With spring in the air, business is blooming

The Fant family name has been around this region since early pioneer days. And since the family is directly related to the VanHoofs, Ellen Fant is probably related to half the people of Enumclaw in one shirt-tail way or another. (On second thought, given our rapid suburban growth in the last 30 years, that’s probably a slight exaggeration – but not much.)

  • Monday, March 16, 2009 9:13pm
  • Opinion

Wally’s World

The Fant family name has been around this region since early pioneer days. And since the family is directly related to the VanHoofs, Ellen Fant is probably related to half the people of Enumclaw in one shirt-tail way or another. (On second thought, given our rapid suburban growth in the last 30 years, that’s probably a slight exaggeration – but not much.)

Ellen Fant began fooling around with flowers while she was still in high school. Sort of a hobby, you could say. After high school, she started selling her blooms and hanging baskets to garden stores scattered between Seattle and Tacoma. The business earned her a few nickels and laid the groundwork for a lifetime devoted to horticultural pursuits.

During the early 1960s, Ellen met Garry Horton who, ironic enough, was employed at the Prentice Nursery near Boeing headquarters on old Highway 99. Apparently, his interest in flowers swept the poor girl off her feet and the couple married in 1962.

Shortly thereafter, by hook or by crook, they obtained some second-hand lumber, built a woodstove out of a discarded oil-drum and constructed a greenhouse in their backyard. They started making hanging baskets for homes in the Enumclaw area and were pleasantly surprised when the business really took off. Before long they were selling baskets to prestigious locations like the Seattle Center and to Ernst Malmo garden stores which, at that time, were found all over western Washington.

In 1974, they purchased a nursery on Southeast 400th, between 236th and 244th. They renamed the enterprise G. E. & B. Nursery, which stands for Garry, Ellen and boys. (They have three sons, who helped with the business.) To celebrate the occasion, they went to the old Wishbone Inn, threw down some drinks and danced the night away. Garry and Ellen have always liked to dance and were particularly fond of the Wishbone and the Newaukum Grange.

Over the years, G. E. & B. has expanded considerably. It now has 12 greenhouses and covers four acres. The nursery handles everything, from 18-foot maple trees to teeny-tiny forget-me-nots.

Today, they plant about 3,000 hanging baskets that will eventually adorn the downtown streets of Enumclaw and front porches all over south King County. Many of these baskets can become quite beautiful and spectacular indeed, cascading 5 or 6 feet. Garry used to do a lot of landscaping in local housing developments and new businesses around King County, including industrial centers in Federal Way and Forest Park. But it simply got to be too much work and he’s turned such projects over to his son, Ridge, who runs a separate business, High Ridge Landscaping, that specializes in custom home landscaping and irrigation.

Ellen wants to keep G. E. & B. on the friendly, first-name basis it has enjoyed over the years. Several of the nursery’s regular customers have told me that Ellen not only remembers their names, but also what plants she has sold them in the past. This atmosphere and service keeps people coming back, even succeeding generations of some families.

Ellen wishes to extend her warmest appreciation to her dedicated employees, Dottie Leighton, Ti Hendershot, Socorro Mendieta and a special, heartfelt thank you to Andy Broaddus.

So, as we approach the first day of spring – Friday, as a matter of fact – you may find your flirtatious thoughts turning towards shrubs, annuals, perennials, fruit trees, climbing vines and teeny-tiny forget-me-nots. If that’s the case, be sure to check out the G. E. & B. Tell ‘em Wally sent you.

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