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Maymont Park's biggest green thumb is turning in her shears after 38 years

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Posted at 6:25 PM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 18:25:04-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Maymont. One of the crown jewels of Richmond. The public park and historic estate sits high above the James River. It is 100 acres of trees, trails and tranquility.

“People come here for so many reasons. For the space and the openness, but also the beauty,” explained Peggy Singlemann. “Maymont is an oasis in the island called Richmond.”

Peggy Singlemann knows every square inch.

“My job is to take care of Maymont. I do it 365 days a year with an awesome team and wonderful volunteers to help us,” said Peggy.

Maymont’s Director of Park Operations and Horticulture has a green thumb in her heart.

“Yes. I’ve been gardening since I was five years old,” said Peggy.

She has been keeping Maymont pruned for 38 years. From the Italian Garden to the Japanese Garden, Peggy’s fingerprints are all over Maymont.

“This garden right here is one I’m most proud of because it was in its infancy when I came on,” said Peggy, in front of the Italian Garden.

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1926 photo of the Italian Garden at Maymont Park in Richmond

She feels it is her obligation to keep what the Dooley’s gifted the city 100 years ago pristine.

“It is my personality that I want to give and deliver the very best I can. And make it the best with what I have for people to come and enjoy,” she said.

When she accepted the job in 1984, Maymont’s grounds were well wilting.

“This place was a little rough when I came,” described Peggy.

A monumental job laid ahead.

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Dooley tomb circa 1928, Maymont Park in Richmond

“I was just the horticulturalist. I had a staff of me, myself and I,” said Peggy.

The once glorious gardens were neglected.

“It was severely overgrown. There were shrubs just shrouded in vines,” she said.

Peggy accepted the task as tall as the trees.

“Every one of them did the best they could with the resources they had. And I was young and had the energy and just attacked the state,” she reflected.

Peggy and her team have kept the grounds flourishing since, making Maymont the attraction it is today.

“I really feel that we together have brought this phoenix out of the embers and out of the ashes and risen it to what it is today,” said Peggy.

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Old photos of Maymont Park in Richmond

During her time at Maymont, Peggy has cataloged the entire arboretum.

“And tree wise, we have upwards to 2,300 to 2,400 hundred trees living and growing at Maymont,” she said.

Walk through Maymont with Peggy, you get a horticulture history lesson at every turn.

Never did she think would still be working for the nonprofit nearly four decades later. Maymont has been her calling.

“Yes. This is my passion. This is not a job. It is a career and it is my vocation,” said Peggy.

But like the seasons changing, so too is Peggy’s life.

“That is going to be the toughest part of retiring is turning off that brain,” she said.

The time has come for Peggy to turn in her shears for good and retire.

“I’m going to miss it terribly. It is going to take a while not to wake up and say “Huhhh! That is not my job anymore,” said Peggy. “And even since the announcement of my retirement the number of emails of cards and well-wishes I’ve received it has been heart-warming.”

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Old photos of Maymont Park in Richmond

As she enters the autumn of her career, Peggy looks back at the impact she has had shaping Richmond’s lush landmark.

“Oh my. It is an amazing sense of gratification on so many levels,” said Peggy.

Peggy Singlemann, planting a seed for the next generation of Maymont’s caretakers.

“I’m leaving it in good hands and we’re leaving it in a position that moving forward nobody can do anything but succeed and make it better,” said Peggy.

Peggy will retire from Maymont on June 30. She plans to travel with her husband and spend more time with her grandchildren. She will continue producing and hosting her show “Virginia Home Grown” on public television.

If you know of a Hero Among Us email me at gmcquade@wtvr.com

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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