A Future in Flowers: Farmstead gets new life as flower farm and event space
Stan and Cecilia Gryde purchased Twin Creek Ranch in 1994 after they first visited a year earlier and saw potential. Located south of Castle Rock, the brick home hadn’t been occupied for a number of years and had fallen into disrepair. During the two years of renovation required to make the home livable, the goal was always to allow their children the experience of growing up in rural Colorado with 4-H animals and the opportunity to have dirty little hands. The family also wanted to continue the haying operation, in part to feed their horses, and in part, to honor the history and tradition of the property.
The bones of the home are much the same as they were originally. A stone step into the kitchen remains, worn smooth by generations of use, a welcoming nod to the history of the property and the families who broke bread together there. The barn and other small buildings have been renovated, including one that was relocated from Charles Miller’s homestead, known now as the Texas Embassy, a reference to Cecilia’s Texas upbringing and Baylor University education, as well as the original brick homestead cabin.
The home was built by the Doepke brothers, Frederick and Charles, when they homesteaded from Austria by way of St. Louis in 1861. Surrounded by prairie and grasslands perfectly designed for grazing, the brothers raised hay and, in the bottoms along the creek, wheat and oats. The brothers became major landowners in the area and eventually added a dairy that sold cream and milk into the 1950s. Amilk can sits at the base of the porch stairs today, a reminder of that part of the history.
The two-story brick home became the destination for social events in its heyday for the surrounding Lake Gulch community, made up primarily of other German homesteaders and farmers who shared the same deep Catholic beliefs. The bricks were handmade by the brothers from sand and clay from the creek bed on the property. The basement walls and foundation are constructed of native rhyolite stone, in shades of pink and gray. Frederick Doepke, according to the property’s information on Douglas County’s listing of historic properties, was instrumental in establishing the first school board and remained a leader in the county for many years.
Frederick married Anna M. Pechtl, who also immigrated from Austria to Illinois in 1876. Together, the couple welcomed children Helen Josephine (Josie) in 1878, Louis, who died as an infant in 1880, William F. in 1881, Frank in 1884, and Charles in 1888. The elder Charles Doepke died in 1895 and his brother, Frederick in 1906. In 1914, William received a creamery license and began building the family dairy, selling milk to Frink Creamery in Denver. Anna died in 1929, Josie in 1956, Frank in 1957, Charles in 1958, and William in 1971. The Doepkes are all buried in historic Cedar Hill Cemetery in Castle Rock. Jerry and Shirley Ehmann owned the home and ran cattle on the property until they relocated to Montana in the 1990s. The Spencers, who owned the neighboring property, also homesteaded and built by the Doepke brothers, purchased it and eventually sold it to the Grydes.
A long gravel drive winds from the main road, through the hay meadows, and ends at the red barn that once housed teams of horses and the family’s dairy cows, with a large hay loft above them. In the restored red barn, Gryde curates seasonal displays on a table Stan fashioned for her from an old horse stall door. Now, the open doors let the sunlight in and a swing allows the couple’s grandchildren to swing and play while adults visit.
Cecelia said the reason she loves old barns like this one is their imperfect character. The stall door, she said, once held back a team of horses, built for strength, not beauty. In its current incarnation, it “holds up dishes and candles, wine and elbows, and supports good conversations and community” and therein, she said, lies its beauty.
The barn has become a gathering place for family and community events, workshops, and the annual women’s retreat she hosts. It also serves as the pickup spot for her Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, subscribers.
Cecilia started cultivating perennial flowers in her USDA Zone 4 garden and the flowerbeds that flank the house and its white front porch, stretching toward the creek, stone well house, and the hay meadows. She has become skilled at foraging the pastures, fields, and creeks for foliage and branches to add to arrangements and winter wreaths filled with texture and movement. Wanting to expand her blooming season, Cecilia convinced Stan to prepare a small garden plot. To her surprise, once on the tractor, Stan prepared a 50 x 75-foot plot, much larger than she had anticipated, and she began planting it. She began with just a few rows of shade cloth-covered seedlings that she started in her small greenhouse and in her house under grow lights and on heat mats.
One of the major considerations as she began to grow cut flowers was the area’s climate, which she calls a windswept prairie with soil meant only to grow grass to hay or graze. For her garden, she amended the soil and added windbreaks, shade cloth, and hail net to help manage the wind, sun, and summer hailstorms. When she was choosing the varieties to plant, she said she was mindful of selecting flowers that could be successful in the area with its harsh geography and geology.
As the garden became more established, she said friends would come help pull weeds or just spend time at the garden and in the barn, visiting and enjoying the beauty and history around them. For many, she said, it’s their only foray into rural Colorado and agriculture, even if it’s not agriculture in the most traditional sense.
“There is a great sense of joy and fulfillment when people can get away from the city and get their hands in the dirt,” she said.
As demand for her flowers grew, she established a CSA, Twin Creek Blooms, which allows subscribers to either pickup at her nearby drop locations in Parker and Castle Rock, or on-farm. Weekly or bi-weekly bouquets are available throughout the summer, with the most abundant blooms in August.
In addition to the CSA bouquets, she also provides flowers for a small number of weddings each summer and shares some of her bounty with another grower who takes on more weddings.
Zone 4 Flowers for Cutting
- Brad berry foliage
- Chocolate lace flower
- Lisianthus (known also as a prairie rose)
- Campanula (bellflower)
Cut Flower Care
To best care for blooms, Gryde suggests trimming the stems at an angle every other day with clean snips, changing the water daily, using the provided flower food, and removing wilted blooms, while displaying out of direct sun, wind, and heat.
Before arranging the blooms, whether they’re from the garden or grocery store, she recommends removing any and all leaves that will touch the water to avoid the bacteria that will shorten the vase life. To arrange, she encourages people to include focal flowers (dahlias, sunflowers, etc.), filler (bells of Ireland, holly, and dusty miller, for example), form flowers (for example, veronica and delphinium are line flowers), and greenery for dimension and depth.