Flower Farming: Passiflora Farm specializes in flowers, from seed to centerpiece

Posted 8/16/19

Blooming with hues of soft pink, deep burgundy, vibrant orange, bright yellow, lush green and rich purple, a unique flower farm is taking root near Cody.

When people hear about Passiflora Farm, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Flower Farming: Passiflora Farm specializes in flowers, from seed to centerpiece


Blooming with hues of soft pink, deep burgundy, vibrant orange, bright yellow, lush green and rich purple, a unique flower farm is taking root near Cody.

When people hear about Passiflora Farm, its novelty often piques their curiosity.

“You grow flowers in Wyoming?” they ask founder Melissa Urick.

“Yep,” she responds. “I’m giving it a go.”

From delicate dahlias to heirloom sweet peas to unique ranunculus, Urick grows dozens of varieties on the small family farm.

“This is a different type of ag,” she said.

With a background in agriculture and plant science, Urick knows how to help flowers thrive in Wyoming.

But her work isn’t done when she cuts the stems — as a florist, she also specializes in creative designs with the fresh-cut flowers.

“We say it’s from seed to centerpiece,” she said. “It’s really from the beginning all the way to the end.”


A love for plants

Urick’s journey to becoming a farmer-florist started at an early age; she has always loved plants.

“I never had any doubt about what I wanted to do when I grew up — I knew it had to be something with plants,” she said.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science, and then a master’s in agriculture and natural resources, Urick worked in a lab for a while.

“While I enjoyed that a lot, I did miss being outside, being in the field,” she said. “That’s really where I’m the happiest.”

Several years ago, Urick came across an article in Country Living magazine by Erin Benzakein, who started Floret Flower Farm in Washington. In the article, Benzakein detailed how she created a successful business as a mom of two young children and how she was trying to spread the concept of American-grown flowers.

“For me, it was just a spark,” Urick said.

Though she doesn’t come from a floriculture background, Urick loves flowers and also has a creative and artistic side.

She decided to apply for a Floret workshop, thinking if it was meant to be, she’d make it into one of the coveted training sessions.

“I got a spot, and I loved it,” Urick recalled.

Passiflora Farm eventually grew from there.

As a mom with three young children, Urick’s work as a farmer-florist allows her to be home with her kids, who are often alongside her among the flowers.

“I just love seeing them running through the little paths,” she said.

Whether it’s planting season or harvest time, “they’re out here with me all the time,” Urick said.

Her husband served in the military, so the couple moved all over. As they looked to establish roots, they were familiar with the Cody area, as they had family here and Urick previously worked a summer internship at Grand Teton National Park.

The Uricks purchased acreage outside of Cody three years ago. The farmland hadn’t been maintained for a long time, so they’ve been busy working the land and building a new home on the property.

“We’re in the process of homesteading,” she said.

Urick follows organic practices at the farm, though she does chemically spray for some noxious weeds, like Canadian thistle. She practices other natural strategies,  such as leaving a buffer around the flowers after cutting the adjacent hayfield.

“I leave it nice and wild,” she said. “I think it helps — the grasshoppers tend to stay content with where they are, and they’re not jumping over onto my dahlias, which they love otherwise.”

She uses natural fertilizers and fish emulsion.

“It smells horrible, but it does an amazing job,” Urick said.

She starts most of her seeds indoors and uses a hoop house to extend the season on both ends.

“I was able to plant things really early, and hopefully we’ll be able to have things there through October, even when we have frost,” Urick said.

With continued cold, wet weather this season, “growing wise, it was really rough,” she said. Some flowers still did well, but others couldn’t handle the conditions.

That’s farming, she said — you just never know.

“I guess as all farmers say, ‘There’s always next year,’” she said. “You’ve got to work for the next year.”


American-grown flowers

Passiflora Farm is part of a larger, nationwide movement to return to locally grown flowers. According to data compiled by the Society of American Florists, almost two-thirds of the flowers sold in the U.S. in 2012 were estimated to have been imported from other countries — primarily Colombia and Ecuador.

“American-grown flowers are now becoming this huge thing across the country, and I’m so excited about that,” Urick said. “It used to be that way for years. It wasn’t until the ’70s or ’80s that we saw that shift to South America.”

She’s excited to bring the movement to rural Wyoming. Passiflora Farm is the only flower farm in the area. There are a few in Bozeman, Montana, and also one in Sheridan.

“It’s fairly new, even in the region,” she said.

In addition to doing flowers for weddings and events, Passiflora Farm does wholesale flowers, selling in Billings, Red Lodge, Cody and Powell. Local residents can become CSA (community supported agriculture) members, buying a “share” of the farm’s flowers.

On a warm August afternoon, Urick walked through the field and hoop house, explaining each section and the flowers’ unique traits. She pointed to a row of coveted Cafe au Lait dahlias.

“They’re dinner-plate size, so they’re huge, and they vary in color from ivory to cream to blush, even lavender,” Urick said.

Nearby are sweet peas, which loved the cooler weather this season. She plans to save the seeds for future seasons.

“It’s really hard to find these seeds,” she explained. “You’d have to go through England, so now we have some American farmers like myself who are saving our own seed and kind of hoping to build that stock up here in the U.S.”

The heirloom flowers are kind of old-fashioned, Urick said, but becoming popular again.

Passiflora Farm also grows a lot of plants that are edible or fragrant, such as quinoa, thyme and mint.

“I grow a lot of herbs for arranging with them as well,” she said.

While she plants traditional and beloved blooms, Urick also enjoys trying new things, such as the Ethiopian eggplant.

“Once its flowers get pollinated and they start producing their fruit, they send out these really skinny black purple stems with what looks like a solid pumpkin at the end,” Urick said. “It is orange, it’s shaped like a rounded jack-o-lantern — it’s so cool.”

The dark plant can also poke unexpecting passersby.

“My kids came up and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom, this is the Halloween plant! Look at those thorns!’” Urick recalled.

She planted some as a trial, and “I think they’re doing well.”

Someday, Urick would like to get into breeding new varieties of flowers.

“You never know what you could come up with and how it could do on the market,” she said.

As for whether she has any favorite flowers, Urick said she loves them all.

“What I love about this is how it is seasonal, so what’s blooming is changing all the time,” she said. “... I just love flowers.”