The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 saw my first time at competing at the world famous event for the title of ‘Florist Of The Year’.
Regional heats throughout Great Britain are held to determine the top 16 finalists who get to compete at Chelsea to determine the prestigious title. Lisa, (previous Florist of the Year and multi medal winner) and myself (in absolute shock!) were lucky enough to be in this 16 after success with our floral stoles at the south west heat held in Bridgwater in February. After the shock of making it to the final, the brief appeared and the planning started! We had 8 weeks to design and construct a floral throne for a Spring Wedding and get it to the show – no mean feat!
The simplicity of the design for my qualifying floral stole (see blog page here) largely influenced my design. My theory was if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The simple shape of a calla lily flower started the design ball rolling. A calla lily shaped throne was born… The mention in the brief of a Spring wedding decided the colour theme – yellow seemed obvious to me as I wanted to incorporate calla lilies in the design. Yellow calla lilies are relatively long lasting, easy to work with and will survive out of water. My challenge was always going to be to get enough clever ideas into my simpler design to score the points to medal.
I started with a carefully selected birch branch to make the back of the throne and attached it to a base of 3 logs (from my fireplace!) joined together. More branches were added and attached to a weaved edge of trailing willow stems, to give me the calla lily shape. I wanted it to stay relatively transparent and not too solid. It then needed a seat. A very un-glamorous bucket was edged in a log roll of sycamore branches, then partially filled with oasis so I could make my seat of yellow roses. One of the main considerations was to stay in our allocated space of 1m x 1m x 2.5m high. If you go over this 20 marks are deducted.
My love of foraging came in at this point. The ferns in my garden were just starting to unfurl and the catkins were coming out on the birch – they were in! I chose the flowers to use for their simple, architectural shapes – lime green gloriosa lilies, yellow freesia, craspedia, eremurus and hosta leaves. The finishing touches were brought in with twine covered flower tubes, skeleton leaf filled willow leaves, little wooden hearts and an aspidistra leaf and skeleton leaf ‘frill’ to my seat pad.
The timing of starting to add the fresh flowers was vital. It has to last the 3 days it is at Chelsea. I started adding the fresh flowers 1 1/2 days before it had to be in the Floral Pavilion. Typically, the weather was hot and humid! The flower part was fairly stress free – the calla lilies were just tied on to the frame and the other flowers put in flower tubes or in oasis and before we knew it, we were ready to leave for London at 6pm on the Wednesday. Getting a 2m tall, very heavy, floral throne in the back of my van was a challenge but we managed it! 7 hours later, the complete designs were all in position, waiting for judging in the morning. A quick scan of the other thrones in the competition made me think, oh well, what a fantastic opportunity to have made it this far but a winner she wasn’t!!
A fantastic experience it was – a bit gutted to not get a medal but enthused enough to have a go again next year and super proud of Lisa and her silver medal. 2 Finalists from Eden was quite an achievement.
You can see all the 16 finalists designs here.
This years RHS Chelsea Flower Show saw Lisa’s fourth entry into the Chelsea Florist Of The Year Competition, winning her a fourth medal – a Silver!
This year the schedule was to design and create a floral wedding throne for a spring wedding – a definite nod to the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan taking place just the week before.
Thinking caps were on and in typical Eden style I opted for a semi foraged design and a trawl on Ebay.
I was inspired by a Spring garden, where flowers grow from bulbs into tall spires of flowers despite the prolific snails (or is that just my garden?) The surrounding Somerset landscape was also a massive factor with its rich green woods, cow parsley smothered hedgerows and bright yellow rapeseed fields all having an influence on colours and materials. I was also determined to make this design have a low impact on the environment with mostly natural and biodegradable materials used apart from a meter or two of cellophane and a bit of glue its all earth friendly, including the brand new biodegradable flower foam from Oasis.
Flowers used include; Eremurus, Antirhinium, Arums & Callas, Roses, Craspedia, Orchids, Carnations, Amaranthus, Stocks and Dandelions!
Foliages – Ferns, Ivy, Moss, Succulents, Oak, Birch
Some of these were used for their ‘Floriography Meaning – The Language of Flowers;
The Dandelion – Faithfulness & Happiness, The Carnation – Divine Love, Ivy – wedded Love & Fidelity, Stocks – bonds of affection, Arum – Ardour.
Where It Began…
The base of my chair is constructed from a £5.00 battered arm chair from a ram-shackled house clearance barn on the edge of Somerset and some branches from the surrounding hedgerows. The branches were manipulated into the shape of a church window, well mother natures version of one anyway, with THE most perfectly shaped birch branch as the back bone.
The seat base was upturned with the cushions removed and lined with cellophane and covered in cork to create a huge water vessel that would become my based floral cushion, creating a mass of flowers without the need for blocks upon blocks of oasis- a definite bonus for the environment. The edge of the seat base is covered with a ‘fencing’effect of branches and senecio succulents cascading from snail shells.
The back of the chair is created with branches manipulated into the shape of a church window arch and filled with a perfectly shaped birch branch. Bark pieces create the link from gold chair to woodland arch along with moss vines which snake through the design onto the moss platform.
The arms of the chair are created with gold wire stands supporting bulbs and seru pods which create a natural test tube for the fresh flowers. Nestled amongst the design there are 4 birds nest displaying miniature eggs filled with flowers and a pair of wedding rings.
There is also an army of snail shells filled with succulents and flowers.
Janes Scottish Stole for a winter wedding in a castle scored a fab 83% at the South West Heats earning her third place and a place in the final at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 in May to compete for the prestigious award of Florist of the year!
She created a multitude of leaf shaped pieces which were painstakingly backed with a green/purple tartan fabric which was the inspiration for her colour scheme. These were joined together and edged with a haze of pink bullion wire embellished with dainty flower heads and foliage’s. The individual leaves were placed so that some of the reversed tartan backing peeped out among the cordyline leaves enhancing the use of this beautiful fabric. Thistles and heather were the focal flowers nestled among the pleats of Jane’s structure.
In February we entered a competition to create a stole for a Winter wedding in a Scottish castle, This competition is the first process on the road to the RHS Chelsea Flower Shows ‘Florist of The Year’ Competition in May. There are various heats held throughout the country and the 16 Florists who score the highest overall get invited to compete at Chelsea.
The image gallery below shows Lisa’s finished design which was inspired by the hazy shades of Heather flowers. A beautiful wet felted base made from lambs lock and merino wool was created and then embellished with Heather and toning seasonal flowers and accessorised with Game feathers, Tartan and Tweeds to enhance the Scottish theme.
There was over 20 competitors in the senior section of the south west heat held at Cannington College and Lisa’s design scored an amazing 90 points, gaining her a second place and subsequently a place in the final!
Below is the Stole before it was dressed with flowers, as you can see it was already beautiful and it was so difficult to glue and stitch on those first few flowers!
Anything goes for a funky wedding so think Bold and Striking. Tropical flowers such as orchids,anthuriums, strelitzia, protea and craspedia are fun to use. As well as ‘fun’ flowers such as Gerbera, succulents and craspedia. Bright clashy or contrasting colours work fabulously together. Why not add some quirky finishing touches such as feathers, wire embellishments or even little action figures…. Go on dare to be different!
We have been blessed that a lot of photographers have been very generous in sharing their images with us, which has enabled us to continue building our website and embellishing it with such lovely images.
So a big shout out and huge thanks to the following photographers;
- Amy Sampson Photogarphy – Abbi and emily at Quantock Lakes in March
- Aran Jefferies at Lattitude Photography – Jennifer and Chris at St.Audries Park in July
- Ben Simmonds – Kim and Dan at The Municipal Buildings in August.
- Maddie and Ben at Rookery Manor in December.
- Hayley and Ed at Creech St.Michael Church onto The Castle Hotel in August.
- Jessica and Andrew at The Cleve in May
- Sarah and Martyn at The Cleve in July
- Harriet and Jason at The Mount Somerset in September
- Penny and Richard at St.Audries
- Catherine Frawley – Jen and Will
- Chris Sedgbeer Photography – Becky and Ross at hornsbury Mill in July
- Danna Geen Photography – Claires wedding at Trull Church and onto the Castle Hotel in April
- Freckle Photography – Jessica and Peter at Dillington House in July
- How Photography – Kelsey and Richard at St.Audries Park in November.
- Jamie Dodd Photography
- John Barwood Photography – Nicky and Piers at St.Audries Park in September
- Johnny Hathaway – Kate and Alex
- Judith Parkyn Photography – Maria and Joe
- Katia Marsh Photography – Kayleigh and Lewis at St Audries Park in October
- Lee Hatterall Photography – Alana and Scot at Yarlington Barn in December, Hannah and Anthony at St.Audries in December
- Kerry Bartlett Photography – Lauren and Math at Hunstile Organic Farm
- Lee Maxwell Photography – Viv and James at Muddifords Court in October
- Lens Monkey – various
- Lisa Marie Halliday – Melanie and Thomas
- Lizzie Churchill Photographer – Victoria and Luke’s Wedding at Priston Mill in August.
- Lyme Bay Photography – Kim and Adam at Hornsbury Mill in October
- Marc Le Galle Photography –
- Mark Cox Photography – Kim and Neil in June
- Matt Austin – Ellie and Murray at Haselbury Mill in Novemeber
- Matthew Fox Photography – Christina and John at Hestercombe in Aug
- Matt Sweeting Photography – Katies Wedding at Northover Manor in September.
- Mrs Mashup photography – Ira and Joe at Maunsel House in September
- Naomi Jane Photography – Leah and Chris at Quantock Lakes
- Paul Gibbs Photography – katherine and Dave’s Wedding Ceremony at St.Mary Magdalene onto Appley Pavillion in September
- Rebekah’s Studio – Sherry and Lee at Hestercombe in December
- River Lane Photography – Mollie and Andy at Taunton School in july
- Ruth Keenly-side – Amy and Alistair – Yarlington Barn in October.
- Shooting Pixels (Andy) – Adele at hornsbury mill in October
- Simon Parry Photography and Stacey Boardman – Natalie and Mike in a marque in June
- SLC Photograghy – Trudy and Rick at The Castle Hotel
- Steve Richardson Photography – Ashlee and Mat at sparkford hall in September
- Studio H Photography – Kathryn and Josh at Cleeve Abbey
- Tim Parke Photography – Laura and Zee at St.Audries Park in July
- West Photography – Chloe and Tom at St.Audries Park in August, Sarah and Joe at St.Audries (blog) , Claire and Christopher at St.Audries (blog), Annabel and James at St.Audries ( blog)
- West 70 Photography – Hope and Stephen at Hestercombe,
My journey to Chelsea started back in February at the qualifying heat in Cornwall, the standard was really high with lots of previous Chelsea competitors vying for first and second place to enable them to compete at the prestigious RHS Chelsea flower show in May.
The brief was;
Design and create a floral cake for an Asian themed wedding.
The cake does not have to be edible.
The whole design must not exceed 50cm in diameter.
There are no height restrictions.
At least two thirds of the finished design must be fresh flower and/or plant material.
The fresh flower and/or plant material must be visually dominant
The judges are looking for a high standard in Design and Technique.
Well thank heavens this was a floristry competition and not a baking one was my first thoughts. The second…. Where on earth do I start!
Cue quite a few hours scouring the internet for Asian/oriental inspiration and creating moodboards, in the end I decided to opt for a Japanese theme, with colours inspired by kimono fabric and origami.
The next step in designing my cake was to look at those fabulous chocolate and butter icing cake decorating techniques. There were two types that I thought I could translate into floral design techniques;
Butter iced roses – I recreated these with felt preserved magnolia leaves and fresh cordyline leaves. These were used on the base tier that supports my up turned geisha inspired oriental parasol. Upon the parasol are also nestled cupcakes made with the same technique.
Chocolate pencils – this was an easy one, using lengths of red cornus I edged the side of the top three tiers.
The floral content was easy choosing flowers I could glue to the narrow ledges and having oriental links, the heliconia used to echo the points by the origami stars.
Anyway I digress… this is meant to show how I created my tree, the journey of ‘fence post & decking boards to gold medal’.
Well the eagerly anticipated email arrived in my inbox on the 20th March, it had been a month long wait with speculation of what this years brief would be, would we be as pleased as we were with the dress schedule or would it horror of horrors be something we hated… the wait was over it was…
Design and create a fantasy floral tree to celebrate 150 years of Alice in Wonderland, the tree was to be inspired by Tulgey woods and we were encouraged to be imaginative and creative whilst adhering to the rules of at least two thirds fresh flower and plant material and strictly no artificial flowers to be used.
Once again my designing process started with internet searches, watching the films and building up a mood boards of inspiration.
Now this tree could be a whopping 3m high and 1 ½ meters wide so my first thought was that it needs to be made in pieces that would allow me to go it through doors with it and get it to fit and travel in a van to London. It also needed to be sturdy – didn’t want to cause a domino effect where the falling of my tree managed to wipe out the other 13 exhibitors tree’s like a fatal lumberjacking accident!
So this brought up the question of how do I make it? I mean how on earth do you go about making a tree?!? Cue a trip to B&Q where I bought a fence post, decking boards, wood bannisters and some metal threaded rod, I’d been inspired by the basic construction of a bird table base! To help with the balance issue I decided to opt for a tree that was symmetrical, a square fence post meant four branches and four roots and gave actual weight to the base to avoid the dreaded topple effect.
The roots were made by fixing the square bannister poles at an acute angle ( 2 different to vary the heights) to a cross of the base decking boards. The branches were added at two different heights to the sides of the top of the fence post by drilling a hole and sitting on the threaded rod. The rod had also been fed through a drilled hole in the fence post trunk, held in place by nuts. The result was a very basic tree structure.
To add to my five armed structure, four arms and a top section I used very long screws as an anchor point to build on with lengths of wire that were taped into place with good old floristry pot tape – boy that stuff is strong. This created the final ‘bones’ of my tree skeleton.
Next was adding ‘muscle’ onto the ‘bones’ of my tree, my first thought was paper mache but juggling this epic tree with a 5 month old I decided this would be too time consuming so my friend google came up with the answer…. Paverpol!
Fabric sculpture was going to be a new technique to me, but it meant I could add form to my structure by using tin foil, mess free, quick, no drying time, could add very thick layers, it was the ideal solution. To add a natural element to the structure I added palm mule rings at the branch junctions held in place by that super strong pot tape again.
After my ‘muscle’ was complete the tree needed a final ‘skin’ this was going to be the fabric element of the fabric sculpture. Tearing narrow strips of brown cotton I wrapped each individual branch, starting at the tips and tucking the ends in as I went ( the same technique as ribboning a wired bouquet!). Each subsequent piece of fabric held the previous piece in place so very little gluing or mess was made. Many nights followed sat on the sofa twinning fabric around wire and tin foil until the whole structure had turned brown. I then coated my fabric in paverpol, which I had slightly diluted with water and brushed on, turning my soft fabric into a crispy shell.
I added texture by using another art inspired product – crackle glaze – smearing it on in rough patches and rapidly drying, a technique known as demented derma. I added tones of brown with acrylic paint and spray paint and a slight shimmer with a fabulous green metallic wax. Finally a few top coats of varnish seal the layers and stop water tarnishing the design, also enabling me to use my tree as a garden sculpture after Chelsea. Theres nothing worse than spending weeks and weeks making something for it then to become useless, I love a reusable structure!
The next thought process is how to add flowers to the design, well I’d been inspired by the disney film and also by bonsai tree’s where there is a pillow of foliage sprouting from the branches. So how to make them? Well I’d seen on social media some fabulous designs by Ignacio Canales Aracil a Spanish artist who creates structures with pressed flowers and I wanted to do something similar. Time wasn’t on my side so I had to find a way to create a similar effect in a shorter period, I also wanted a fuller style. Cue the powers of Pavorpol yet again.
Making The Canopy
Ingredients; a mister spray filled with 75% pavorpol and 25% water. This creates my glue to knit the textures together. A bowl of the same pavorpol and water mixture. Selection of dried flowers ( I had bougainvillea, leonotis, broom bloom, oak leaves, hydrangea, grasses), Tillandsia moss, sisal (orange, cerise and burgundy)
- Tease out a bundle of the tillandsia and soak with the pavorpol mister, scrunch together so fully coated in the solution but not drenched ( no extra liquid)
- Tease out again into the vague shape required.
- Add fine strands of the dry sisal over the top, then the grasses
- Dip the broom bloom in the solution bowl and shake to remove excess fluid
- Place on the tillandsia nest in a radial arch, repeat with the petals and flowers again soaking in the solution until covered but not soaking.
- Add another fine veil of tillandsia over the top
- The final layer is a thoroughly soaked fine veil of tillandsia.
- Leave to dry for a few days.
As you can imagine this was a time consuming job, especially considering I made over 40 of these! I again sealed with a layer or two of varnich as the pavorpol discolours with water unless sealed and I’d want to spray the flowers to keep them fresh. The canopy pieces were fixed onto the branches with reel wire at various points.
Next I added the finishing details , I had created a porch out of individual pieces of fir cones and a little door – this would become the dormouse house at the base.
Now apart from a few of the animals I wanted to keep the alice in wonderland theme simple so I chose to concentrate on the suits of the playing cards. Using large cookie cutter shapes I bent and formed aluminium wire into hearts, clubs, diamond and spades and filled with a layer of cocoas fibre, covering again in pavorpol to stop the fibre shedding and splitting. I also had small charms attached to a fabulous multi toned and varied thickness of wool.
The final step was the flowering of the canopy which included over 10 boxes of stunning vanda orchids, tray upon tray of phalaenopsis orchids, various houseplants and succulents and also the humble chrysanthemum!
In the end the tree had evolved to incorporate all four seasons in the one design. The tendrils of the wool, tillandsia and amaranthus symbolized spring catkins, the bountiful flowers symbolized summer, the dried canopy, colour scheme and berries were autumn and the bare branches winter.
The seniors were competing at the beginning of the week this meant flowering Friday and Saturday, loading and travelling to London Sunday morning and setting up at the show on the Sunday afternoon. We were allowed 6 hours to unload, set up and add finishing touches, which silly ole me thought would be oodles of time, alas it was not and the evening ended with me drastically running iout of time and barking crazed orders to my poor helper.
Watching the others unloading their designs I had a fierce moment of doubt and was constantly mumbling to poor Jon that everyone had created such weird and wonderful designs and all I had was a blooming tree, that looked just like a tree. Cue crazy doubts that lasted all night and Monday too, had I kept it too simple in style? Was it too subtle in theme? Luckily Tuesday came with good news that I’d won gold with a very healthy 93% and three points from Laura Leong who was crowned Best in show and Chelsea florist of the year 2015. The year of the dress was fab as every single exhibitor won a medal that was silver and above, this year was not such a happy event with only half the exhibitors gaining a medal. I was one of only two golds, there were 3 silver gilts and 2 bronze.
Showing what a challenging brief it had been this year, which I’m thrilled to have done so well at.
Its hard to believe that a whole year has nearly passed since Charlotte and Lisa won a gold medal each at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show 2014 and of course Lisa being ‘crowned’ Chelsea Florist of the Year 2014.
But in less than 3 weeks both girls will be back at Chelsea again to see if they can once again bring home another couple of medals! This year the girls have to create Floral fantasy trees inspired by the Tulgey woods in Alice and Wonderland. So keep an eye on our competition area to see how they get on and to see pictures of their finished designs!
The girls were thrilled to qualify both for the 3rd time to compete at Chelsea which is probably the hardest part of the competition with a lot of keen competition and only the top 2 places in each heat going through to Chelsea, so the level of competition is normally very high! For the qualifying round this year they had to make ‘Asian wedding cakes’ which was a fun and unusual task.
Charlotte Murrant who is competing in the ‘Young Chelsea Florist of the Year’ category decided to make a cake inspired by Asian buildings and took to creating a framework from polystyrene, wire and pot tape which was then covered in pink felt dipped in hot wax to make an uneven, butter icing effect.
This was then separated with felt balls and adorned with beautiful orchids, heuchera leaves, along with other smaller delicate flowers and accessories including tiny gold picture frames filled with orchid petals as well as gold leaves and gold wire balls, finished with small delicate vine shapes punched from larger fresh ‘black tie’ leaves to soften the effect of the uncovered wax.
Lisa Fowler who is competing in the ‘Chelsea florist of the year’ category took her inspiration for her ‘Asian wedding cake’ from a Parasol and Origami. To create a stunning floral cake. The base of Lisa’s cake is polystyrene cake dummies covered in red clay, the bottom tier is then separated from the top 3 using the parasol to add an Oriental element to the framework.
Lisas clay construction is then edges in red Cornus to give the chocolate finger effect around each tier, the bottom tier is edged in dyed magnolia leaves and cordyline leaves made to look like roses, it is then adorned with stunning orchids, tropical Heliconias and ranunculus along with gorgeous origami flowers and paper elements within the design. The more you look at Lisa’s cake the more you see for example the very clever cupcake cases on the bottom tier that even i didn’t notice on the first look!
Huntstile Organic Farm was the setting for this rustic Glastonbury festival inspired wedding.
The tables were the main feature in the marquee, they were a simple yet rustic collection of moss spheres, candles, succulents and craspedia displayed on a raised wood slice charger. To the table design our bride Lauren had made her own table numbers covering bought numbers in various rustic inspired material such as raffia, bark papers and fabric.
Lauren created a lovely children’s table adding individual parcels as place setting with a photograph of the Child so they could easily find their place without needing to read…great idea for all ages, making them feel special and keeping them occupied all rolled into one…fab idea!
This wasn’t the only personal touch at this lovely wedding, they had made extra large paper pompoms to hang from the Marquee ceiling and created a rustic heart table plan embellished with crocheted flowers. The Glastonbury Festival cake complete with little Wellington boots sat on top of a chunky wood slice charger to echo the table designs adding to the rustic feel of the day.
The quirky touches weren’t just kept for the reception Lauren opted for a fun and funky design for her bridesmaids of a compact posy of yellow craspedia surround by matricaria daisies. To contrast with the bridesmaids bouquet Lauren carried a bouquet full of summery flowers and textured along with the trendy craspedia and succulents used in the reception designs.
With all these quirky and bespoke designs you’d be right in guessing that the buttonholes were also a little different. Lauren had ordered some feather boutonnieres from overseas and wanted to customize them to match her wedding so we added some of the craspedia and succulents to echo the other design. the corsages were designed to compliment the wedding theme and to coordinate with the Mum’s outfits
Eden’s Lisa Fowler wins Chelsea florist of the year 2014 with her floral frock. The brief was to design and make a fantasy floral frock for a crystal ball. The above picture shows the finished design and the fabric and wire framework base design.
The first stage of the design was to cover the neck and hemline of the bodice with blanket stitched felt backed skeleton leaves. The a layer of angelina fibres , tillandsia moss and skeleton leaves was used to cover the wire mesh frame.
The bodice was completely based in orchids, santini, succulents, poppy heads, hypericum berries and ceropegia.
The lower bodice was covered in a fine vine effect of ceropegia, orchids and succulents with extra skeleton leaves. The lighter covering enabled the angelina fabric to show through and add to the shimmer and shine, along with a scattering of crystals.
The neckline of the bodice is linked to the collar with a fine tulle mesh that matches the top layer of the skirt. a fine veiling of tillandsia and crystals adds to the ethereal effect of the dress with out over shading the delicate skeleton leaves and blanket stitching. The main feature of the collar is phalaenopsis petals inlaid into jewellery frames along with aluminium wire spirals studded with hypericum berries and phalaenopsis tongues.
Underneath the top layer of tulle a veiled design of orchids, senecio vines, brizia grass and blanket stitched eleagnus leaves were used to create depth and interest in the lower half of the dress giving a magical feel to the skirt.