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IMG_3561photos | Elina Turalyeva

The Gardener | Vladimir Zareyev

As the snow melted and spring gave way to summer, Vladimir Zarayev appeared at AUCA, planting, weeding, pruning and keeping the gardens green. Compact, energetic and deeply tanned, Zarayev has been landscaping and tending to the gardens of AUCA since 2002. “Every day I work with beauty,” he says. “Life has its meaning and nature, too, is alive. That is why nature talks to us and gives us a feeling of harmony, of love, of peace,” he says.

Zarayev designed and planted the university’s landscaping. In the back garden, a thicket of ferns sits beside a walkway. There are hydrangeas, fir trees, geraniums, fruit trees, vines spreading their green carpet onto one of the university’s walls. Flowers shout vibrant colors, sprouts nest in pots until they are ready for planting. “There were a few wild trees here when I started, but I planted almost everything you see,” Zarayev says.

A five-story tall weeping willow stands sentinel over the back courtyard, its feathery branches cascade to make a canopy from the sun. Zarayev calls the tree the mother of the garden. He tends to 1500 square meters by himself and says he is self taught. After the USSR broke up, he worked for himself landscaping new homes before coming to work at AUCA. When asked his favorite flowers, he responds like a father asked to choose his favorite child. “I cannot name just one,” he says. “But I like best clematis, jasmine, roses. Each flower has its purpose, its goal,” he says.

Zarayev says it will take at least two years for him to finish the courtyard garden. He has some smaller fruit trees and shrubs that he wants to see plump up to full health. And he doesn’t mind waiting for the smaller plants to grow. “If you love the job and the work you do, you don’t need patience,” he says.

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