February 15, 2023

George Marshall’s First Garden

"We raised weeds and used tin cans in place of flower pots"

George Marshall loved gardening; there were beautiful flowerbeds at Dodona Manor, the Marshall’s home in Leesburg, VA. It was the vegetable garden Marshall loved the most, and his interest in growing vegetables began when he was a boy in Uniontown, PA.

George Marshall and some childhood friends. Left to right sitting: George Marshall, Adele Bliss, Helen Huston. Standing: Herbert Bowman, Catharine Lindsey Armstrong, Billy Ewing. Taken on the lawn on the grounds of Mrs. Arthur Bliss in Uniontown, PA


Marshall and some friends decided to create a greenhouse after visiting one with their mothers. They begged some leftover green paint from the carriage shop, which painted carriages “Brewster Green.”  (Porsche uses this color still today.) They painted as much of an outbuilding as they could, and presto! A “green” house.

The George C. Marshall, Sr., family home in Uniontown, PA.


As Marshall tells it:

Now we had to raise plants. Well, we had no plants, so we raised weeds and used tin cans painted green as the receptacles in place of flower pots. My father, who had a green thumb, happened to look at this greenhouse with much amusement, and was much struck with what you could do with a weed if you fertilized it. Of course, there was ample fertilizer available because we had the inside of this stable to dig in, which had the fertilizer of years.  It prompted him to suggest that we put some real plants in.

We read in the seed magazine of Peter Henderson and Company an advertisement that there was a new tomato that had been planted and whoever suggested the best name for the tomato would get fifty dollars. We sent for the seed and proceeded to plant this and grew the plants.

Marshall learned how to prune the tomato plants by removing the suckers.  The boys grew large tomatoes, which they took to a grocery to sell. The grocer’s customers created a demand for these new, large tomatoes, and Marshall’s father thought they were selling their produce too cheaply. They hadn’t made much, but Marshall was proud of the pennies they had earned.

“Ponderosa” tomato seeds, the brand-new variety that George Marshall and his friends grew.


The boys took a photo of one of their tomatoes posed with a silver dollar to show size. They sent the photo with their suggested names to Peter Henderson and Company. Their names were not chosen, but the seed company thought the photo was the largest tomato they had ever seen. The winning name of the tomato was “Ponderosa,”  an heirloom tomato still grown today.


Melissa has been at GCMF since fall 2019, and previously was an academic librarian specializing in history. She and her husband, John, have three grown children, and live in Rockbridge County with two large rescue dogs. Keep up with her @MelissasLibrary.