May 2020 Feature Story: Tarry Grove Flower Farm + Design

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

Ashley Kirnan | Floral Designer | Tarry Grove Flower Farm + Design

I met Ashley at our Winter Styled Shoot this past March in Rochester, NY. Each shoot, I try to work with new vendors to always build my network of amazing businesses in the area. So each styled shoot is kind of a shot in the dark. And boy did she deliver!

Her floral designs are so unique and creative. She thinks about every little detail that goes into designing floral arrangements. From centerpieces and bouquets, to arbor installations and more! She doesn’t miss a thing.

She exudes energy and excitement for this craft. It only took me 10 minutes to witness this. One thing I admire about all of the vendors I work with, is the love they have for their craft. Which is why I continue working with them even after our styled photoshoots.

I’m so excited that Ashley will be participating in our Summer styled photoshoot. She is also a part of the team creating our Fall Adventure Elopements. These couples are so lucky to have her designing all floral for their special day.

Enjoy her story below.

Tell us about yourself - Where are you from and what did you wish to be when you grew up?

I'm married, a mom to three active kids (11, 9, and 7), and rely on God's grace every minute of the day. I'm a flower farmer/florist and work from my barn studio here at our home and farm, Tarry Grove. I'm from Alden, NY. I'm the oldest of three, and grew up playing outside with my siblings - trying to catch tadpoles, running around in the field, and reluctantly weeding the garden. My dad taught us how to plant beans (we used a little six inch stick to measure where to drop the seeds) and my mom canned all those beans we grew, along with tomatoes. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up; I've always loved animals (especially baby animals), so I guess I'm now living out part of that childhood dream surrounded by our collection of animals on our little farm.

What brought you to where you are today?

My husband and I bought our nine acre property in 2016 to escape suburban life and started a new business hosting weddings and events in/on our barns and property. We renovated our back barn to make a usable reception space, and spruced up the front barn with a bar and cocktail hour space. We hosted weddings for two seasons (which was exhausting, glorious, stressful, and such a joy and honor), and, after a series of issues, made the heartbreaking decision to close the doors on the venue portion of our business. My five year plan was to host weddings for as long as the barn wedding trend was alive, and then move into growing and designing flowers for weddings and events. Flowers have always been an intense passion of mine, and they hold such a deeply meaningful place in my heart. Creation (especially flowers) just takes my breath away. I've gardened basically my whole life, and grew flowers and sold them at a local farmer's market during the summer of our last wedding season. I am now entering into my second full wedding season of floral design. My sweet husband is such an amazing support and goes along with all my crazy dreams and ideas, and builds me basically anything I even hint at wanting/needing. I'm very sustainably minded, and love to support other local food and flower farmers as well. I use mechanics that are more eco-friendly (I avoid using flower foam), strive to design seasonally, and love being challenged and being a lifelong learner. I also offer cut flowers for other local florists to purchase. I grow bulbs, dahlias, and lots of annuals and perennials.

What do you do professionally?

I'm a flower farmer/florist and design for weddings and events. I'm extremely type A, a list maker, and cannot stand clutter and disorganization, yet I'm a dreamer, I love peace and rest, and I sometimes can't remember why I walked into a room (mom brain). I also assist the women's ministry director along with doing some copy editing and counseling work at our church (I have a psychology degree).

What is the number one struggle you find in owning and running a business?

My number one struggle is the work/life balance, especially with being a mom and working from home. The kids work and play alongside me as I work, and, when I'm overwhelmed, I have to ask for their forgiveness more than I'd like to admit. Right now with quarantine, it's been especially tricky incorporating their distance learning and having them home all day - we are all trying to get used to a new normal!

What does a day in the office (or life of a florist) look like?

It depends on the season! Winter looks like days of computer work, seed planning and ordering, writing up contracts and proposals, and meeting with potential clients. Spring looks like seed starting, more client meetings, dahlia pre-sprouting, and bulb harvesting. Summer looks like wedding weekends, harvesting like crazy, weeding, irrigating, and applying sunscreen/bug spray. Fall looks like more wedding weekends, harvesting (lots of dahlias!), and starting fall cleanup and putting the beds to sleep for the winter. No two days are ever the same!

What do you spend the majority of your days doing?

Right now, it's currently homeschooling, computer work, babying my seedlings, prepping and amending soil, harvesting tulips and daffodils, and weeding. We also love doing house projects and are constantly working on our 1835 farmhouse. Taking care of our farm and animals also consumes much of our time - we have around 40 chickens and ducks, 3 barn/outside cats, 2 mini donkeys, 2 bunnies, 1 dog, 1 bearded dragon, and a partridge in a pear tree. :)

What year did you start your business and how long did it take to acquire a consistent client base?

I started growing cut flowers to sell in 2018, and designed for my first wedding that fall. Word of mouth and social media gave me client contacts right away. I get to work for the very best couples. I'm so grateful for the unending support I receive from clients (past and present) and friends and family who refer clients to me.

What do you do to stay involved in the community?

I shop small and local, and especially love to support other local farms and small businesses. We are involved in our church and I love providing flowers for events there. I'm pretty connected to my kids' school activities and events - they keep me busy!

What do you enjoy most about being a floral designer?

Hands down, it's stewarding beauty through sharing flowers. It's such an honor.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I see hiring a few assistants, doing more larger scale installations, and perhaps incorporating day-of wedding coordinating services in with my offerings. I'm going to be dipping my toe into that area this wedding season, and I'm so excited - we had an amazing intern, Molly, working with us during our last season of hosting weddings, and I learned SO much from her about wedding planning and coordination!

What advice would you give to people your age looking to start their own business?

Just START. I'm 36 and have been dabbling in different creative ventures for most of my adult life (along with being a mom and staying home with my kids), and I'm so glad I took the plunge when I did - despite my kids' crazy schedules and all my obligations and responsibilities. Know that it's a ton of work and a huge learning curve (hello, taxes and legal issues and figuring out the WHY behind your business), but if you're willing to learn and grow, it can absolutely be done, even if you're my age and haven't yet taken the leap.

If a child walked up to you and asked for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?

GROW SOME SEEDS! Get a packet of sunflower or zinnia seeds and plant them in the ground. My kids love growing flowers and vegetables, and it's so empowering for them. Some of the best life lessons are learned in the garden.


Ashley Kirnan

Facebook: @tarrygrove

Instagram: @tarrygrove