How does a farm in Carnegie become one of the world’s largest growers of a tropical plant? It’s a story that began with 12 flower bulbs, a determined teenager and four generations of hard work.
“Today, we sell bulbs to customers from California to Rhode Island and from Maine to Florida,” says Nikki Snow, who along with her husband, Dustin, owns Horn Canna Farm. “But it all started in the 1920s with a dozen bulbs that a relative sent to Dustin’s great- grandma, Frances.”
Better Than Veggies
Nikki explains that Frances and her husband, John, had a garden and tossed the bulbs in among their vegetables. The tall, flowering lilies brought beautiful color to the garden, and John, a vegetable peddler, decided to sell the plants along his route.
“Even in lean times, the cannas sold better than the vegetables,” Nikki says.
Those 12 bulbs have multiplied significantly over the past 90 years. Nikki estimates that each bulb can produce between two and eight bulbs every growing season. That’s enough to supply thousands of bulbs to home gardeners across the country and still fill the farm with a wide variety of canna plants to propagate next year’s supply.
Every fall, the farm harvests the cannas. It’s a very labor-intensive process and one that has benefited from Dustin’s ingenuity.
“We use a peanut digger that Dustin customized to invert the cannas on top of the ground, and then a tomato harvester that he customized to pick them up off the ground,” Nikki says.
Next, they wash the bulbs and sort them by size. The highest quality bulbs are then shipped to purchasers, with the rest stored for planting on the farm in the spring.
It’s Coming Up Cannas
Hard work and a pioneering spirit are part of the legacy of Horn Canna Farm.
Dustin’s grandfather, Neil, was just 16 when he went to his parents, Frances and John, with a plan. He would trade them a Jersey calf for the rights to the canna business. They agreed, and the young entrepreneur set off to build his business.
Neil invented and built all the equipment used in production, and drilled and installed the first irrigation system in Caddo County. With his wife, Louise, he earned a reputation for growing exceptional cannas. Their daughter, Jolene, and her husband, Butch Snow, built on that success by improving production and expanding sales.
Dustin and Nikki continue the proud tradition as fourth- generation owners of the farm, inventing new techniques, improving soil quality, and acquiring and growing new varieties. Their children, Madison, Sage, Ellyn, Corinne and Turner, represent the fifth generation growing up and working on the farm.
What is it about cannas that make them a gardener’s favorite? Nikki says it’s their height and their full-season color.
“Because they’re tropical plants they can take the heat, and they bloom in beautiful colors all summer long,” she says. “They can get from 3 to 8 feet tall in one season, and in certain parts of the country, cannas are perennials, so they come back year after year. In colder climates, however, they should be dug and stored for the winter.”
Plus, they’re easy to grow.
Just plant the bulbs (technically rhizomes, an elongated, fattened portion of a root) when the soil has warmed up and the threat of frost has passed. Nikki suggests planting them 3 to 4 inches deep, covered with about an inch of soil. With lots of sun and adequate water, gardeners can enjoy their colorful beauty every summer, every year.
Horn Canna Farm works to ensure enjoyment for its customers, with a commitment to quality and innovation that’s deeply rooted in family – and in Oklahoma.