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Full bloom


Parks worker Ron Jones is working hard to add more color to the city

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Along with his park maintenance duties, Ron Jones is planting flower bulbs around West Linn to enhance its aesthetic appeal. Ron Jones wears many hats for the West Linn Parks and Recreation Department.

He’s in charge of maintenance at the city’s athletic fields, as well as at the West Linn Public Library. He plays a major role in city cleanup efforts, including the annual Take Care of West Linn Day each spring.

But at heart, Jones is a gardener. He’s kept a garden in his backyard at home for many years and, in some respects, West Linn has become a very large extension of that project. As the parks department continues to adjust to the city’s “more with less” financial approach, Jones has taken a lead role in city beautification — replanting areas in dire need of a pick-me-up and adding new flowers by the city’s gateway signs.

In some cases, the plants come from Jones’ own backyard; these “starts,” in gardening parlance, are small rooted plants that can be transferred from one location to another. This way, Jones doesn’t have to use city funds to purchase new plants.

“I’m a plant guy,” Jones said. “That’s just kind of the way I am. Mike (Perkins) — who’s the city arborist — and I will talk plants and just try to figure out things we want, something new in a different area. It’s a lot of fun.”

Right now, Jones is partnering with the city’s transportation department to refurbish the horticulture on Santa Anita Drive and Hidden Springs Road, removing old plants and shrubs and replacing them with new flower bulbs like daffodils, Japanese snowbells and black-eyed Susans.

“The whole idea is successive color,” Jones said. “I try to get things that people will be able to come back and see the next year, and that color at an early time of the year when we don’t have any.”

If it sounds like a lot of work — planting and then maintaining these bulbs — for someone who is already stretched thin, Jones certainly doesn’t see it that way. Since he was a teenager in Sacramento, gardening has been his passion.

It all started when an elderly man who lived down the street from Jones asked for help with his backyard. It was a typical teenage odd job, pruning hedges and raking piles upon piles of leaves. But something about it spoke to Jones, and he could see how passionate the man was about his yard.

Jones would later work at a garden center during his senior year of high school and then move north to study horticulture at Oregon State University and Linn-Benton Community College.

He went on to work as a gardener at Lewis & Clark College before moving into his role in West Linn, where he’s been for the past 22 years.

Jones’ favorite area to work in is the library, which has been “his” since 1991.

“I actually brought starts from home to stick there,” Jones said. “There’s a wisteria vine that I planted by a bicycle shed. ... That particular spot was a lot of concrete and brick, with a steel structure there. It was a way to soften it up.”

As he works to improve the aesthetics of the city, Jones has had less time to keep up with his own garden.

“I need to do a lot of work on it,” Jones said. “It’s kind of gotten overgrown because I’ve planted so much stuff there.”

It’s hard not to go overboard with your hobby, as any model train collector or fantasy football enthusiast will tell you. Jones just happens to be lucky enough to work in the field he’s most passionate about.

“Part of it is the gratification of a job well done,” Jones said. “And I like being outdoors, even in the winter months. (My garden) is my shelter, my thing to do when I want to relax.”

If he can spread that joy to even one West Linn resident, then Jones can consider his job well done.

Patrick Malee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @pmalee_wl

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Ron Jones has been passionate about gardening since he was a teenager and views his garden at home as his shelter.