PENDLETON — For more than a decade, Steven Hart has spent his summer mornings traversing Main Street to water the nearly 60 hanging flower baskets that adorn its lampposts.
Roughly 13 years ago, Hart’s daughter was searching for a summer job during high school and came across the opportunity to water the plants. Hart says after committing to the job of watering the hanging baskets she was offered a full-time position elsewhere and had to find someone to take over the watering. Hart came to the rescue.
“I’ve never thought of myself as having a green thumb,” said Hart. “But, when you say you’re going to do something, you better be able to do it.
Although the city has tried several different programs to water the plants, ranging from an alternating schedule of people to the use of community organizations, Hart says no one else really wanted to do it.
“By the end of the year, I don’t even want to do it, but when the next year comes around I wouldn’t miss it,” said Hart. “A lot of folks come up and ask if I’ll come make their yards look as nice or tell them the secret to keeping the flowers blooming.”
While Hart typically waters the baskets around 5 a.m. on weekdays to get done before work, he gets a later start on the weekends, which lets him talk to others and work in the daylight.
Hart says that the flower baskets are really a point of community pride and to hear visitors and locals talk about them, and ask him questions about them makes the job worth doing.
Hart stores all of the equipment at his house and makes a stop at the city pump station every other morning to fill up the water trailer before heading out to Main Street to water. According to Hart, the equipment has been changed and perfected over his 13 years watering, but there is always room for improvement.
“We started with a push cart that could only make it a block or so before you had to find somewhere to fill up,” Hart said. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a good place to do that downtown so I would have to walk down to the Chamber of Commerce several times to get water.”
Following the water cart came a trailer with a gasoline generator to run a pump, while this was effective, Hart says that neighbors were not particularly fond of the loud generator first thing in the morning. Hart now uses a quiet electric pump that hooks into his truck and is the best of both worlds for him.
In addition to maintaining the trailer, Hart makes his own watering devices out of PVC pipe in order to reach the baskets several feet above his head. Additionnaly, he will use the bed of his pickup truck as a place to stand whenever possible. Hart says that he rarely runs into problems, however, he often has to work around parked cars or other obstacles.
”When they first installed the crosswalks I went over one and lost the full trailer off the hitch,” said Hart. “That one took awhile to figure out how to fix and get the full 209-gallon trailer back on the truck.”
While Hart doesn’t encounter many people on weekday mornings he says that occasionally someone will join him and walk along the route with him or he’ll bring his dogs along for the ride.
“People always wonder how the plants are watered and what keeps them looking so good,”Hart said. “Outside of a little deadheading, some fertilizer once a week and water daily there’s not too much that goes into it.”
Hart says that he estimates they use about 100 gallons of water each day, but that the amount varies depending on the time of year and the weather. The baskets are watered daily from mid-May through the first freeze, usually in October.
Despite the early hours and time commitmnet, Hart says that he doesn’t foresee stopping anytime soon.