Spotlight: Hetty Ford (Dutchlady1)

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on August 16, 2010

I didn't even know what Plumeria was. I was writing articles about plants and I thought I knew everything there was to know about them until a lovely lady also began to write about Plumeria. Her articles were filled with photos of wonderful blooms, the likes of which I'd never seen before and I was filled with awe. As I got to know her a little better, I found a friend who is as awesome as her flowers. I'd like you to get to know her, too. Let's meet Hetty Ford.

***Hetty, you've colored my world with pictures of your Plumeria for years now. I finally know enough about this plant to know its tropical beauty adorns the lovely leis in Hawai'i. I also know it's worn over the ear of Polynesian women, the left ear if the woman is in a relationship, and the right if she is not. But Hetty, I happen to know that you are neither Hawaiian nor Polynesian. Tell us where you grew up, please.


Hetty:  I grew up in Holland but always had what the Germans call 'Fernweh' - yearning for far away places. I loved stories about travels, Thor Heyerdahl, Sir Frances Chichester, they really spoke to me. When I was 24 I joined the Dutch Foreign service as a secretary and went to Port of Spain, Trinidad. That was the last I saw of Holland, other than for brief visits. Via Texas I ended up in Germany, then England, and we eventually, on a total whim, ended up buying our house in Naples, Florida, first as a vacation home, then moved here permanently - the year of Hurricane Wilma.

***Hurricane Wilma, October 2005, was the most intense hurricane to ever hit the Atlantic basin. What a horrifying welcome to life in Florida! I'm so glad you didn't let it dampen your love for the state or for gardening.

Traveling is not always conducive to gardening either, Hetty, but your interest in flowers has never waned. When did you first realize you enjoyed plants?2010-08-15/Sharran/4a4392

Hetty:  As a child in school I once won a second prize for growing a Coleus plant. Each child had been given a plant at the beginning of the school year and after a certain amount of time we were all asked to bring ours in. I think that is when I discovered how fun it was to make and watch things grow.

I have always gardened but my love for tropical plants was satisfied when we came to Florida.

***You grew up in Holland and you now live in Florida, but I know you have traveled to so many other places. Can you tell us a little about your travels?

Hetty:  I am married (almost 28 years) to an international opera singer. The time that we lived in Europe, my life was dominated - not by plants, but by opera. My husband is operatic tenor Bruce Ford (now retired); he h2010-08-15/Sharran/5ad690ad a great career, both in Europe and the US, and he has many recordings to his name. We seemed to travel all the time and had wonderful stays in many of Italy's great cities, as well as Paris, Salzburg, Vienna, Barcelona, London etc. etc. A colleague of his once told me a nanny was going to be my most important asset and she was right.

Our life was - as I often said - 'never boring' and frequently far too exciting for my taste!! It is why I 'retired' from that life when we came to Florida and I think it is rubbing off on my hubby who now thinks more of scuba diving and doesn't relish having to get on planes again and again.

***Most of us only dream of an exciting life, and you've lived it. I'll bet you have beautiful memories. This brings us to your enchantment with a very lovely plant. Let's talk about Plumeria.


Hetty:  Ever since first being introduced to Plumeria in 2000, they have played an important role in my life. From taking over my yard, to serving as a tool for fundraising for a family burdened with medical bills due to the father’s leukemia, to just plain bringing me joy and pleasure every day when I look out my window!!

My general love for plants took me to the Naples Botanical Gardens, initially as a volunteer and now as a staff member working on their plant collections. I am happy to be able to say I was instrumental in bringing the Thornton varieties, and now a full complement of the PSA-registered varieties to Naples.

Dutch by birth but widely travelled since my late teens, married to a husband who indulges my love for these flowers, and with a son just finishing College, I now like to call myself semi-retired, so that I can justify spending all waking hours in the pursuit of growing blooming tropical plants, of course most specifically plumeria!

***Another topic, Hetty, do you have pets in your life?


Hetty:  I'm really not a pet person, but as of next week we will be foster parents to our son's two cats, Hector and Achilles, while he gets settled in a new city for graduate school.

***Well, that should be different, you'll have to let us know how it works out with two kitties in the picture. 

There is another aspect about you that I know you don't often mention. You once told me you didn't like to 'beat your own drum', but I think it's a trait that is well worth sharing. You mentioned earlier something about fundraising. Please, Hetty, tell us about your quiet compassion.

Hetty:  I am dedicated to helping others in dire straits, out of an innate feeling of compassion. Usually when I sell any of my plants it is to support some cause or another. For two years I supported a young family who was struggling because of the father's leukemia and I know I made a difference in their lives; this after a chance encounter on a plane!

***Thanks for sharing that with us. You are truly a lovely lady with a big heart. Do you ever think of living anywhere else? There are so many wonderful places you've visited in your travels, do you think you and your family will remain in Florida?2010-08-15/Sharran/7ba2f4

Hetty:  I can't imagine moving again, but Hawai'i really enchants me - we have been there twice and I hope to go again, and again....

***Hawai'i enchants me, too, Hetty, but then so do your special flowers.  You have some Plumeria that you hold dear to your heart. Tell me about them, please.

Hetty:  The first is Plumeria 'Henriette' which my plumeria guru, Luc, from Florida Colors named for me. Henriette is my birthname.2010-08-15/Sharran/9d100e


Another is Plumeria 'Tahitian Sunset' - I won first prize in the DG photo competition two years ago with this picture. 


And Plumeria 'Ventiquattro' - the word ventiquattro is Italian for 24, and my hubby gave me the plant on our 24th anniversary. I have since gone on to register it.


2010-08-15/Sharran/86caa2*** Thank you, Hetty, for sharing the beauty of your world with us. No matter if we call them Frangipani or Plumeria, your favorite plant is so very beautiful. And your 'quiet compassion' touches my heart. I am also enjoying the beauty of your husband's music, thanks for sharing that, too.


If you would like to chat with Hetty, I am sure she would enjoy hearing from you on the comment threads that follow this article.


Please remember to hold your browser over each photo to read its description, and also remember that you can enlarge the photos by clicking on the2010-08-15/Sharran/203ea9m. Another feature for all articles, is the 'Watch this Article' feature. By clicking it, you'll be alerted to comments made to the article. 

Thank you so much for joining us for a look into the beautiful world of Hetty Ford.    



Related articles:
Florida, gardens, interviews, plants, plumeria

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Absolutely gorgeous flowers! nap Aug 22, 2010 9:14 AM 6
thank you all Dutchlady1 Aug 18, 2010 9:44 AM 3
Lovely artical, and pictures kareoke Aug 17, 2010 6:55 AM 0
What a fun and.... weeds Aug 16, 2010 5:41 PM 0
Nice to meet you starlight1153 Aug 16, 2010 2:26 PM 2
Beautiful Ridesredmule Aug 16, 2010 2:21 PM 2
Such a Wonderful Soul! Katg Aug 15, 2010 11:32 PM 1
I enjoyed this! Patti1957 Aug 15, 2010 11:09 PM 1
Nice to get to know you better, Hetty TwinLakesChef Aug 15, 2010 9:18 PM 0

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