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Job Interview: Working as a Mall of America landscaper can be a real roller coaster

Person inside a mall
James Everhart takes care of plants at the Mall of America in Bloomington.
Laura Utecht | Mall of America

Updated 10:20 a.m.

James Everhart is an interior landscaper at the Mall of America. He’s one of five people who tend the 30,000 actual living plants at the mall. Watering alone takes the crew half a day, but plant care at the mall isn’t just about watering.

Sometimes he gets calls saying, “‘Hey, so and so’s little 5-year-old son ate one of the plants. Is that going to be a problem?’ And we have to be like, ‘Ugh, don’t eat the plants,’” he said.

Everhart described how he makes the gardens at the largest mall in the United States grow.

This conversation is a part of our “Job Interview” series, where we talk to everyday Minnesotans about the rewards and challenges of their work. This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity. Click on the audio player for the original version.

Person inside a mall
James Everhart takes care of plants at the Mall of America in Bloomington.
Laura Utecht | Mall of America

Official title: Interior Landscaper

What I actually do: Every day I wake up at 5 a.m. and I go to the mall and take care of the plants. At the beginning of the week, we have our watering days and that can take up to half of our shift. And then in our afternoons and the last half of the week, we do kind of whatever we want — safety trimming is a big one.

A great day at work: One of the perks is we get to ride on the rides to see if we can touch any of the plants and if we can, then we know where we have to go and trim. There are five of us — five very passionate landscapers — taking care of the entire park and the mall and we’re all very avid plant lovers ourselves. I think at least three of us on the team have over 100 plants at our houses individually. Even when we’re on our breaks, we’re talking about plants.

A not-so-great day at work: We had a couple of lantana trees which are really pretty. They’re short and put out clusters of multicolored flowers that smell really sweet. And I accidentally killed them when I first began. In the whole of the department, it wasn’t a big deal. But I still hurt from it a little bit.

What I’ve learned: I’ve actually learned a lot from this job. I’m a lot more knowledgeable about a lot of houseplants tropical plants and their care and their needs. … I never really get bored here.

When I got out of college, my goal was to educate young people and just kind of get them interested in nature. And I get to do that all the time here. Kids will stop and they’ll ask me what I’m doing and they’ll go, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’ or ‘Wow, they’re real.’ That always puts a smile on my face.

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