LOUISVILLE, Ohio — Last week, on a 50-degree day, Josh Moore celebrated the coming of spring by carrying hundreds of flats and planters full of pansies from their shelter at Motts Greenhouse, arranging them into rows in the sunshine.
It’s only March at the Motts operation just east of Louisville — there’s admittedly not much to see — but it’s this busy time of year that will lead the greenhouse into the spring of its 135th successful year.
The business, which started as a cider mill back in 1874 and eventually added greenhouses as a sideline, was purchased by current owners Wayne and Josh Moore in 1995.
For almost 20 years prior to that, the operation was owned by Glen Motts, Josh’s grandfather.
Motts had reacted to demand for annuals and perennials and phased out the cider to give his full attention to supplying eastern Stark County with the landscaping and gardening needs.
Today, the Moores operate a retail and wholesale greenhouse, seed and garden supply, and bulk food store.
Despite the outward appearance of being somewhat slow this time of year, the Moores and their employees are anything but.
More than 1 million plugs — small seedlings rooted in 1-by-1 inch or smaller clods of potting soil — are being transplanted in the back greenhouse, 40 hours a week.
“Those all come in as plugs, shipped from all over the U.S., and we’ve got to transplant them into trays, planters and baskets by hand,” Josh Moore said.
Moore grew up in the family business and now, at 32, is overseeing a large portion of it. He said he relies on a “really good staff” who work from January through May to get everything growing and sellable.
Those employees, too, make the business look good and run like clockwork, Moore said. After their transplant work is done and the greenhouses are full, warm and growing, the employees transition to the retail house where they can share worlds of knowledge on the plants they’ve watched grow from miniature plugs into flowering baskets and flats.
“They’ve spent months working with each variety, so once they’re in retail, they can really help our customers,” Moore said. “Nobody knows more about the plants than they do.”
That personalized service, coupled with a wide selection of healthy and thriving annuals, perennials and garden vegetables — even those that are hard to find — is what make Motts Greenhouse a destination for home gardeners and landscapers from throughout the area, Moore said.
Even with at least two competing big-box stores nearby, the family’s more than 100,000 square feet of greenhouses outside Louisville are still booming.
“That’s where our variety comes into play. Those other places might have a few of this and a few of that, but the large selection isn’t there,” Moore said.
“I don’t think you’ll find this much variety, like 20 varieties of tomatoes and 15 of peppers anywhere else.
“We’ve been told we’ve got the nicest selection of flowers, and lots of each kind. When that customer comes back and tells you how well their garden or flower beds are growing for them, you can be proud,” Moore said.
Josh Moore said the business has seen a marked shift toward carrying more vegetable seeds and starts in the store over the years, and this season is no exception.
Inside the retail store, an older couple — fixtures at the center for years, Moore said — is busy counting out and weighing seeds, bagging them in the perfect portions to get backyard gardeners on their way to harvest.
“At the same time, flower sales are still really good” across the industry, Moore said. “Customers really like to have stuff that’s already well established with good color and blooms. They want something to take straight home, put on the patio, and have it look nice.”
“I imagine they’ll be more cautious on their spending this year, but people take a lot of pride in the maintenance of their home and lawn,” Moore said about the local economy and how it may affect sales this spring.
“And I think a lot of people who have never grown their own vegetable gardens will this year, too,” he predicted.
Last week, crews at Motts planted just over 4,000 hanging baskets and began putting together planters and additional baskets featuring mixed varieties of greenery and flowers.
There are 1,200 potted tomatoes in another section of the greenhouse. Nearby are flats of snapdragons, ageratum, dusty miller, petunias and impatiens, and planting crews are still going strong.
The signs are there. Spring is just around the corner.