Green Gardener Spotlight
Javier Almanza strolled along a walkway bordered by a mulched bed of purple, bluish and pale green plants that boast of healthy spiny-tipped and spindly leaves – hallmarks of a water-conserving garden. The place was the Villa del Mar condo complex in the 200 block of East Yanonali St., one of the properties that Almanza'a maintenance crew with Cicileo Landscapes Inc. of Santa Barbara visits regularly.
Almanza was a Green Gardener before Villa del Mar was on paper. He was among the first of those to be trained as Green Gardeners in the 11-year-old Santa Barbara County Green Gardener program.
It was his company that prodded him to go green. Cicileo Landscapes Inc. is well represented with names on the list of Green Gardeners. Almanza, 42, who has been with Cicileo for 20 years, said the owners picked up on the need toward greener gardening even before the inception of Green Gardener classes. Once the certification program began, the company decided to send its team leaders for training, and Almanza was one, he said.
"In maintenance, green practices are a really big change, because of how we help the plants. Now it's different than always using chemicals. People still need them, but if you avoid using chemicals, it's better," he said.
In his 25 years in landscape maintenance, it's been just in the past four years, he estimated, that he has noticed a growing interest among people wanting to see more effort put into saving water and going organic.
Almanza was promoted a few years ago from team leader, who oversaw the work of a couple of workers, to Residential Maintenance Property Manager, now sharing responsibility for managing the workload of 35 in the maintenance crew, about half of whom have their Green Gardener certifications, he said.
He was introduced to plant maintenance during his youth in Guanajuato, Mexico, about 150 miles east of Guadalajara, where he gained some experience in farming. "It's almost the same as what I'm doing: You need to take care of the plants."
Instead of saying where he grew up, Almanza asked for pen and paper to write down the name of the town. He printed so neatly, and creatively, that it warranted an online search to see what his handwriting might say about him. If a first-time novice analysis has any credibility, the "o" that is open at the top shows a person who is friendly and likes to talk, the "t" that looks like a star shows someone with a strong sense of responsibility, and the well-formed and open "u" suggests a friendly and outgoing personality (ehandwritinganalysis.com).
Almanza lives in Goleta with his wife Luc Maria, and they have two children: Nancy, 4, and Javier Jr., 6 months as of October 2010. He considers another family member, Andrea, 21, his daughter, he added.