Modern West Floral Company Blooms with Locally Grown Botanicals
No one expected their flowers to come from local soil—until now. With roots in landscape architecture, the untamed diversity of the Roaring Fork Valley landscape, and blooms from their own high country floral farm, the designers behind Mountain West Floral Company (MWFC) create botanical experiences steeped, they say, in the valley’s floral terroir.
“Our hope has been to shift our clients’ perception of beauty and encourage others to appreciate and respect the uniqueness of our local aesthetic,” says co-founder Vanessa Gilbert.
“In order to accomplish this,” fellow founder Tara Abbaticchio says, “we harness the deep Colorado aesthetic of beauty by foraging locally (for which we have permits). We let the architecture of a flower, branch, stem, or dried seed head initiate the design. We then complement the ever-changing local availability with annual varieties grown on our farm in Carbondale.”
“Our goal,” she adds, “is to be purely focused on the people who value the local, seasonal aspect of what they’re getting. They’re okay with not knowing exactly what color or what flower they’re going to get because they want what’s available at the time.”
Focusing on events, weddings, weekly contracts, and gifts, MWFC’s style is reflected in both Gilbert and Abbaticchio’s inclinations.
Gilbert leans toward the romantic and colorful: “apricot blossoms in the spring, with lilac branches, peonies, that’s when I start feeling good,” she chuckles. Abbaticchio is drawn to the airy architecture of a specimen, especially in the fall “when they’re drying, even more than when they’re alive,” she says. Gilbert pokes good-natured fun at her business partner’s fondness of “tumbleweeds,” but Abbaticchio proudly shares stories of going for walks and runs, hands full of weathered husks by the time she returns. “Even just one of those in a vase is so much prettier than a grocery store flower,” she asserts.
MWFC’s approach to floral sustainability may be unmatched in the valley. The two women farm their own flowers organically on the valley floor east of Carbondale. There are no chemical drenches, no trans-Atlantic air transport. Gilbert and Abbaticchio are also inspired by the organic farmers of the North Fork Valley around Paonia. Role model Zephyros Farms has been very supportive of their work and a reliable source for horticultural wares. For example, for Valentine’s or Mother’s Day arrangements, MWFC will order unusual stems from these and other organic farms. Both women prefer utilizing stylish alternatives to the standardized imports of South America and Africa.
So ultimately, their hearts and intentions are truly local.
Gilbert originally moved to the valley after landscape architecture school to apprentice at Sustainable Settings for several seasons. She wanted to learn more about ecology, cycles, seasons. She wanted to grow, to connect with the earth prior to launching her career in landscape architecture.
Several years later, well into their careers at a prolific firm, the siren song of earth and creation began to call to both Gilbert and Abbaticchio.
In the spring, when the sap begins to flow and the buds to swell, when roots begin to stir anew, the MWFC shop at the Studio for Arts and Works in Carbondale becomes a hotbed of early-season growth. Heat mats and grow lights usher in new life: architectural spires of larkspur, bells of Ireland and snapdragons, frothy love-in-a-mist, Queen Anne’s lace, and luminous dahlias.
From everlastings to the ephemeral, MWFC grows clean botanicals. These organic florals, grown two to three miles from their shop, are rooted in historic potato fields, nourished by alpine sun and air, and enlivened by valley water and weather. They are imbued with the raw, elemental nature of our Rocky Mountains: that floral terroir that Abbaticchio and Gilbert espouse.
“We wanted to fill the void of ‘everyone wants to know where their local food comes from.’ You should know where your flowers come from, too,” Abbaticchio says. “If you’re in the habit of buying flowers, it’s another part of our local agriculture that’s just as important.”