Life at a Flower Farm

Meet the women behind the blooms at Petals Flower Co., Purple Hill Lavender Farm, Stonewell Farm, Broadside Flowers and Caledon Hills Peony Farm.

March 19, 2019 | | Farming

If, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Earth laughs in flowers,” then our corner of the planet is having quite the chuckle. Happy flower farms are sprouting throughout the hills, following the trail blazed by the slow food movement and inspiring us to buy local according to what’s in season and what grows in our backyard. The growers leading the way have in common a profound sense of place. The plants they grow bind them more deeply to land they already love – and express a floral version of terroir for those of us lucky enough to enjoy their blooms.

Some of the flower farmers have lived in these hills for years, others are more recent urban transplants. Many have one eye on the industry’s current patron saint, Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm in Washington State’s Skagit Valley. Benzakein has parlayed her love of gardening and the trend toward loose, informal arrangements that look (and are) freshly plucked from a perennial garden, into a mini-empire of educational workshops, books, half a million Instagram followers and, more recently, her own harvested seeds for sale online.

The floral entrepreneurs in Headwaters offer their wares at local farmers’ markets, work behind the scenes at weddings and in florist shops, and invite customers to buy blooms or rootstock at their farms. Three favour single species: lavender or peonies. Two are more catholic in their tastes, growing English-garden stars such as foxgloves, sweet peas and dahlias, as well as foraged farmland greens, such as raspberry, for a hint of the wild. As spring tentatively emerges, they are all stepping outside, spreadsheets and field plans in hand, to check their work and plant, weed, mulch and continue building their businesses literally from the ground up.

The Peony Pro: Diana Hillman of Caledon Hills Peony Farm

At Caledon Hills Peony Farm, artist and flower farmer Diana Hillman has turned a lifelong love of peonies into a business selling rootstock to gardeners for fall planting. Photo by Tessa Angus.

At Caledon Hills Peony Farm, artist and flower farmer Diana Hillman has turned a lifelong love of peonies into a business selling rootstock to gardeners for fall planting. Photo by Tessa Angus.

The Florist Farmer: Amber Swidersky of Petals Flower Co.

Florist and flower farmer Amber Swidersky sells her blooms at the Shelburne Farmers’ Market. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

Florist and flower farmer Amber Swidersky sells her blooms at the Shelburne Farmers’ Market. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

Sister Act: Emma Greasley and Jessica Ridding of Purple Hill Lavender Farm

At their family farm near Creemore, Emma Greasley, left, and Jessica Ridding flank their father, Brian Greasley, between rows of lavender. Photo by Jessica Crandlemire, Light and Shadow Photography.

At Purple Hill Lavender Farm near Creemore, Emma Greasley, left, and Jessica Ridding flank their father, Brian Greasley, between rows of lavender. Photo by Jessica Crandlemire, Light and Shadow Photography.

The Green Thumb: Amanda White of Broadside Flowers

Zinnias blooming in the flower field at Broadside Flowers. Photo Courtesy Broadside Flowers.

Zinnias blooming in the flower field at Broadside Flowers. Photo Courtesy Broadside Flowers.

The Doer: Lee Anne Downey of Stonewell Farm

Lee Anne Downey sits at her kitchen counter with the lavender oil she pressed last summer at Stonewell Farm. She is developing ideas for a small-batch line of lavender products to debut this year. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

Lee Anne Downey sits at her kitchen counter with the lavender oil she pressed last summer at Stonewell Farm. She is developing ideas for a small-batch line of lavender products to debut this year. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

About the Author More by Tralee Pearce

Tralee Pearce is an associate editor of In The Hills Magazine.

Related Stories

A charming bouquet showcases several luscious peony varieties. Photo by Tessa Angus.

The Peony Pro: Caledon Hills Peony Farm

Mar 19, 2019 | Tralee Pearce | Farming

Looking for a rare peony variety? Diana Hillman’s got you covered with rootstock from North America and the Netherlands.

Florist and flower farmer Amber Swidersky sells her blooms at the Shelburne Farmers’ Market. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

The Florist Farmer: Petals Flower Co.

Mar 19, 2019 | Tralee Pearce | Farming

Melanthon’s Amber Swidersky creates lush bouquets with blooms just steps from her floral studio.

At their family farm near Creemore, Emma Greasley, left, and Jessica Ridding flank their father, Brian Greasley, between rows of lavender. Photo by Jessica Crandlemire, Light and Shadow Photography.

Sister Act: Purple Hill Lavender Farm

Mar 19, 2019 | Tralee Pearce | Farming

How Emma Greasley and Jessica Ridding transformed the Creemore farm where they grew up into a lavender dream.

An array of ‘Café au Lait’ dahlias. In summer, Amanda covers their buds with organza gift bags to ward off earwigs. Photo Courtesy Broadside Flowers.

The Green Thumb: Broadside Flowers

Mar 19, 2019 | Tralee Pearce | Farming

Terra Cotta landscape gardener Amanda White’s own garden is brimming with foxgloves and dahlias.

Lee Anne Downey sits at her kitchen counter with the lavender oil she pressed last summer at Stonewell Farm. She is developing ideas for a small-batch line of lavender products to debut this year. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

The Doer: Stonewell Farm

Mar 19, 2019 | Tralee Pearce | Farming

At Lee Anne Downey’s new lavender farm in Erin, small-batch products and intimate retreats are in the works.

Spring garden clean up

Spring Garden Clean Up

May 10, 2015 | Katie Dawson | The Flower Farm

No time like the present to start working in the garden! Use these tips to clean up and get ready for new plants.

butterfly

Attracting Butterflies to your Garden

Jan 15, 2015 | Katie Dawson | The Flower Farm

It is especially important to have flowers in mid to late summer when most butterflies are active.

Matches Made in Heaven

Mar 21, 2016 | Tralee Pearce | Leisure

How Lorraine Roberts conjures up dreamy landscapes using colour, shape – and an appetite for surprise.

Plant Paradise: A Little Piece of Paradise

Mar 21, 2009 | Michele Green | Leisure

Two self-taught Caledon gardeners have created a kind of boutique garden centre, where the emphasis is on natural, organic, drought-hardy – and gorgeous.

The bold colours of poppies, irises and daylilies frame the farmhouse in June. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

A Purposeful Garden

Mar 23, 2015 | Tralee Pearce | Leisure

Misha Dubbeld’s gracious Mono garden is a testament to 20 years of love and labour. With all that she’s learned, her latest project is conceived on a grand scale.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

By posting a comment you agree that IN THE HILLS magazine has the legal right to publish, edit or delete all comments for use both online or in print. You also agree that you bear sole legal responsibility for your comments, and that you will hold IN THE HILLS harmless from the legal consequences of your comment, including libel, copyright infringement and any other legal claims. Any comments posted on this site are NOT the opinion of IN THE HILLS magazine. Personal attacks, offensive language and unsubstantiated allegations are not allowed. Please report inappropriate comments to vjones@inthehills.ca.