Arvada nursery owner and employee honored

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More than plants and flowers grow in a greenhouse — people do, too.

In early February, Steve Echter and Whitney McMillan, owner and employee, respectively, of Arvada’s Echter’s Nursery and Garden Center, received the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association’s highest awards in the horticulture and floricultural industries.

“It kind of put a fire under my butt,” said McMillan, who was awarded the Horizon Award for her determination, dedication in learning about seeds, bulbs and flowers while growing the center’s seed and bulb department. “This is truly an industry — no, a family — that’s a living organism.”

Echter received the Hall of Fame award.

Echter’s, located at 5150 Garrison St., is a family-owned and run business. Started in 1959 by Bob Echter, Steve’s father, the center employs 45 people year-round and 80 in peak spring and summer seasons. Over the past 57 years, the business has evolved from a carnation grower into a full retail store, nursery and greenhouse selling plants, flowers, trees and a host of gardening supplies, books and knickknacks.

Manager Krystal Keistler-Hawley credits the growth to Steve Echter, calling him a true “visionary” of the gardening industry.

“He’s very forward thinking,” Keistler-Hawley said. “He saw the writing on the wall and was instrumental in getting his father to convert to a bedding plant grower … He’s someone who’s really contributed to the horticulture in Colorado.”

Along with revamping his family’s business, Steve Echter was instrumental in founding several centers and organizations in the state and nationwide. He was president of the Colorado Greenhouse Growers Association and the Garden Centers of America; served as a charter member for Garden Centers of Colorado; was a board member and co-chair of the Garden Centers of Colorado, the Professional Plant Growers Association, the Colorado Floriculture Foundation; has been a Home and Garden Showplace adviser and is serving on the board of trustees at the Colorado Nursery Research and Education Foundation.

Moving forward, McMillan, a restaurateur-turned-horticulturist, said this recognition has encouraged her to further her education and deepen her passion for the trade.

“I want to get a broader perspective,” she said. “There are so many different things I can do … We’re a bunch of people that want to change the world by planting things.”

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