Voices of the Bay: Chelsey Barton-Karnes of Thistle & Posy

How the pandemic turned a passion for flowers into a restorative full-time career

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In the early weeks of the pandemic, Chelsey Barton-Karnes saw that with very few flower delivery shops in the East Bay – and not one in Bristol – there was a lost opportunity to brighten someone’s day with  no-contact delivery flowers. For the Bristol native, it was the perfect time to reignite her experience in floral design and start her own business: Thistle & Posy. Thanks to the success of her creations, the enterprise has evolved quickly from a part-time flower delivery business to a flower and special events company operating out of her Rehoboth home. For Barton-Karnes, a 17-year employee of the Whole Foods Corporate office, and most recently the Town of Bristol, life has come full circle working with flowers.

Planting Seeds: I started working in high school for my neighbor Wendy Huxler who had a shop called Very Special Flowers. I come from a family of gardeners, digging in the dirt – which I still love – but none were in floral design. Wendy honed in on my interest in flowers and trained me to “green” arrangements. She told me about New England School of Floral Design where, with my mother’s encouragement, I took classes at night. I then worked in local flower shops before spending 17 years with Whole Foods in marketing and graphic arts, freelancing with flowers on the side.

Keeping It Green: If you create or order a holiday centerpiece arrangement that has evergreens, balsams, and cedars, pull the flowers out when they die, resoak the greens, and add fresh flowers or pine cones. I try to source from local flower growers. I use the Dahlia Shed in Middletown, Brilliant Dahlia Farm in Rehoboth, and a few times a week I travel to the Flower Exchange outside of Boston.

Wedding Trends: Sweetheart tables with just the couple are huge right now. It’s tough to translate centerpieces [from larger tables] to a 60-inch round table so instead I do a garland of greens and a few flowers and have the bride place her bouquet on the arrangement. In the end it helps the bride save a little bit of money, too.

Favorite Instrument: You get into the mindset that you have to climb the corporate ladder and achieve certain goals, maybe lose yourself a little bit, and I definitely did. Being back in flowers and being creative, even my family has noticed that my spark is back. It has put so much joy back into my life; in turn I like to think [my work] has brought joy into other people’s lives. Some people play an instrument and playing with flowers is mine.

Learn more at ThistleandPosy.com

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