It was her love for wild flowers that led Margrit De Colle to start her own business Vom Hügel, the first (certified) organic flower farm in Austria, in 2010. Since then many things have changed and the once simple farm has turned into a place where craftmanship, teaching, learning and indulgence meet on a regular basis. Margrit explains in an interview with heiter what Vom Hügel stands for, what it offers and how it adds cheerfulness to her own life and the lives of others.
Tell us a little bit about you and Vom Hügel
Vom Hügel is German for ''From Hill''. In Italian it’s De Colle which is also my surname. My first name is Margrit as in marguerites, flowers I already loved as a little girl.
I run my small business Vom Hügel in the province of Styria, Austria. The farm is on three hectares of land, surrounded by another three hectares of meadows, forests and nature. We cultivate organic flowers, herbs, edible flowers and old types of vegetables.
People and nature play key roles in our business, as do flowers and craft. We have a wide range of products on offer including, floral decorations, workshops and trainings. Last year we also opened our own little garden café.
When did you start Vom Hügel and why?
Our project started in 2010 and stems from my love of flowers, in particular those that can be found in gardens and on meadows. Picking flowers and turning them into something beautiful was my dream as a little girl. Even though it is part of my daily job now, I remain very passionate about it.
I started off by studying fashion and then sociology. Following my studies I had several different jobs across different sectors, PR, vocational training and event planning. In 2003 I had my son Marco and in 2005 my daughter Maria.
In time I began to work with flowers and the more I worked with them the more disappointed I got. I hardly spent any time on meadows anymore. All I got to work with were industrial flowers that had never seen soil or sun. I had no emotional connection to those ''produced flowers'' and yearned for more.
I wanted to learn about the story behind flowers, the people who work with them and also Mother Nature and the seasons. I wanted to create something beautiful that was seasonal, fair and organic. In order to get there, I had to start my own project and plant my own organic flowers. I wanted to teach about the things you find in nature and what you can do with them, so I gave the first workshops in my kitchen at home.
What sets Vom Hügel apart from other businesses?
We only work with things we produce ourselves. All our wreaths, products we sell on markets, everything we create for weddings and everything we use in our workshops is cultivated and harvested by us. To me, seasonal limits are creative challenges and particularly special because of our location. (Vom Hügel is located in South-Eastern Styria, Austria). Even in January you can find so many natural things you can use, you just have to look out for them.
We have a wholesome approach. Everything we use for bouquets or salads that are served in the garden café have a ''Seed to Table'' story. We plant the seeds, look after the young plants and harvest with love and respect.
What can one learn in your workshops?
We teach how to plant your own organic flowers and vegetables as well as edible flowers. You can also learn how to make bouquets, table decorations and wreaths for yourself, intensive courses are available for a number of things. Now and then we also invite guest speakers to teach about arts and crafts. All workshop attendees gather the things they need for their pieces themselves. They experience what it means to tread lightly and make things themselves. It’s always a joy to watch them proudly go home with their pieces after a workshop with us.
What else can one discover on your flower farm?
Cats, dogs and a lot of nature.
We give guided tours in our garden, organise workshops for children, serve homemade treats in our garden café (you can also book it for small parties) and invite people to watch us make our table decorations, bouquets etc. (Thurs-Sun, 8am-8pm)
What flowers are ideal for a spring wreath?
I love to keep it simple and use branches from willow trees or cornels. Something natural made from pussy willows, dried grass and moss is gorgeous too. Around this time of year it’s also great to use blooming hellebores, small hyacinths and daffodils finished off with moss and branches from fruit trees.
What can Vom Hügel expect this year?
New workshops, for example ''Edible Flowers'', ''The Return of Dried Flowers'', ''Bringing Nature Home'', ''Lettering and Sketching Notes''.In our café we’re going to introduce the Creative Breakfast which is obviously ''Seed to Table''.
How would you describe the perfect heiter (cheerful) moment?
Watching the first flowers bloom, which is particularly lovely after a long cold period.
Interview (and translation from German to English): Katharina Geissler-Evans, heiter magazine