Starting with one six by 30-foot plant bed 45 years ago,
one of the few remaining plant growers in Shelby county, now tends in season 400
feet of plant bed space in his greenhouses on the Blue Ridge Road about six
miles from town.
The Shelbyville News
Saturday February 7, 1948
By Ave Lewis
In writing of the commercial horticulturist career of Mr. Ford it’s almost
necessary to speak of him as a "team," since he insists that so far as
the business is concerned he and his wife, the former Cora Holbrook, are
one. Mr. Ford’s eyesight hasn’t been the best for the past two years—he
recently underwent surgery for the removal of a cataract—and he says her
acting as his "eyes" during this period is only one of the innumerable
ways they have worked together in their life undertaking.
And now while they are staying at the home of a son-in-law and daughter,
and Mrs. Howard Cutter, on Shelby street, as he recuperates from the
operation she reads catalogues to him and they discuss prices and descriptions
as they order seed, fertilizer and such for the coming season.
Mr. Ford was orphaned when he was 10 years old and from then until he was of
age he lived with various relatives. But always, in the different families,
gardening played an important part so it was natural for him after building a
home of his own (the present home) to try his own "green thumb."
and Mrs. Ford moved into the home following their marriage 50 years ago and he
started his first venture in the plant business soon afterwards. From his small
plot he first sold plants to the former Gross store in Manilla and the
Haymond store in Waldron—deliveries being made via horse and spring wagon.
He acquired his first truck in 1915 and built his first green house in 1919.
(This was a 16 x 72 foot building and in 1926 he built an additional green house
16 by 45 in size). The watering problem for the first green house was solved
merely with sprinkling cans but it wasn’t long until a well driven in the
plant yard was necessary and now water is used from a 1,200 gallon supply tank.
Following the acquisition of a truck his business "branched out"
and he began selling plants at Milroy and from the truck at St. Paul on Saturday
nights. About this time too he started selling plants at the J.
Store and then for a four-year period sold from his truck on the corner of
the Public Square. For 14 years they have maintained store rooms in town for
flowers and plants each spring, but the surplus still is sold at the DePrez
Store. Many years, particularly on the occasion of Mother’s Day and Easter,
the services of Mr. and Mrs. Ford, their daughter and eight hired helpers have
been necessary to take car of the business.
As in everything else, Mr. Ford says great strides have been made in the
greenhouse business. He recalls that plants used to be sold in bulk seedlings
instead of being individually potted as they are today. His own specialty now is
hybrid tomato plants. These have proved to be much sturdier and more highly
productive. And at $16.50 a half ounce they should be! (Ordinary tomato seeds
are sold at 40 cents per ounce). He and Mrs. Ford plan to sow their seed about
February 20 and after about four weeks they will be ready to transplant into
tiny pots. They reminisce that they have emptied 15,000 such pots during a
Fresh soil is secured for the green houses each year, brought in by the truck
load, and is carefully screened and mixed in proportion with commercial stone
Mr. Ford says women’s taste so far as outdoor flowers are concerned don’t
change much. Geraniums are one of the oldest flowers known and they remain one
of the top favorites, along with petunias, flowering sage and asters. Seed for
double petunias incidentally is grown only in California and each plant is
pollinated by hand. And it costs $2.50 for 1/64 of an ounce. Mr. Ford laughingly
says that’s called holding $2.50 between a thumb and finger and not seeing it
since the seed is indeed minute.
In addition to their plant work Mr. and Mrs. Ford have hung quite a few rooms
of wallpaper in their day. In fact only last summer the two of them covered 100
rooms and in addition to that Mr. Ford painted five houses, three barns in seven
With the daughter, Mrs. Cutter, they have two sons, Hugh and
both of whom reside in Shelbyville. And their only grandchild is Portia
Cutter, a sophomore at the local high school.
Contributed by Barb Huff