Gretchen O’Neil’s love affair with flowers began as a child, enamored by the confetti-colored tulips that sprawled across her grandfather’s yard. Flower growing became more than just a family pastime for O’Neil in 2002, when she started working on a small farm in the mountains of Vermont. After moving to Austin in 2003, it took the native New Englander about five years to acclimate to the sweltering heat before she could even begin to consider growing cut flowers in the Central Texas climate.
You see, many of the flowers O’Neil remembers from her youth simply won’t grow here. She gradually embraced a new genre of gardening that included sun-worshipping plants like agave, and concepts such as “xeriscaping.” Eventually, she discovered that–with enough planning–her fantasy of growing an abundance of blooms could be actualized.
Over the past eight years, Petals, Ink. has expanded from a one-woman operation to employ a handful of hard-working, talented women, and has established a name for itself in the wedding industry as a grower and provider of sustainably grown, unique flower varieties.
O’Neil’s Texas flower career blossomed on a tiny residential lot in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood that she called “The Petal Patch.” Now she has seven acres and is preparing to open Austin’s first 100 percent locally-grown mobile flower truck.
Grassdale Flower Farm
In June 2015, after what O’Neil describes as “a serendipitous series of events,” she bought a seven-acre parcel of Texas backland prairie 18 miles northeast of downtown Austin. She named the property Grassdale, which is what the town of Manor was named before James Manor became mayor. This sprawling meadow is an enchanting floral wonderland, complete with two donkeys and a 140-year-old farmhouse where O’Neil lives with her 11-year-old daughter, Aiwyn.
Grassdale has an established three acres of wildflowers, a greenhouse, a “kitchen garden” full of bulbs, and a stretch of planting space called “The Runway.” Full-time Farm Manager, Lyda Cherie, who has extensive knowledge of native plants and a background in landscape design, is responsible for the day-to-day planting, harvesting, and greenhouse management.
Staples include ranunculus, sweet peas, anemones, zinnias, and nigella. O’Neil and Cherie are always looking for ways to diversify and expand their offerings.
Austin’s First Locally-grown Mobile Flower Truck
After a successful Kickstarter campaign that concluded last spring, the Petals, Ink. mobile flower truck is set to open in late June 2017 at a location that is yet to be determined.
In addition to selections from Grassdale Farm, the flower truck will also feature flowers from other local farms: Prickly Pair, Nutty Brown, and Cuts of Color. Beyond offering fresh-cut local blooms curbside, the truck is available to hire for parties, events, and workshops.
Where to Purchase Petals, Ink.
“We offer a variety of blooms, pods, grasses, herbs and foliage that are Texas natives or sun-tolerant annuals and perennials. These are truly seasonal pieces, with blooms like sweet peas, poppies, nigella, anemones, and ranunculus in the spring, black-eyed Susans, sunflowers and zinnias of all colors for the summer, and marigolds, celosia, grasses, and mums for the fall.”
Orders can be placed by calling 512-203-0508, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Petals, Ink. delivers in the Austin area.
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