potted perennial plants at Kawartha Family Farm flower farm

Experience a Dig Day at a flower farm

Want to add some unique perennial flowers or plants to your garden? Instead of going to your local big box store to get them, try something different. Venture to a “Dig Day” at Kawartha Family Farm, a local flower farm situated just north of Lakefield.

What is a “Dig Day”?

While open every day for business, Kawartha Family Farm’s Dig Days are specific dates when customers can visit the flower farm and select perennial plants from the farm’s garden. A staff member digs the plants right out of the ground for you and then you load them into your vehicle.

The interesting thing is Dig Days at Kawartha Family Farm started by happy accident.

“We started our perennial flower farm in 2021 with a lot of tiny plug plants – around 8,000,” says Shelley Hood, one of the owners of Kawartha Family Farm.

“For the 2022 season we seeded a lot of our own plants and planted some different tiny plug plants but when customers saw the established perennial flowers in our 2021-planted garden, they wanted those, so we just started digging the ones they wanted right out of the garden.”

Because they’re still establishing their flower farm, Kawartha Family Farm has had to limit the number of dig days held in 2023 but as their gardens mature and inventory expands that will change.

“In 2024 we expect to hold mostly dig days,” says Shelley. “Customers love it. We love it too as we really connect with our customers on dig days.”

A flower farm for experienced and first-time gardeners

When it comes to adding perennial flowers and plants to their gardens some people are apprehensive. One of the goals of Kawartha Family Farms is to change that.

“For some reason people will drop $200 on annual pots at Canadian Tire but are very intimidated by perennial gardening,” says Shelley. “I want to help get new gardeners over that hurdle.”

“I was so thrilled this year when a young woman came to our flower farm to buy a ‘white’ plant. It was the very first time she had ever bought a plant. I recommended three White Swan coneflowers. That made me very happy and proud to get a first-time gardener on her way.”

Receiving helpful advice is a big part of the experience at Kawartha Family Farm.

“We’re not just a place to buy plants. We want to inspire people to think about gardening differently,” states Shelley. “If you want to start perennial gardening come out to our flower farm and see our gardens and ask questions.”

Even the pricing is influenced by the perennial philosophy

How you buy perennial plants should be different from how you would purchase a tray of annual flowers.

“In the spirit of encouraging perennial gardening, we recommend buying plants in threes at our flower farm,” explains Shelley.

“You get a far more dramatic effect if you plant a single flower type in a group — at least three plants, and ideally more. It’s also calmer visually to see a swath of colour, rather than a series of different plants.”

That’s why Kawartha Family Farm offers volume discounts when customers purchase three plants or six plants from their flower farm.

“We also offer pre-season memberships for $100 that include a $125 plant credit on digs and 20% off pot purchases. Membership pricing is valid all season and is great for those that know they’re going to want 10 or more plants over the season.”

Fueled by a passion for perennial gardening

Shelley Hood’s love for perennial gardening began in the early 2000s.

“I started perennial gardening in Toronto in our home in the Beaches in 2002,” recalls Shelley. “There were gardens in our neighborhood that inspired me to try gardening myself.”

In 2010, Shelley and her family moved to the UK.

“Our move to England took my interest and love for gardens to the next level,” says Shelley.

“The gardens in England and Europe are prolific, magical and emotive because they feature perennials that have been there for years. You build on them every year until you create an amazing and unique work of art. You can’t emulate that with annuals. That’s where my passion for wanting to help people create lasting, beautiful perennial garden spaces came from.”

How the flower farm began

Shelley and her husband Steve enjoyed their time in the UK.

“We have always loved the energy and vibe of a city. We both had lived in the city of Toronto for much of our adult lives. When we lived in the UK, our home was an hour south of London and we didn’t miss the chance to spend a weekend in London or vacation in a European city,” reminisces Shelley.

But when Shelley and Steve returned to Canada in 2016, it wasn’t city life that was calling them back.

“We had always been interested in owning a farm. In 2019 we thought, ‘it’s now or never’.”

So, they took the plunge and bought their 99-acre farm located just north of Lakefield.

In October 2020, Kawartha Family Farm officially got under way with the planting of 90 peonies. Shelley estimates that to date she and her family have planted over 15,000 plants at their flower farm.

“We currently grow on about ½ an acre of our property. We’ll be expanding on that every year. For example, we plan on doubling our growing space for 2024,” says Shelley.

A flower farm that’s a true family farm

Kawartha Family Farm lives up to its name.

“I’m the overall visionary and lead gardener,” explains Shelley.

“Steve, my husband, does all the maintenance around the flower farm — gravel, mulch, tree trimming — and he’s the chief waterer and researcher.”

“Our oldest daughter, Catherine, has worked here from the start and laid out most of the gardens with me.”

“Our two youngest children, Gavin and Lizzy, work here all summer while on break from college/university. They assist customers, do weeding and help with all the other day-to-day garden chores.”

“My brother Wayne is our artist-in-residence as well as a landscaper — he does all the mowing and edging.”

“And, on any given day you may see one of our three grandchildren helping out, pulling garlic or selling lemonade.”

Kawartha Family Farm is open every day of the week from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, until mid-September.

Did you know…

Another way you can get outdoors for some fresh air is by taking the self-guided Ultimate Buckhorn Tour or trying stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga.

Photo credit: Kawartha Family Farm