Leigh Carpenter has been lifting heavy bags of mulch, pulling weeds, pruning rosebeds, bending, kneeling and putting a strain on her body for 10 years as Zachary’s city gardener. And she loves it.
“I absolutely love what I do. Yes, it keeps me in shape, but I also work at it,” said Carpenter, 54, a Zachary native.
The physical demands of her job require her to stay in shape, which she does by working out every day when she finishes her work tending to the community’s gardens.
“I also drink lots of water, wear gloves always and lift with my legs,” Carpenter added.
Motorists and residents of Zachary can see the solo gardener trimming back crepe myrtles along Main Street or maintaining the city’s many gardens and flower beds on any weekday.
“I’m blessed. I get to do what I love even though I don’t have a horticulture degree. I’ve been given a gift and rewarded with a job that allows me to work at something I have a great passion for — gardening,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter may not have a degree but she has a real-life education. She worked for garden and landscape expert Charbel Harb, of Harb’s Oasis, for years.
“He gave me a gift. He taught me all about flowers and landscaping and what to do with plants. I’ve always loved working with flowers and loved to garden but learned the right way from him,” she said. “After a friend quit his job at the city, he encouraged me to apply and then-Mayor Henry Martinez gave me a chance.”
Carpenter also has worked for the The Home Depot in the gardening department.
Gardening trends she could do without are crepe myrtles, probably because there are so many she has to maintain, and her favorite flowering plants are hybrid roses, which take time but are worth it, she explained. Tools she can’t live without are her spade and gloves.
Every plant, tree and flower on Zachary city property is under Carpenter’s purview. The gardener works four days a week with no help but gets the job done with aplomb.
“It’s so therapeutic. My favorite thing is to stand back after working a flower bed and survey my work. It’s so rewarding,” said Carpenter. “My least favorite part of the job is pulling weeds because it’s so tedious and telling people they cannot have any cuttings from a flowering plant when they ask. At least once a day, someone will drive up to whichever flower bed I’m maintaining and ask me for clippings. Can you believe that?”
She also is constantly asked for gardening advice and tips, which she doesn’t mind.
“It’s funny. Everywhere I go, people say, ‘There goes the plant lady or the flower lady,’ and it’s perfectly fine,” the garden lady said.