Our History

//Our History
Our History 2016-11-10T22:47:29+00:00

Whatcom County’s Oldest Family-Owned Nursery & Garden Center

In the 1930s, James Vander Giessen built a greenhouse off the back of his house on Grover Street in Lynden, Washington. A hobby gardener, he decided it was time to build a greenhouse to suit his gardening needs. In 1938, when he quit his job at the local Darigold milk plant, James took the opportunity and with his wife, Anna, opened his greenhouse for business. In that year, Vander Giessen Nursery was born.

During the following years, James and Anna’s son Lawrence joined the business and began diversifying the services offered by the nursery, expanding specifically into landscaping and commercial spraying. In 1947, James and Anna’s daughter Ada married John Vos and the two joined Vander Giessen Nursery as business partners, Ada having worked alongside her dad in the business from the beginning. John began working with the spraying operation and Ada worked in the greenhouses and floral business, another service offered by the nursery. As business continued to grow, the nursery expanded with additional greenhouses, a larger floral shop and a wide offering of shrubs and trees.

Early on a Sunday morning in January 1953, the nursery suffered a devastating fire. A fire that started in a barn behind the business quickly moved into the greenhouses, destroying much of the Easter lily crop growing at the time. The barn in which the fire started housed oxygen and acetylene tanks used in the business; as they exploded, they blew out windows throughout the neighborhood and woke up families around Lynden and for up to 12 miles around as reported by the Lynden Tribune. Miraculously, despite the incredible damage, nobody was hurt or killed. Through the generosity of many community members, the greenhouses were quickly rebuilt and the crops replaced.

In the early 1970s, John and Ada’s son Alvin joined the business, working with his uncle Lawrence in the landscaping division. As Lawrence transitioned into retirement, Alvin took over the landscaping division, ultimately spinning that portion of the business off to form his own company, Vander Giessen Landscaping and Design.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, John and Ada continued to run the nursery and floral shop, among many other business ventures begun in the early days. In addition to John’s commercial spraying business, the nursery also offered barn whitewashing, a biennial state requirement for all dairy barns.

In the mid-1990s, after 50 years as a florist, Ada decided to retire from that portion of the business and focus her energies on her passion–working in the greenhouse. In the years to come, Vander Giessen Nursery became a seasonal business, open during the spring and early summer months each year to serve customers planting flowers or buying hanging baskets.

In the spring of 2003, John suffered a devastating brain injury caused by a fall, resulting in a four-month stay at a local nursing home. During that time, Alvin returned to the nursery to manage the spring season–and fell in love with the business. In the year following, he purchased the nursery and set about a series of major renovations, including tearing down most of the house that John and Ada had previously lived in as well as upgrading and restoring the 70-year old greenhouses.

Beginning in spring 2005, the nursery once again became a year-round business, serving customers with a complete selection of shrubs, trees, perennials and garden products. Over the next decade, the nursery continued to grow, adding several additional greenhouses facilitated by the purchase of the historic Standard Oil property across the street. In the spring of 2008, Alvin’s son David joined the business full-time.

In October 2013, Vander Giessen Nursery began the most significant upgrade of its facilities in its 75-year history. Beginning with tearing down the three wood-frame greenhouses on site–two of which dated back to the late 1930s–the nursery expanded by building one large, modern glass greenhouse to replace the three older structures. This state-of-the-art facility provides ideal conditions for growing as well as shopping, and allows for year-round uses.

Today, Vander Giessen Nursery continues to serve the community in the same location where it all started back in 1938. Although much has changed since 1938, our commitment remains the same: providing the best plants and products we can offer with the knowledge and service to ensure your garden thrives.