada first became a gardener, much of the work was done by hand. Pruning bushes and planting flowers were common practice. But the job has been whittled down to mowing lawns and whacking weeds — hitting as many yards as possible.

The identity of those in the business has also changed. The Japanese gardener, once a common figure in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, is fading from the landscape.

A sign that an era is drawing to a close came earlier this year when a gardeners’ co-op in Little Tokyo was shuttered. The tiny warehouse sold gardening goods at fair prices and had once served thousands of Japanese American gardeners.

But members have retired or died. They have persuaded their children to dream bigger.

The issei never expected the second and third generation to take up such a grueling trade. Gardening was always meant to be a means of support, not a legacy to pass down.

The first wave of Japanese in California intended to own land, not till it for others. Thousands of immigrants moved to rural areas to take jobs as farmhands. They eventually gained their own plots until a law passed in 1913 that forbade land possession or leases longer than three years for “aliens ineligible for citizenship.” At the time, Asians were barred from naturalization. Some put leases in their American-born children’s names.

Gardening was a natural move at a time of limited opportunity. It was year-round work without a boss that required little startup cash and minimal English skills.

Local organizations of gardeners cropped up and members swapped techniques, advice and politics.

But any foothold the community gained was swept away when the United States entered World War II. With their U.S. government-ordered internment, Japanese Americans lost homes, belongings, momentum, roots.

When the order for internment ended, lingering anti-Japanese sentiment still meant few options — even for the second generation and well educated.

At one time historians estimated that one in every four Japanese American men was a gardener. It was menial work that required weekends, but it allowed them to buy homes, send their kids to college. Some women joined their husbands or took over routes when widowed. Gardeners became the cornerstone of the Japanese American community, establishing schools and churches.

Japanese gardeners with the pith helmet also became a status symbol, their services requested by celebrities. Their cachet came in part from a tendency to assume that immigrants are made for the jobs they take on: in this case, the Japanese gardener, a humble servant whose mystical Eastern philosophy grants him a flair for plants and agriculture.

The assumption glossed over their struggles. “A lot of immigrants were actually from agricultural backgrounds, but it wasn’t like there was horticulture magic implanted inside them — there’s many stories of Japanese who were awful at gardening,” said author Naomi Hirahara, who edited a book on Japanese gardeners.

Some used the stereotype to their advantage: Hirahara’s father was American born but handed out business cards that said he specialized in “Oriental gardening.”

In 1955, thousands of Japanese Americans formed the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation. The organization offered health insurance, hosted conventions, published a newsletter and coordinated picnics.

A perk of membership was access to the federation co-op, a Little Tokyo depot where the shelves were laden with essentials like sprinkler parts, fertilizer, gloves and pesticide or specialty hand shears made in Japan. But the co-op closed in March. The federation’s membership had shrunk to around a thousand, most of whom are retirees or widows who remain because of the health insurance. Only about 100 members work full-time.

“Everybody said OK, the time has come,” said former co-op president Yasunori Arakaki. He estimates the federation itself has another 20 years before it too is gone.

Gardeners often brought their children on the job, if only to encourage them to aspire to something else. A few third-generation gardeners exist, but they too envision a different future for their children. The youngest members of the federation are in their 40s.

Older gardeners like Makoto Shirasawa say they’ve stuck around because working seems more bearable than an idle life.

“My philosophy is just keep moving,” said Shirasawa, 72. “I’ll probably never retire. It’s nice to be outside, I don’t want to be sitting in a chair watching TV.”

Shirasawa has been in this line of work for more than four decades. It is not what he envisioned when he left Kagoshima, Japan. He was young, America was vast and he imagined it a charmed country.

For three years he picked strawberries on a Torrance farm and took English language classes. He studied horticulture at Cal Poly Pomona and worked part-time at a nursery. Gardening seemed a viable trade, and he bought an old truck and equipment.

Although some of his clients treat him like family, he has plenty of memories that sting. His customers’ neighbors have yelled at him or demanded that he rake their yards, too. Once a woman turned a hose on him when he tried to quiet her yapping dog. A few clients have requested he park his truck far from the house.

“My pride still gets hurt,” Shirasawa said. “It’s kind of dehumanizing. The Japanese gardener is a dying breed, but that’s the way it’s going to be because I don’t recommend this business. I know how tough this is, and we don’t get any respect. I don’t want to subject my people to that degradation.”

A juniper here, a bonsai tree there — Hamada, the Mid-City gardener, points them out as he maneuvers his truck through his rounds in the Crenshaw district.

He pulls up to a house decked with ivory calla lilies and red amaryllis. After exiting the truck, he pulls on a pair of gloves. It isn’t that agriculture comes naturally to the Japanese, he explains, it’s that it was taught naturally.

“As a kid we watched our father, grandpa take care of the yard,” he says. “Even in school they teach you how to trim the tree, about vegetable gardens.”

He was 21 when he arrived in America and got a job picking fruit at a Fresno farm. Fellow issei talked him into gardening 50 years ago.

Now, shrinking budgets mean homeowners and landlords are often looking for “mow, blow and go” crews. No longer considered a luxury, yardwork has become devalued, with gardeners forced to hustle and focus on quantity. A large Latino immigrant workforce has brought down rates.

Hamada jerks the mower’s starter cord until it sputters and roars, then pushes and pulls it across the grass, creating diagonal lines. No sign of his earlier delicateness here. The sun is blazing, and other houses await.

When he straps on the blower, he is instantly a cloud of white noise and scurrying blades of grass.

And then he is done. It is a 30-minute job he does once a week for 50 bucks a month. With about 30 customers, the paydays are small. The equipment, however, only gets pricier. A $1,200 mower was once stolen at gunpoint.

“I used to warn my friends’ kids about this,” Hamada says. “Hey, you don’t study hard, you’re going to become a gardener.”

One day, he says, he’ll retire and tend only to his own garden. But as he packs up to head to the next home, Hamada points out that the neighbor has a king sago palm — a plant native to Japan.

“It’s about 120 years old. It doesn’t look good.”

A woman walks out of the neighboring house.

“You gotta cut it, shape it up,” he calls to her, gesturing at the plant. “If you bought this at a store it’d cost about $6,000. Save it. It looks too crowded.” The woman smiles but appears confused.

Hamada clambers back into his truck. He shakes his head.

“This is Japanese way. After we’re dead, probably nobody will take care of it this way. That’s the only thing that makes me sad.”

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