BROCK BERGEY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Levi and Susan Miller of rural Canton have thousands of plants growing inside their greenhouse. Last year, the Millers opened Lenora Flowers and are now gearing up for their second year in business, with an April 22 opening planned. 
BROCK BERGEY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Levi and Susan Miller of rural Canton have thousands of plants growing inside their greenhouse. Last year, the Millers opened Lenora Flowers and are now gearing up for their second year in business, with an April 22 opening planned. 
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Southeastern Minnesota’s Amish community is well known for its talented skillsets in baking, stitching and woodcarving. Now, another trade is starting to gain momentum for some Amish families. 

“We found a greenhouse that was for sale and toyed over the idea of buying it,” said Levi Miller, who, in partnership with his wife, Susan, started Lenora Flowers in 2016. 

Located on County 24, about five miles from Canton, the Millers are preparing for their second season in the retail flower business. 

“Each day we’re getting more and more blooms,” Levi explained, regarding the thousands of flowers coming to life inside their hoop greenhouse. 

Susan added, “We’ve never counted the different varieties, but there are hundreds of them.”

She quickly listed petunias, geraniums, marigolds, impatiens, pansies, daisies, lilies, dahlias and begonias. 

Hanging baskets, rose bushes, hostas, decorative grasses, vines and succulents are also part of the Millers’ inventory, along with tomato and pepper plants. 

According to the Millers, this year’s operation is quite a bit bigger than their inaugural season.

“We have a larger selection of perennials this year,” Susan said, noting they have also expanded the color palette of their most popular annuals.

“The lobelias and lavinias are my favorites,” she added.

“I really like petunias,” Levi responded. “I have about a dozen favorites,” he explained when it comes to the delicate flowers’ hue selection.

“There’s an orange, black and white mix,” he said, “if I only had one choice that would be the one.” 

The Millers began stocking their greenhouse in mid-February. 

With no electricity and no running water, Levi admitted it’s a risky wintertime investment.

“You’ve got to get up every night and put wood in the stove,” he explained. “You worry about it all night.”

Like clockwork, Levi said the fire gets tended to at 2 a.m. and sometimes a second time, in the early morning hours, when Old Man Winter is at his worst.

“If plants freeze, it’s your own fault,” he affirmed. “But, there’s very few that don’t survive.”

Levi estimated his family goes through three or four wheelbarrow loads of wood each day. 

“We try to keep it around 70 degrees in here,” he said. “That’s a really good temperature.”

Along with a good temperature, the Millers added they also need a good water source. 

“Right now, we soak them every two or three days,” Susan stated. “We add a fertilizer during the watering.” 

She said once the growing season is in full swing the watering becomes an everyday occurrence. 

Levi explained they pump water to the greenhouse through a hose connected to a hydrant about 130 feet away. 

Managing the day-to-day responsibilities is a family affair for the Millers. Levi and Susan have three children, who all help out in the greenhouse.

According to Susan, green thumbs go beyond their immediate family. Her sister and her family started a greenhouse, located just a couple miles away, four years ago.

“We would have struggled without their help,” noted Levi. “There’s a lot of tricks.”

Susan added, this year, her brother – who also lives a short distance from them – is joining the flower frenzy. 

“I know of four greenhouses now within four miles of each other,” chuckled Susan.

She said she has loved flower gardening for as long as she can remember. 

What does Susan like most about her hobby turned enterprise?

“Everything,” she enthusiastically exclaimed! “So far we’ve had pretty good luck.”

Pending Mother Nature’s approval, the Millers hope to open April 22.

Levi pointed out most of their customers come from about a 30 to 40 mile radius of Lenora.

“We get a lot from Decorah and Cresco,” he said. 

He added that their flower shop is also a popular attraction for tourists getting a taste of the local Amish culture.

“Last year, we sent some succulents back with tourists from North Dakota,” he mentioned. “We sell to people from Rochester and the (Twin) Cities.”

The first couple of weeks in May brought about the most traffic, last year, according to Levi. 

“Around Mother’s Day is probably the busiest,” he said. “Early sales are always legal, too, you know!” 

As for future plans, Susan explained she plans to sell mums in the fall, which would be another first for the family.

Farther down the road, Levi said he could see the addition of a second greenhouse. 

For now, though, the Millers are focused on the season at hand, while further establishing their roots in horticulture.

“I expect there’s going to be flowers in the family forever,” Levi concluded with a laugh.