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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fort Thomas Florist & Greenhouses: A History of Hands in the Earth

Fort Thomas Florist & Greenhouses

Growing History 

The land that Fort Thomas Florist and Greenhouses occupies along Grand Avenue has a long, unique history that pays homage to community, family, and old fashioned work ethic. George and Leona Messmer were on the staff of the florist under its previous ownership and after purchasing the business in the 1930’s, changed the name to Fort Thomas Florist and Greenhouses. For over 80 years it has been a family owned and operated business passed down to George and Leona’s three sons, Bob, Tom, and John Messmer.

Getting an early start on seedlings in the Leona Greenhouse

The three brothers grew up among the life cycle of plants and the steady rhythms of a successful business. As adults, Bob and Tom took over and John, after retiring from a successful career as a teacher and coach, returned to the business on a daily basis and now works alongside his brothers again. 

The long history of Fort Thomas Florist and Greenhouses is apparent as you walk from greenhouse to greenhouse. The original homestead was torn down years ago and replaced five greenhouses respectively named: George, Leona, Tommy, Bobby, and Johnny. Today, Tom’s son Mitch and son-in-law Mike have taken on the leadership roles of the business.

The Messmer Brother's Greenhouses


Over the last eight decades Fort Thomas Florist has expanded its offerings and evolved to meet the needs of the local and wholesale community. The family has kept up with technological advances in the industry and year after year improves the property. Greenhouses whose walls were once a combination of plastic sheeting and glass are now fitted with sturdy polycarbonate sheets and heavy mill plastic. The upgrades mitigated the heat loss in the greenhouses. The Messmer brothers often reminisce about the days when they had to pull the cloth over the mums to protect their delicate blooms from frost.

In addition to innovation, unique plant offerings, and upgrades to the property they are constantly updating their inventory of bird baths, pottery, shovels, rakes, grass seed, fertilizers, and everything you would ever need to make your yard look its absolute best!

Tropical Greenhouse

Seed, Soil, Sun 

Have questions about when to bed impatiens, where to hang your ferns, or what plants are deer resistant? Are you a plant it and be done gardener or one whose fingernails stay a little gritty? There is always a knowledgeable staff member nearby that can shed light on your gardening dilemmas no matter your level of interest or expertise.

Always feel free to stop in and see what's going on in the greenhouses. Whether it's 0 degrees or 95 degrees, it's always a sunny day in the greenhouse! People are always commenting that you don't realize how big it is until you really walk all the way through it.


Each new year brings another cycle of seed, sprout, bloom. As winter ends with warmer winds mean pots are filled to the brim with soil and seedlings that will grow into bedding plants with careful watering, warmth, and sun. In January it’s time to start the Easter lilies, in spring the geranium, petunias, begonias, and hundreds of other types of annuals start to unfurl and the staff are planting, planting, planting ready for the spring rush. No time to rest in the summer, the staff start planting for the fall season: mums, asters, and pansies fill the greenhouses again. The year rounds out with the fiery red and snow white of the poinsettias.

Hydrangeas in the Greenhouse

Succulents: Bringing Home Treasure

Succulents have lit up the gardening scene like tulips in Holland. Beautifully simple, easy, and cute, they are the sushi of the plant world. Loved for their endlessly fascinating shapes, colors, and patterns en masse they are a veritable jewelry box of freshly dug green and blue gemstones. Zebra plant, jade, old man’s cactus, and many varieties of echeveria crowd together on long table displays. Succulents are easy to care for, can be kept indoors or planted as annuals outdoor. Their unique growing habits, otherworldly shapes, and variety of textures add a little bit of happy to any space.

Succulents in the Tropical Greenhouse

Succulents in the Greenhouse

Full Service Florist

All hands are on deck year round. As a full service florist the workshop is always bursting with buckets of cut snapdragons, roses, lilies, and hydrangeas. They fill orders for weddings, holidays, and funerals or just to say thanks, "I love you" or even "I'm sorry" and countless other occasions. There are four in-house designers with over 100 years of experience between them. Jan, Rhonda, Margaret, and Sherri work tirelessly to design arrangements, bouquets, and floral gifts.

Seedlings, geraniums, & hydrangeas

Part of the rotating inventory of yard art

You can find everything from unicorn watering cans to fertilizer, deer scram to wind chimes, garden statuary to vases for your dining room table. There are indoor containers, hanging baskets, endless rows of fern, gardening tools, bug sprays, and vegetable plants.

Seeds, watering cans, and fertilizers in abundance!

Need a last minute birthday, anniversary, or get well gift? Order online from an assortment of seasonal arrangements or place a custom order. They will also hand deliver your gift! 

The staff at Fort Thomas Florist and Greenhouses balance each other well and continue in the footsteps of founders George and Leona. At its most fundamental they take the earth and do something good and beautiful with it. Leona’s hands were busy until the day she died and she passed on a solid work ethic often missing from our modern world.

It's a special place, rich in history and family lore, thriving in an industry that has been largely absorbed by big box retailers. Treat yourself to an uplifting stroll through the hanging gardens of Fort Thomas Florist & Greenhouses sometime soon.

Fort Thomas Florist & Greenhouses
63 South Grand Avenue
Fort Thomas, KY 41075

1 comment:

  1. Great article about a local institution we couldn't do without!