It’s the little things: George Susbaur’s creations more than a garden

September, 2016 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
George Susbaur has lent his talents in the garden to the residents at Brookdale Senior Living in Stayton.

George Susbaur has lent his talents in the garden to the residents at Brookdale Senior Living in Stayton.

By Mary Owen

Several years ago George Susbaur and Murphy, the dog Susbaur day-sits for a friend, began taking walks that ended with visits to residents at Brookdale Senior Living in Stayton.

The Sublimity retiree and his doggy pal, a “big-hearted” Golden Retriever/Black Labrador mix, were a great hit.

“He’s such a tender-hearted loving dog,” said Susbaur, a former processing plant worker.

“Everyone gravitates to him. When you’re a big furry animal with a soft touch, you’re a gift to lots of people. He brings a little love their way.”

Murphy’s favorite walk is along the river bank ending at Brookdale. Now he visits with Susbaur to provide people with company as well as to allow Susbaur to water plants scattered around the facility’s concrete patio.

“Marge Baker started the ball rolling when she was at Brookdale,” Susbaur said of the tiny “garden” that is still growing. “She used to have a greenhouse. She started a little garden club when she was there.”

Her leaving left the plants a bit high and dry and Susbaur stepped right in to care for them, saying “someone had to.”

Since then, he secured a couple of truckloads of compost and many types of plants to create a colorful array of what he calls “eye candy.”

“It’s a double-header,” he said of his garden. “What you see outside, you see inside.”

More than 30 potted plants are arranged around the patio, which also boasts several garden beds. Zinnias, marigolds, geraniums, cosmos, petunias, baby’s breath, dahlias and geraniums, to name a few, are adorned by driftwood and other plant-friendly décor Susbaur collects on his hikes along the Santiam River.

His latest planting is swamp grass, and a “bird” tree in a wooden box is there to attract some of the neighborhood’s flying friends.

“Flowers are a lift for a lot of people,” Susbaur said. “They come out and talk now, socialize. They play cards out here in the evening. Flowers are a part of life. They make people smile.”

The garden is a work in progress that mirrors what Susbaur is all about: sharing a part of himself with others, what he calls an exchange of life’s offerings.

“Everything is a process of exposing one’s being,” he said. “This is a little part of my life, a mirror that shows how I feel.

“It’s a big hit here,” he added about the garden. “I don’t know how many people have come up to me and given a praise report. Lots of good feedback!”

Standing amidst his contributions, which he waters daily, Susbaur said, “Looking at this softens my heart like the dog softens my heart.

“That’s what life is, a mix of colors, textures, stone, wood … many lines and forms. Sometimes we forget about the things that are very important, things that have connections to every part of life.”

Susbaur said small contributions often make the biggest difference.

“Do a little something, get a little something in return,” he said. “It takes your mind off your own ills.”

Susbaur and Murphy trek daily to Brookdale as well as taking visits to a small garden Susbaur planted at the Grief Center at Marian Estates. His latest venture is planting an area at Panzanella’s in Sublimity.

“It’s all about giving back before time runs out,” he said. “This is a little piece of my life. This little garden brings pleasure to the eye.”

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