July 22, 2022
gord shuttleworth
Gord Shuttleworth
Landscape Ontario’s fourth president, Gord Shuttleworth, was also its sixth president.

After serving his term as president in 1976, he returned to the role in 1978. He explained in his first column the reason he was resuming a second term: “Many new members were elected to the board over the last two years and this combined with the resignation of several members created a scarcity of seasoned directors. Not being overly eager to set new precedents of this kind, I accepted the nomination to facilitate the growth of experienced people to follow in the years ahead.”

Years later, Gord Shuttleworth was described as one of the people who laid a solid and stable foundation for the future of Landscape Ontario.

Tony DiGiovanni, executive director of Landscape Ontario, said, “There is a saying, ‘We can see further because we stand on the shoulders of giants.’ Gord is one of those giants. He has been instrumental in the success of our association. He was one of the master masons.”

In 2013, Gord Shuttleworth received one of the highest honours with the presentation of the Landscape Ontario Honorary Life Membership at Congress. The event was emotional for the nearly 70-year-old, as he looked back over a lifetime spent in the horticulture world.

“Gord is one of a long line of leaders who have influenced others through their principles, values, ethics and activities. He is an industry pioneer, past president of Landscape Ontario, innovator, inventor, and to many who know him, a good guy,” said fellow life member Karl Stensson when he presented the honour before 600 people at the LO awards night.

In his first column as president, he wrote, “LO can only be a strong and reliable association if we are supported from within.” He compared the association to a vegetable garden. Membership had grown to 420 with five regional chapters, increased research programs, a successful and educational magazine, representation on the Farm Safety Association, a larger and more educational annual convention, a Qualified Plantsman course and increased public awareness of members professional status.

He listed weedy areas of the garden as the possible necessity of a larger office with additional staff to look after planning and day-to-day tasks of maintenance.

He concluded with, “Combined with this larger and more productive garden, there is the responsibility of greater workload to share among those who benefit. “Those leaning on their hoes and eating the vegetables, please get involved.”

In his final column as president in 1976, Gord wrote, “I see a strong association with increasing benefits for its members.” He went on to write, “The association is expanding slowly and on firm ground.”  
Name: Gord Shuttleworth
Hometown: London, Ont.
Company: Delware Nursery
Volunteer Record: Congress, Legislation
Awards: Honorary Life Member, Frank Ewald Jr. Award

Some of the achievements listed during his term was the association working for and winning exemptions on legislation dealing with the 44-hour work week, provincial sales tax and Sunday closing.

Following his tenure as president, Gord took on the role as chair of Congress. It was a big step as Landscape Ontario also over the management of Congress that year.

Following his second term in the president’s chair, the list of improvements for LO included promotion of the association, increased membership visitation and recruitment, relocating and reorganizing the office to help strengthen chapters through better communication, helping to reorganize Landscape Canada, fine tuning board meetings in regards to number of meetings and length, restructuring committees, completing a nursery stock source list, formation of a provincial advisory body for all colleges.

Born into the industry

Gord Shuttleworth has vivid memories of his time when he began working in the industry. He was literally born into it, while his mother and father Gladys and Ted Shuttleworth began their year-round business, Little Tree Farm Garden Centre in London, back in 1952. They raised a family of five children, while operating the growing business.

It was the first indoor garden centre for Canada, and soon grew into one of the largest in the country. It was soon followed by Cullen Gardens. “Back in those days, people didn’t decorate the outside of their homes like today,” says Shuttleworth. "Everyone from across Canada came to see our garden centre."

Although Little Tree Farm no longer exists, a number of years ago Shuttleworth preserved the memory of his parents, and the history of the store that was a London institution for more than half a century. A plaque and a tree now honour that memory at the medical building on Springbank Drive, where the Little Tree Farm once called home.

At the age of 16 he worked as a driver for his father. After completing one year at the University of Western Ontario, Shuttleworth began working full-time for his parents. In 1968, Gord and his brother David bought Little Tree Farm from their parents.

“During that year, I also began Delaware Nursery with my mom and dad. It was a growing operation of 56 acres, where we supplied container grown plant material for garden centres and landscape contractors.”

At this time, growing in containers was a major innovation for the nursery industry. Back in the early days all nursery stock was brought in from Holland. Gord found that hospitals used five-gallon metal cans that contained puréed food. He would go around to area hospitals and retrieve the empty containers, which proved ideal for the first container-grown nursery stock. Drain holes would be punched into the cans.

Later, tarpaper was rolled and stapled to create another type of container. “We would cover them with sawdust in the winter, as we didn’t have polyhouses in those days,” says Shuttleworth.

Another first that the family developed was concrete patio stones. “We began the production of the slabs to give our employees work throughout the winter,” says Shuttleworth. It soon took off, and Little Tree Farm was shipping patio stones all over south-western Ontario. “This was long before interlock stones.”

From this, the concrete business saw expansion when the family began Dial-A-Mix Concrete Service. It grew into Ready Mixed Mortar Division of Dial-A-Mix. A first for Canada, this system provided delayed setting mortar. The concrete business was sold in 1998.

Built and sold ShuttlePotter

The list of accomplishments of the inventive family includes an automated potting machine for the nursery industry. In 1988, Gord Shuttleworth and his father developed the ShuttlePotter. “This device allowed nurseries to reduce staff and improve production potting time up to 400 per cent,” says Gord.

The centre drum of the potting machine is filled with the soil mix, which is then fed into the pots on a rotating base. The machine could handle pots ranging in size from one to 10 gallons, with up to four people handling the entire operation.

Twenty-five machines were built by Gord Shuttleworth and sold across Canada and to the U.S. One of those customers was Neil Vanderkruk at Connon Nurseries/NVK in Waterdown. “Neil was a mentor to me, and someone whose opinion I greatly admired,” said Gord.

“Gord was both a good friend personally and professionally,” says Vanderkruk, himself a past president of Landscape Ontario. “He really helped our industry, and together we were involved in a number of projects.”

When Vanderkruk bought the first unit, Gord Shuttleworth knew he had a winner. Neil Vanderkruk thought so much of the device that he purchased the rights to the machine in 2008.

“It’s an excellent system, we use it at Connon, and find it a very efficient machine,” says Vanderkruk. Connon Nurseries/NVK continues to manufacture and sell the ShuttlePotter.

Long list of association service

In January 2013, Gord Shuttleworth was taken by surprise at Congress awards night when his name was called to receive the life membership award. “I had no idea that’s why everyone was encouraging me to attend. I thought it was a past presidents’ event to mark the association’s 40th anniversary.”

Bob Allen, another former president of LO, was responsible to ensure Gord Shuttleworth attended the awards ceremony, but did not know he was to take centre stage. “We managed to convince him to attend. When his name was called, he was completely surprised.”

Gord said he knew the real reason he had been encouraged to attend the award event, when it was announced to the 600-plus in attendance, “Landscape Ontario is proud to recognize Gord Shuttleworth for a lifetime of service and contribution to the nursery and landscape industry.” On stage was Tony DiGiovanni and Karl Stensson, president of Sheridan Nurseries, who presented the special plaque to LO’s newest honorary life member.

Shuttleworth’s lifetime service encompasses both Landscape Ontario and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association. His father was president of CNLA (formerly Canadian Nursery Trades Association) from 1959-1960.  

First appointed to the provincial board of Landscape Ontario in 1974, he became president of the London Chapter in 1982.

Karl Stennson reflects a great story about Gord Shuttleworth during the 25th anniversary year of Congress.

 “During our past presidents’ meeting, Gord came with about 15 full-head masks of an ‘old man’ (photograph in the 25th anniversary yearbook).

Following his term of office with LO provincial board in 1980, Gord Shuttleworth moved onto the board of directors of the Canadian Nursery Trades Association. He was elected president of the national association in 1993, serving a two-year term.

After 22 years of volunteer service with the provincial and national associations, Gord Shuttleworth stepped away to focus on his business, Delaware Nursery. He closed the nursery in 2011, trying his hand at semi-retirement. He had about 20 hoop houses in use — down from a one-time 120 — where I grew mostly boxwood.

Gord Shuttleworth gives credit to his family, staff and the dedicated board of directors. “Their support meant everything to me over the years.” Many of today’s industry members can look at Gord Shuttleworth’s hard work, drive and creativity in the early years for helping to guide Landscape Ontario to the success it enjoys today.

Members of 1976 Landscape Ontario Board of Directors

President: Gordon Shuttleworth
Past President: Marc Thiebaud
1st Vice President: John Van Staveren
2nd Vice President: Peter Braun
Treasurer: Frank Endean
Directors: Leo Bezaire, George Blyth, David Duplain, John Northwood
Executive Director: Tom Harkness

Members of 1978 Landscape Ontario Board of Directors

President: Gordon Shuttleworth
Past President: John Van Staveren
1st Vice President: Leo Bezaire
2nd Vice President: Karl Stensson
Treasurer: Frank Kearney
Secretary: John Wright Directors: Barry Benjamin, George Blyth, Casey van Maris, Hank Molema
Executive Director: Dennis Souder