Zephyros Farm and Garden provides everyday beauty with organic flowers
August 16, 2017
Don Lareau and his wife, Daphne Yannakakis, are always busy planting, pruning and cutting flowers. "We grow over 1,000 varieties," Lareau said. "Over 100 of those are dahlias. When you love flowers as much as we do, it's easy to put in a lot of them."
Owners of Zephyros Farm and Garden in Paonia, Colo., the only certified nursery on the Western slope, are able to get an early start each season due to six greenhouses. One is heated, and all are large enough for them to drive their tractor through.
"We need greenhouses because it's a hard, short growing season here," Lareau added. "The winds and heat are intense." They named their farm Zephyros after the Greek god of the western wind, "because my wife is Greek."
The couple got started in the flower business at the perfect time 14 years ago. "Flower production in the U.S. wasn't a big deal. Back then, most grocery store flowers were getting imported from places like Holland, Guatemala and Nicaragua. These days, there is a burgeoning flower-growing movement in America."
Besides applying manure or compost to the dirt, Lareau believes a unique, Italian "spader" is key to healthy, vibrant plant growth. "It spades the soil, but doesn't mix the top and the bottom of it," he said. "You don't get a hardpan that way."
What is a hardpan? "Think of the action of a rototiller. If you have clay soil, it compacts it. There's a layer called hardpan left behind. No oxygen can get in there. That's bad for the roots. Our way leaves it open, and allows those roots to expand and absorb nutrients."
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In addition to dahlias, he and his wife grow peonies, zinnias, sunflowers, calendula, snapdragons, yarrow and many others. In addition, they sell berries, heirloom vegetables, herb starts, melons, squash, pumpkins and a wide range of tomatoes.
Lareau and Yannakakis have over two decades of experience in coaxing beauty from the earth. They started small in their business after moving to Colorado. "We kept growing and expanding because we're so passionate. We love everything about what we do," Yannakakis said.
Yannakakis has a rich background in nursery work. "I grew up in Maryland and went from there to Europe, where there are huge greenhouses. Flowers are sold on every corner. They're in your face all the time, especially with the Dutch."
An advantage to selling fresh-cut product instead of importing them is, there is no need for preservatives. Why is this so important if one doesn't actually eat flowers? Yannakakis said, "Our bouquets don't need to be washed before you or your kids stick your faces in them. It's important to ask, what kind of environment did these flowers come from? How were they handled? Were they sprayed with herbicides, fungicides or holding solutions?"
She believes the love and care they have for their flowers shines through, and from April to November this couple, as well as their two children, stay busy not only with growing but in sales. Customers pick up fresh flowers and other produce either directly from the farm or at Delicious Orchards, which is also in Paonia. During Farmer's Market days, flowers are loaded in a refrigerated truck for trips to Aspen and Telluride.
Zephyros flowers are even delivered weekly through a community supported agriculture co-op. Depending on the season, and what's blooming, the bouquets are always different.
The farm itself is so extraordinarily fragrant and colorful that it doubles as a wedding venue. "We decided we wanted to set flower design aside from the farm," Yannakakis said, "so, we took courses from designers to get the needed skills and experience."
As a result, a second business, called Studio Z Flowers, was formed. "We have a design aesthetic based on the season you are getting married. This helps a bride and her wedding planner develop their own, unique floral look." Bouquets are also created and delivered to where they are needed.
Currently, three weddings have been scheduled to be held at Zephyros Farm and Garden this summer. But as Lareau pointed out with a laugh, "Remember, it's still a farm. We had a British woman get married here last year and it was interesting. All the women wore stilettos."
Apparently, those ultra-high heels tended to sink as the ladies picked their ways over dirt and grass. But it wouldn't have mattered if they'd gone barefoot. Don't fresh, fragrant and colorful flowers make everything even more beautiful?
— White lives on the Western slope of Colorado. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.