A father’s roots

Agustin Casillas prunes a black pine tree on Saturday, Nov 21 in Hawthorne California. Casillas is a retired gardening business owner who enjoys sharing his horticulture experience with those willing to learn. Casillas did not have a formal education in horticulture and his knowledge came from hands on experience. Prior to establishing his business, Casillas worked for a landscaping company for 14 years where he learned to care for lawns and ornamental plants and eventually moved up in the company. (Delmy Casillas/ Special to the Union)
Agustin Casillas became an independent gardener in 1975 when he established his gardening business, later named Paradise Gardening. The business was established in the city of Hawthorne California, and serviced mostly residential homes and some commercial properties in Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Westwood, Van Nuys, San Fernando, Malibu, Hollywood, and Redondo Beach. The types of gardens Casillas cared for were lawns and ornamental gardens.  Image taken Saturday, Nov. 21. (Delmy Casillas/ Special to the Union)
When Casillas started his business, he started small and with assistance of family and friends. “I started by myself with a few houses,” Casillas said. “I bought a route of a few houses for $800 dollars, my brother Agapito’s father in-law helped me get started.” His brother, Tommy, eventually joined and worked with him for 9 years.. (Delmy Casillas/ Special to The Union)
Agustín Casillas helps his son and provides insight on how to properly replant a tree at his new home in Lomita California on Saturday Nov 21. Casillas  older children would often help with the business in the past, either by joining him at work or by assisting with setting up payment, mailing invoices and receipts. It was his children’s idea to name the business “Paradise Gardening” in the 1990s. Casillas soon made more money working independently than working for a large landscape company. (Delmy Casillas/ Special to The Union)
Agustin Casillas cleans the ground after the juniper tree is replanted at his son’s new home in Lomita California on Saturday Nov 21. His business was modestly run. No paid advertisement was used and the business got its clients through recommendations from established clients. “People would recommend me to their friends and neighbors, at some point I was doing ten house per day, I would visit as much as forty places in a month, mostly homes but I did have some commercial properties”. Casillas said. (Delmy Casillas/ Special to The Union)
Agustin Casillas takes a break after the first tree was replanted at his son’s new home on Saturday November 21 in Lomita California. “The thing I liked about my job was pruning the plants and trees”, Casillas says. However, in  (Delmy Casillas/ Special to The Union)
Agustin Casillas stands in front of his pond to feed his koi fish on Thursday Nov 26 in Hawthorne California. In the late 1990s, Casillas faced challenges when the city of Santa Monica and surrounding cities passed new new measures, including section 4.08.270 of the Santa Monica Municipal Code titled Restrictions on Leaf Blower Operation, which made it illegal for anyone,  home or business owner, to operate a motorized leaf blower. He ignored the guidelines at first and continued using the leaf blower, but soon neighbors and cops began approaching him, telling him to stop. “That was the time I almost gave up, I almost stopped working” Casillas said. “Using the leaf blower makes cleaning of lawn easier and faster. The clients didn’t want to have problems with the city or neighbors, they didn’t want to pay more so they suggested I use an electric blower, but not all homes have plugs available, rechargeable blowers won’t stay charged all day. There was no way around it but to use the rake and broom.” (Delmy Casillas/ Special to The Union)
These are the tools Agustin Casillas has collected over the years of gardening. “All the tools are important, but to start you need a mower, a blower, and an edger, those are the most important tools. I paid $500 for my first mower, it was on the cheaper end because it was not commercial size.” Casillas recalled an injury he suffered on his fingers using an older model edger. Luckily for him, his finger was saved, but other people were not so lucky. “A man loss his fingers trying to remove grass that was stuck blocking the blades from running, he used his hands to remove the grass stuck inside, the blades started moving and cut off his fingers.” Casillas said. Image taken on Thursday, Nov 26. (Delmy Casillas/ Special to the Union)



Editors note: The captions were edited for clarity on Thursday, Nov. 10