Giant white lilies, lacecap hydrangeas and hanging baskets so profuse with petunias they look like they might burst: It’s not a combination you expect to see at an apartment complex.
But that’s exactly what passers-by find outside the home of Roderick Billings of Everett.
Billings, a longtime resident of Brierwood Manor apartments near the Everett Mall, became disgusted by a patch of dying grass right outside his door.
He was feeling energetic and bold, having just come out of a brutal battle with B-cell lymphoma.
“I had all this energy,” Billings, 54, said, “and my place looked terrible.”
That was about five years ago.
Now Billings’ little slice of land, though not technically his at all, is an apartment dweller’s Eden.
His grass couldn’t be greener. His lawn’s edging includes not only a solid wood border, but also white decorative fencing and smooth, polished river rock.
His plants are thriving, thanks to his countless hours of watering.
Multiple landlords who have run the apartments over the years haven’t objected to Billings’ improvements. “I slipped it in real quick without anyone noticing,” Billings said, adding that beating a life-threatening illness made him fearless. “I didn’t expect to live.”
“It’s all true,” said Mark Roeper of Mountlake Terrace, Billings’ best friend and fishing buddy. “People think this is the manager’s apartment.”
Billings said his passion for landscaping has spilled over into his job at A&W Bottling Co. in Everett, where he puts in additional hours to maintain the grounds.
He’s still putting his heart, of course, into his own place, which includes dramatic exterior lighting, a statue of a woman at a burbling fountain and a birdbath decorated with raccoons.
“It’s a lot of work, believe me. It’s totally worth it,” Billings said. “This is like my own little house.”
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, firstname.lastname@example.org