A Spring Wedding Throne -Chelsea Florist Of The Year 2018 Competition -Jane Cowling

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 inspiration

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.

The construction

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.