Green thumb, love passes from mother to daughter

Published 4:29 pm Monday, May 17, 2010

“My mother loved azaleas and planted a lot of them,” said Katie Griffith.

And today, the 77-year-old continues the project in yards where her parents, “Dee” and Theron Holcombe, a longtime Chelsea teacher, lived.

Thousands of blossoming plants greet visitors to the house that sits beside Shelby County 47, near old downtown Chelsea.

The day I visited, Griffith had just returned from Colorado, where she attended the 50-year reunion of her nursing school graduating class.

She stayed with her best friend from nursing school, Carol Stanton, whom she had not seen since her nursing days, she said.

Griffith was away from Chelsea for several years as a U.S. Navy nurse. But when her mother died, she and her husband bought her mother’s house from the other heirs, and she picked up her mother’s flower growing.

In 2000, she took a Master Gardening class at the Extension Center in Columbiana.

“My class was just marvelous,” she said. “We studied and took tests for nine weeks. You had to make a certain score then do 40 hours of volunteer gardening to get a certificate.”

She volunteered at the 4-H Center. “A girl helped me, and I cannot tell you how many flowers we planted!” she said. “We still have to do 40 hours (of volunteer work) a year to keep our certificates.” She now helps plant flowers at Chelsea City Hall.

A book, The Holcombes, Nation Builders…their biographies, genealogies and pedigres, by Elizabeth Weir McPheerson, traces the Holcombe family from Wales to Chelsea.

Griffith’s father, Boardman, appears to be the first of this Holcombe line born (1853) in Shelby County. Her great-grandfather, Tarlton P. (or Farris), is credited as founder of Liberty Baptist Church. Tarlton’s father, Rev. Hosea Holcombe, was a well-known author, evangelist and church organizer in the South.

Besides serving in the navy, Griffith taught school and served as principal at Shelby. She would really like to still use her various training, she said.

Shelba Nivens can be reached by e-mail at