If having a sustainable wedding is important to you, then you should consider sourcing your wedding flowers from a local flower farmer.
Petal and Pail is located in Buchanan, a small town smack between Roanoke and Lexington. They specialize in the kind of beautiful, fragile flowers you have to buy locally. While full-service wedding flowers are a big part of what they do, Petal and Pail also offers DIY buckets, a “farmer’s choice” wedding menu, workshops and sells to other local businesses.
For almost everything they do, the flowers are grown in Virginia by Petal and Pail themselves or another local farmer. “The cool thing, I think, is I’m only using products that I grow or another farmer locally grows,” says owner Ashleigh Kritzberger. “And it’s just so much better for the environment, more sustainable. And it’s good too if couples are caring about where their dollars are going. It’s so much better for our economy in general.”
I met with Ashleigh a couple of days ago for part of my new blog series featuring local Roanoke-area wedding vendors.
Ashleigh runs Petal and Pails primarily as a partnership with her mom, but says it’s really a family operation. The farm is on property owned by her parents, her brother mows the grass, her sister helps harvest, her two kids play amidst the growing blooms.
During my visit we talked about everything from the history of the farm to what she wishes all couples knew about wedding flowers.
“I wish they thought about flowers the way they think about catering or cake,” she said in a follow-up email. “A meal is something that you only enjoy for a brief time, but we don’t give that much thought about spending $50 on a steak dinner. Flowers are short lived just like that meal, and yes they will die after the wedding, but if you enjoyed them it’s not that much different than the dinner or the cake. This is a comparison that someone shared with me a long time ago and it has always stuck with me. I think this can be said about flowers overall, like the weekly bouquet you bring home for your dining room table. If it brings you joy there should be more value placed on that.”
Below is our full conversation. It’s been edited for clarity.
Kara: So tell me about the farm – what is the history?
Ashleigh: Okay, so it’s basically an old family dairy. And we really just kind of started as an idea for a market. And then it evolved into a flower farm pretty quickly after the first year. The first year we grew pumpkins and things like zinnias, and cosmos, like pretty easy stuff, just to kind of see if this was going to work. And then we kind of really dove in and started doing some of the more, what I would call, the more intensive stuff. It’s been five seasons, and we’re getting there!
Kara: How did you segue into weddings?
Ashleigh: We started growing the flowers because it was a dream. Like, wow, this would be such a great way to honestly just live, raise kids, have a family and use this space that’s been in our family for a long time.
And getting into weddings was at first very intimidating. I was like, I don’t know if I want to do that. That’s a lot of pressure. But once you do it a little bit, you kind of start to feel a little bit more confident. And I also just kind of enjoy meeting brides and then hoping that we kind of connect in a way.
Kara: Do you utilize entirely local blooms that you grow for weddings?
Ashleigh: I try to use as much local as possible. In fact, I am getting to a point where I’m booking couples a year or more in advance and I’m literally choosing the colors I grow for the next year based on their color palettes. In the early part of the season, I often buy in greenery when there just isn’t enough around yet. I will also order roses if a bride is really set on them, but I have found that most of the brides I work with are coming to me because they like the look of what we grow overall, so they aren’t even looking for the imports in the first place.
Kara: What are some of the most popular local flowers?
Ashleigh: Ranunculus for sure! Lisianthus and dahlias!
Kara: Do you basically provide the flowers and they put them together? Or do you do floral installs?
Ashleigh: I do it all. I do sell to florists and other event designers. And I also sell DIY buckets. And I do a wedding menu, which is kind of a middle of the road option. It’s not full service, so there’s a bit of a price break, but it’s a farmer’s choice option.
So I have four color palette choices. And then, say they select white and green and their wedding is in summer, I have white lisianthus, white zinnias, white celosia and greenery. So I choose whatever ingredients go in it, but they get the overall look. But the cool thing about that is I’m definitely only using products that I grow or another farmer locally grows. And it’s just so much better for the environment, more sustainable. And it’s good too if brides are caring about where their dollars are going. It’s so much better for our local economy in general.
Kara: So do you partner with other farmers?
Ashleigh: Some, definitely. If I don’t have something I need I’m calling farmer friends. Just the other day I asked someone if they had lavender lisianthus because I didn’t buy lavender this year. So yeah, absolutely. I’ve had quite a few friends save me on weddings when I didn’t have what I needed.
Kara: At what point in the year can you no longer provide fresh flowers?
Ashleigh: The first of November is when I would stop promising my flowers. I have, for example, a bride in December and we’re going to use greenery and you know, whatever we can – it has kind of got a Christmassy vibe – so I can do that. But if I need to buy in some products I will and that’s just the nature of that time of year. I’ll use some dried stuff probably. I’m not totally against importing, but my goal is to not rely on imported flowers.
Out of curiosity, I looked up what the deal is with imported flowers. Apparently, imported flowers have incredibly high carbon footprints. They’re thirsty, have to be flown hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles in refrigerated planes and are often grown in electric greenhouses. If sustainability is important to you, sourcing your flowers locally is definitely the way to go. Here is a great article that sums it up.
Kara: Do you ever use the dried stuff for bouquets?
Ashleigh: Yeah, that’s actually what I’m kind of stockpiling that [she gestures at rows of hanging dried flowers in her barn] for fall weddings. It makes a really good filler. And the boho look is on trend right now. And then we make some wreaths and stuff like that. It’s also great for boutonnieres.
Kara: What trends are you seeing?
Ashleigh: Definitely white and green. That seems to always be just kind of a classic palette and then I feel like the boho look is still here. I am getting some more unique color requests, though. I feel like color is starting to make its way back. For a long time, the last couple of years, it seems like everybody just wants white and I feel like my spring weddings have a little more pops of color. They’re still muted but like little bit of yellows and even like some coral and peach starting to kind of come through.
Kara: Do you have any flowers that when somebody requests something you get really excited?
Ashleigh: I really love to do something truly seasonal and to use products that we could actually grow. And I really love when couples are excited about what I’m trying to do.
Kara: So if you could sum up what you are trying to do what would that be?
Ashleigh: I think I would like to get better at being more completely locally sourced. And we’re on our way to that. And I love the idea of, especially for weddings, of being able to put someone on the calendar and then really target growing specific crops for those couples. I mean it sort of comes full circle for the business.
Kara: What do you wish couples knew before planning their wedding flowers?
Ashleigh: Just the value flowers. Sometimes people have this idea that ‘oh, it’s like, spend all this money and then it just dies?’ Well, that’s kind of the same thing with a meal that you eat out at a restaurant or for your catering. I mean, somebody may enjoy it and then it’s over. And I feel like the value in flowers isn’t quite there. But I get a lot of people kind of balking at pricing and then not really not really understanding what goes into it. So I think just sort of changing your perspective of what it means. And like yeah, it’s perishable, but so are a lot of things worth having.
Get in touch now!
The Ultimate Small Wedding Planning Guide and Checklist