• 50°

Pocketful of posies: The Posey Patch Flower Farm blossoms in Russellville

FRANKLIN LIVING— “Going to work” doesn’t have to mean driving to the office, sitting at a desk surrounded by paperwork, endlessly trying to complete someone else’s to do list. In fact, for Ashley Bolton, work means taking time to stop and smell the roses – literally.

In the space of one year, Bolton’s father and grandmother died, and she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The cascade of bad news was almost too much, but instead of being overwhelmed by everything coming at her, Bolton decided to see the circumstances as a catalyst for change in her life.

“It was one of one of those life-altering moments when you think, ‘Is this really what I’m living for?’” Bolton said. “Over time I slowly started planning.” The plan? To somebody wave goodbye to working in federal government, a job she’s held for 13 years, and make The Posey Patch Flower Farm her full-time career.

Ashley and husband William had just purchased their Russellville farm when her father passed away in 2018. Although the initial intentions for the farm were to give William the space he needed as a poultry farmer for Mar-Jac, Ashley began formulating a vision for her own little portion of the property – a portion where she could bloom right alongside the flowers she wanted to plant.

“It was something I was passionate about, flowers and gardening,” she said. That passion was seeded and cultivated by her grandmother, Helen. “When I bought my first house in 2007, she helped me learn about roses and other flowers,” Bolton said. “It became an outlet for me, working in a high-stress job and the demands of daily life, like everyone has. I’d rather spend all day out there doing manual labor than to be inside at a desk, any day.”

So, a day at a time, Bolton’s Posey Patch grew from a dream to reality. She began marketing her flowers in November 2019, creating a customer base as she watched her garden grow. A good starting point, she now nurtures more than 300 rose bushes on the farm – “It will probably be more next year” – to say nothing of the array of other blooms, from zinnias and cosmos to sunflowers, delphinium, astrantia and dahlias, which are “just so beautiful, and they get so big,” Bolton said. “You can have nearly every color imaginable.”

Roses, however, are a main focus. Yellow-toned blooms predominate – “Yellow is happy. We like yellow” – but white and blush variants are also a focus, and popular variations of red and pink also have their place in the Posey Patch. For Bolton, the growing process is therapeutic. “It’s a constant learning process. I like the challenge,” said Bolton, who especially enjoys the tangible payoff of gardening. “You can see the product, beginning to end, and that’s rewarding in a lot of ways.” It’s a perfect example, she added, of God’s power, “seeing all the miraculous things that He can do.”

William does tractor work for the flower farm, and Ashley has two willing helpers in daughters Emmalyn, 8, and Taylor, 11. “My daughters were thrilled. They love it – most days,” Bolton said. “Both of them have been extremely helpful and enjoy being out there, which is great because it gives us time together.” Whether it’s pulling weeds, watering flowers or helping plant seeds, Emmalyn and Taylor are ready to get their hands dirty. “They actually planted a large number of dahlias by themselves,” Bolton said – and “an extremely crooked” sunflower was also the product of her daughters’ hands.

Bolton orders seeds from a bulk supplier, and she has bolstered her knowledge of flower farming through any source she can – including books, podcasts and YouTube videos. “You learn over time, just like anything else. You learn who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t. I try to filter those as best I can.”

Like so many things, Bolton’s plans were hindered when COVID-19 spread into north Alabama, but she’s still carrying on. She said she has primarily used social media to connect with customers and has also started talking with florists, “so we have the retail side and the wholesale side,” she explained. “Floral designers are really starting to focus on local blooms or American-grown blooms. We’re certified American Grown, and we’re members of Sweet Grown Alabama. Most of the flowers you see sold in the United States are imported, and that’s why they’re inexpensive.

For a true-blue American product, buyers are going to see a higher price point, but Bolton said the price is worth it when one considers the freshness of the blooms and the ability to get speciality flowers. A standard mixed bouquet might run about $25, while a dozen speciality roses might top out closer to $45.

Amid the Boltons’ 60 acres on Highway 63, about an acre right now is dedicated to The Posey Patch. Bolton said although roses need a fair bit of space to grow well, many other varieties of flowers can be planted closely together, meaning a big yield for only a small space requirement. Although The Posey Patch is not open to the public, Bolton said customers can schedule a visit, and she also offers overnight delivery via FedEx.

Although the growing season will soon wind down, “the busy season” is nearly year-round for The Posey Patch. “Fall is a huge time to plant, so even though you won’t see flowers blowing during that time, that’s when a lot of farmers are doing planning and planting for spring,” Bolton explained. She said she expects to continue to have fresh flowers through the first frost around the end of October – “We do have a pretty long growing season here, compared to much fo the country” – at which point she will switch her focus to cedar wreaths for November and December. Hellebores and holly will also be a focus in the “offseason,” and Bolton plans to sell potted mums in the early fall. “We actually had those little baby plants coming in the first week of June, so they will be ready to sell in the fall.”

Bolton said she only hopes to grow and expand from here – although William sometimes has to be the voice of reason if she gets too gung-ho too fast. She said hopes to sell plants in the future, in addition to cut flowers, and to build hoop houses to further extend the growing season. The big focus is to continue to find ways to connect with customers and buyers, whether that’s local businesses that might want to carry her flowers or groups she could partner with for fundraisers or other efforts, in addition to her existing wholesale and retail business.

“The feedback that we have been given so far has been positive,” Bolton said. “Several have shared on social media and tagged us in their posts, which has been awesome. That’s been a huge help.” Providing the flowers for a friend’s wedding in May brought a lot of exposure for the farm, too. “That helps more than anything – folks just spreading the word that we’re here.”