Flower Power

Flower Power

November 4, 2015

Summit resident takes pride in making outside of facility look beautiful

Tooling slowly around the grounds of The Summit retirement community in a golf cart with his wife Liz, Bill Hodges points to Forsythias, Hydrangeas, Mexican Sunflowers, Day Lilies and Hostas.  It’s when he rolls up beside a long row of now dormant Echinacea, that his wife Liz swoons.  Of the 17 small gardens he’s created at The Summit, this is her favorite.

He smiles and nods as she talks about how vibrant the area becomes when the Echinacea, or cone flowers, come to full bloom.  Gardening “has been a great outlet for us since we moved here,” says Liz, an author who moved with her husband, Bill, to The Summit retirement community from Forest 11 years ago.  “I want to make this place pretty, and I want (the people that live here) to like it,” Hodges, a Master Gardener, said one Wednesday morning, as he provided a tour of the fruit-tree-filled orchard and more than a dozen flower-filled gardens residents rave about.

“He tends our flower beds, planting flowers and shrubs that we enjoy year round.  He has developed a small orchard with peach, pear, and apple trees as well as various berry bushes.  As he’s aged, I’ve seen him many times lying on the ground pulling weeds,” The Summit resident George Harrison said.

Formerly a member of the Jefferson Choral Society and the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center Chorus, Bill also leads a small choir at The Summit with monthly sing-along for residents.  “He still has an excellent voice, and we often enjoy hearing him sing,” Harrison said.

For many years, Bill was active with the Kiwanis Club, restoring a steam engine and caboose in Riverside Park and building playgrounds and a bateaux for the Batteaus Festival, but today, it’s the Master Gardener in him that gets the most attention.

“I’ve worked hard trying to figure out a blooming cycle so you have something blooming at all times,” Hodges said.  A tour of his work begins at his own back door, where Sedum, Dianthus, purple Aster, black-eyed Susan and Nandina embrace the house.  Nestled in a small nook behind the garage, a flox garden is home to a Blueberry bush that produced several pints of berries in the summer, lavender Asters and the Ajuga groundcover that Hodges has become smitten with. 

Nearby, pots of strawberry plants are being prepared for the winter, and nearly a dozen tiny lavender seedlings away their fate.  Not far away is the first resident-planted garden in The Summit, a butterfly garden thick with butterfly bush and butterfly weed.  Hodges now maintains that garden and has added more than a dozen others to any unadorned corner of the property.  He is part of a committee composed of Summit residents who help select plants and has created a special fund to cover the cost of new plants they want to put in.

Walking past Coleous, Toad Lilies, Goldenrod, Mallow and Joe-Pye weed, Hodges explains a person has to love gardening in order to be successful.  “If you like plants, you have to think like a plant, you have to figure out what they like.  Try to put it where it will do some good,” he said.  “You have to be willing to spend some time on it” and be willing to pull the darn weeds, he said.

Liz explains while the gardens are beautiful in the spring, Bill has arranged it so they are never without color.  Just in time for the holiday season, and when most gardens are dormant, their garden shrubs send forth bright red berries.

The Hodges have found it’s not just the gardens that stop people in their tracks but also the gardener who curates them.  “He does cause a bit of a sensation when he’s out working in the garden,” Liz said.  Because of his chronic back pain, Bill regularly lies down to garden. Passersby often think he’s fallen, or worse, and call Liz to tell her something has happened to Bill.  She appreciates the concern and always gets a good laugh out of it.  “I have a good time with them,” Bill said.  “They come up and say, ‘Are you all right’ and I say ‘yeah, how about you?’”

Amy Trent writes for The News and Advance. Contact her at atrent@newsadvance.com or 434.385.5543. 

Bill Hodges was nominated by a fellow resident of The Summit for the Community Hero edition that ran in the News and Advance in October 2015. Click here to read Bill's story and others that were recognized as Community Heroes.