Renée Simcoe’s shiny burgundy locks hang in matching braids to frame her face. The short sleeves of her gray T-shirt only cover a tiny bit of the tattoos that grace her upper arms — images of an Egyptian goddess on one and an exotic message on the other. Silver nail polish matches the silver rings on her fingers and thumb. Today at Lily Stone Gardens, she is plucking burgundy strawflowers from the field, placing them around an oxblood coloured lily in full bloom. Her mysterious ways have travelled into her flower arrangement.
"We really see personalities come out when it comes to which blooms people like to choose," said Kelly Tellier, owner of the flower farm near Rosenort that offers a U pick option. "And that’s really what I love to see. This is an experience rather than just picking up flowers."
Tellier is one of Manitoba’s flower farmers, a niche market of growers that supply a variety of fabulously fragrant products. Some sell at farmers’ markets, offering hand-tied bouquets wrapped in trendy brown paper. Others supply directly to established florists who transform buckets of blooms into complete deliveries for weddings. Local subscriptions are also wildly popular, where customers receive deliveries throughout the growing season. And the U pick option provide yet another experience, where visitors pace and pluck from rows of blooms to create their own arrangements.
It was in 2016 that Tellier opened her first shop, a converted master bedroom inside their home. Things have grown substantially since then. There’s now a stunning restored barn that houses a retail shop, potted plants, treats from local culinary creators and a stem bar where visitors can choose from pre-picked blooms. Once picking is complete in the gardens, customers head to the barn to have their blooms cut, tied, watered and wrapped for the trip home.
Jodi Friesen’s idea for a flower farm took root in the winter of 2019. Miss Millie’s welcomed its first visitor that year and has now grown into destination for all things floral with a bustling U pick schedule. And there’s more to come at the farm near St. Francois Xavier. The newly constructed event centre now serves tea, coffee and garden-inspired drinks and will soon host larger gatherings and a boutique. Friesen tosses her hands across the gardens that hold over 60 species and contemplates a meditation path, changing this or that, perhaps weddings over here.
"I thought people would come here to pick flowers," she said. "But it’s turned into so much more than that. You can be quiet here. Simply listen to the birds if that’s what you want to do."
Want to get a head start on your day?
Get the day’s breaking stories, weather forecast, and more sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning.
She credits a team approach to the success of the space. Husband Gary serves as builder and mover while operating the family’s grain farm. Son Kirby and daughter-in-law Victoria also play key roles in garden design, marketing and on occasion, weeding!
In Broad Valley, a tiny hamlet in the heart of the Interlake, Laura Grzenda started Farmyard Flowers only a year ago, testing the water to see what her potential customers wanted.
"Everyone has been so supportive and encouraging," she said. "I am a huge supporter of local businesses and advocate of fostering local business growth, so to be a part of that is just amazing."
She said growing up in a farm definitely helps when launching this sort of business. "We are literally taught how to make things grow from the time we could walk," she said. "And Mum and Baba always kept large gardens and flowerbeds that we helped to take care of. Growing things is just part of living on a farm."
Her medium sized Mason jar arrangements seem to have struck a chord with locals. "The size seems to be just right for folks buying for themselves or for every day thank yous or gifts for friends or family," she said.
Jodi Friesen of Miss Millie’s Flower Farm loves zinnias. The decidedly geometric bloom comes in endless colours and shapes — singles, doubles, ruffles and pompoms. It’s part of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. "I know they aren’t terribly fashionable, but I just love their hardiness and variety. We grow 14 different varieties here."
Kelly Tellier of Lily Stone Gardens loves ranunculus, a challenging but oh-so-beautiful bloom that’s part of the buttercup genus. It’s a cool season plant that’s all done flowering by mid July. They love full sun but not heat and their rose-like blossoms and tissue-thin petals make then a wedding bouquet favourite. "They are so very, very hard to grow," Tellier admits, "But once they bloom, they last forever and are just gorgeous."
Laura Grzenda of Farmyard Flowers is going with an underdog — yarrow — the floral variety and not the common weedy one. "They are so unassuming and don't look very impressive, but yarrow is easy to grow, hugely prolific and adds just the right amount of soft colour and structure to arrangements. Beauty and function in one."
Manitoba flower farms
Stone Shed Gardens, Portage la Prairie
Sweet Petals Farms, Howden
Prairie Blossom Farm, Portage la Prairie — prairieblossom.com
Strawberry Lane Flowers, South Manitoba — strawberrylaneflowers.com
Masagana Flower Farm, La Broquerie — masaganaflowerfarm.com