May 10, 2013
It’s no secret that Horticulture major Brandon Huber has a passion for plants. A 300-plus strong plant collection and nearly that many ribbons from the Philadelphia Flower Show has a tendency to remove all doubt on that front.
Huber, 23, will happily tell you he’s been a “plant person” since his parents took him to the Flower Show when he was 8. He’s added more and more greenery to his exceedingly diverse collection — and every spare inch of his parents’ Northeast Philadelphia home — ever since. While truly in his element with his plants, Huber never wanted to remove people from the equation.
“Some plant people genuinely feel most comfortable around in their gardens or greenhouses, surrounded by plants. They don’t really like being placed in social settings and certainly avoid the spotlight — they’re not ‘people people,’” said Huber, who will graduate with his degree in Horticulture from Temple on May 16. “I saw that as a weakness in myself as well. Taking on leadership roles and public speaking was a real challenge. I knew I wanted to improve because I want to be a leader in the (green) industry in the future.”
To that end, he put his plant expertise — a combination of years of trial and error on his own and what he’s learned in the classroom — to good use, giving talks to garden clubs and other organizations on a variety of horticultural topics.
Arriving at Temple University Ambler after two years at the Community College of Philadelphia and taking full advantage of the dual admissions program between the two institutions, Huber set his sights on the top leadership spot on campus. During his senior year, he has served as Student Government Association President at Ambler.
“I’ve known I wanted to come to Temple since I was 14 — I came to an open house at Ambler and said ‘This is it!’ The faculty are an inspiration and a wealth of knowledge and they are completely willing to give students the attention, help and guidance that they need,” he said. “I’ve gotten more out of being part of student government than I ever could have imagined. One year is enough to get you started, but I wish I had another year to continue what we’ve been able to accomplish — students can make an impact and you will see results.”
For his efforts and genuine dedication to the campus, Huber was awarded the Ambler Campus Student Leader of the Year Award. Student Government was also awarded Student Organization of the Year while Huber additionally received an Ambler Campus Leadership Award. At the recent Ambler Campus Academic Awards, Huber was also honored with the School of Environmental Design Alumni Association Award. Then there’s the small matter of hauling in a mind boggling 125 awards — including 18 first place ribbons — from the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show.
Huber accomplished all of this while putting in 40-hour work weeks at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Meadowbrook Farm.
“I think part of it is that everything I do ties in with each other very well. Staying afloat means staying on top of time management — you take one week at a time and set viable goals,” he said. “I have the timetable of all of my plants in my head. I can tell you by looking at a plant what it will be doing in four weeks. My horticulture degree gives me the necessary credentials to achieve success, but you can’t just stay in the classroom; you can’t just stay in the greenhouse — you have to get your name out there.”
Huber’s next challenge — a master’s degree, possibly followed by the pursuit of a doctoral degree, in a field such as Plant Pathology, Plant Biology or Plant Breeding.
If he actually bred a man-eating plant, it wouldn’t be much of a shocker. His menagerie of plants — all manner of carnivores and cacti and a few that smell like death itself — has more in common with Little Shop of Horrors than Better Homes and Gardens. Currently applying to graduate school, he has visions of the future that would make Dr. Frankenstein proud.
“Temple’s program has been terrific in helping me build upon my existing knowledge, particularly the science of growing, plant physiology and chemistry,” he said. “I want to be a plant breeder; that’s always been my passion. I want to breed new plants — exotics that are even more bizarre and crazy, agricultural and ornamental plants that are more vigorous and disease resistant.”
And he’s willing to be patient for that special specimen to come along, Huber said. The “knockout rose,” for example, took years to breed and develop, he said. It was also the first plant in the industry to sell a million plants in just one year.
“In horticulture, that’s being a rock star,” he said. “In plant breeding, absolutely anything is possible and that’s why it’s so fascinating.”
Of course heading off to pursue his next degree leaves one important detail to sort out — who will take care of his prize plants when he’s gone?
“Looks like I’ll have to train my parents,” he said with a smile.