By Pat Brown
Radford drivers may have spotted Peggy Huber last week shoveling dirt onto a bed of daffodils that was just starting to open up at the Radford Public Library.
Spring’s early blossoms have brought her out of her West End home and into spaces around town that need a little sprucing up. At the Sundell Street roundabout, the crocuses she donated from her yard and planted months ago are coming up with vibrant yellow petals.
As spring continues, roundabout passers-by can follow the progress of the snow lilies she transplanted from her yard. Later in the growing season, drivers and walkers will be able to see daylilies, resurrection lilies and several types of irises she has shared.
“We’ve got such a beautiful walking system,” Huber said of paths that meander through Radford’s neighborhoods and parks. She wants to make them even prettier.
Huber has served on Radford’s Beautification and Forestry Commission, but her volunteer gardening is separate from her committee work, and it dates back 35 years. Those were the years prior to Radford’s hiring of professional horticulturists to enhance the town’s beauty.
Several decades ago, she was among a small group of volunteers who solicited local businesses to donate money for flowers and then set about planting them in public space.
These days she seeks permission from the city horticulturist before adding or subtracting flora.
Right now, she’s the only volunteer she is aware of, and she’s excited about a new idea.
Huber wants to solicit town folks and businesses to contribute to a pansy planting. She selected pansies because yellow pansies with black on the petals share the school colors of the Radford Bobcats. She wants athletes and their families — among others — to buy “Bobcat pansies” that can be added to flower beds because the plants are resistant to freezing even when they are under a blanket of snow.
“If someone tells you that you are a pansy, take it as a compliment,” she said.
Peggy Huber can get philosophical about gardening.
“I think I was born with dirt in my blood,” she said recently. “I am programmed to enjoy growing flowers and edibles.” She said she feels connected to the spirits of her grandparents and parents when she is gardening. “My mom’s most lasting memories as she slid into deep dementia were working in the garden and caring for young children,” Huber said.
And she is certain gardening, as is often claimed, contributes to her good physical and mental health. In her seventh decade, she can dig and plant with the best of them.
“I should help you,” a man said when he exited the library and saw Huber working in the library flower beds recently. “I dug the holes and he put in the bulbs,” she said.
A dozen years ago, when Huber was logging some of her 30 years of teaching, a teenager asked to help her garden on the school grounds before and after school. She helped them grow butternut squash, and they cooked and ate their handiwork with a touch of butter and brown sugar. “They felt a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie,” she said.
Twice Huber planted scads of daffodils at two different schools only to watch as a change in landscaping plans eradicated the spring blooms. She joked that she still has not been able to recreate the beautiful scene from the movie “Dr. Zhivago” when a field of snow melts and is replaced by a beautiful field of daffodils.
Husband Tom helps her maintain a vegetable garden in their backyard where “every year the flowers take more of the space,” Peggy Huber said. The couple has two sons, a daughter and seven grandchildren.
“Gardening,” Huber said, “is what I thought I could contribute.”