On one of the hottest days of the year, five talented florists from up and down the country, took centre stage to battle it out for the coveted title of Interfora Florist of the Year.
The competition, which was has been taking place for nearly 60 years, is seen as the pinnacle of achievement in the industry and a great stepping stone towards future success, with previous title holders having gone on to receive accolades all over the world.
This year the competition final was held at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, against the stunning backdrop of the palace and in front of a live audience.
Each competitor had to create three floral items inspired by a Summer Garden Party; a floral parasol and table decoration which were each completed in 90 minutes and a gift arrangement including a bottle, the brief for which was only unveiled on the day. A fourth item, a floral picnic basket, was made in advance.
Each competition piece was judged by members of the UK Floristry Judges' Guild with points awarded for the overall idea, use of colour, composition and technique. Take a look at our highlights from the competition.
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Laura Leong from The Flower Basket in Stourbridge couldn’t contain her excitement as she was announced the overall competition winner.
Laura was awarded top marks for both her picnic basket and parasol and the judges praised her exquisite workmanship, eye for detail and choice of colour palette – they described her parasol as “magical” and a “stand-out design”. Weeks of planning and preparation went into her designs – the frame for the parasol was handmade from aluminium and steel and then coated with a wax finish to look like bark and Laura sewed dozens of ‘leaves’ from cotton thread.
Commenting on her victory Laura said: “I’m delighted to have won. I wanted to come here and prove to myself that I could take the title of Florist of the Year and I couldn’t be happier to have done it. There was some really tough competition to beat though, it wasn’t an easy win by any means.”
Laura will now go forward to represent the Interflora British Unit at the FTD Interflora World Cup in Philadelphia, USA in March 2019.
Katherine Murray of Going Dutch in Nelson beamed from ear to ear when she learned she had placed second in the competition.
Katherine was awarded top marks for both her table decoration and gift arrangement and the judges praised the overall design and balance of the pieces as well as the intricate details. Katherine’s table decoration scored almost full marks, with just five points lost – the highest score of the competition.
Inspired by the idea of an upmarket British garden party, Katherine said she based her designs on what she would want to see at such an event and used colours and flowers that are traditionally associated with the summer season.
She added, “I can’t believe how well I’ve done, against such strong competition too. I’m absolutely delighted with my scores, especially for the table decoration as to lose only five marks is really something. My favourite piece to create was actually the gift arrangement as that was the one that was unveiled on the day. I know I’m unusual in that as most competitors hate the surprise item, but I love the challenge and the adrenaline definitely kicks in at that point!”
Charlotte Davies from Hilary’s Florist in Abergavenny placed third in the competition, with the judges praising the inventiveness of her designs. Like with many of the other competitors planning for the competition began weeks ago, with Charlotte’s husband, a joiner, hand-making the table, parasol base and Perspex top, including drilling more than 270 individual holes to hold the test tubes.
She said, “There have been a lot of sketches done over the past few weeks but I’ve never put it all together before so there was a particularly nerve wracking moment when I lifted the parasol into place! That’s the design I like best though, I love the movement within it and the way it all works together.”
A regular on the competition circuit, Charlotte is already thinking about her next event and plans to take part in the heats for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Florist of the Year. She added, “I think I’ve got a problem – I can’t stop competing!” Charlotte will also be in action again at the show on Sunday, as one of Interflora’s expert floral demonstrators.
Rachel Matthews and Natalie Alexandroff, both from Greenfingers florist, placed as runners up in the competition. Both Rachel and Natalie are new to the competition scene and entered the Florist of The Year competition purely to challenge themselves and get inspired by taking on a more creative brief. Their eye-catching designs won praise from the judges with both florists excited to take what they have learned back to their florist shop in Worthing.
For those wanting to see our competition pieces, the finished designs will remain on display in the Floral Design Studio Marquee at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show until the 8 July. Can’t make it to the show? Tune into BBC2’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show at 21:30 on Saturday 7th July to see coverage of the competition in action.
Elsewhere in the Floral Design Studio, our expert florists from the UK and Ireland continue to wow the crowds with daily floristry demonstrations, sharing top flower care tips along the way. The demonstrations will be taking place until Sunday so, if you're visiting, the show please pop along and say hello!