- Written by Caroline Marshall-Foster
- September 28, 2017
It’s been described as “The loveliest castle in the world”, and their flowers are often referred to as “the most wonderful in the world”; what better partnership to showcase Colombian Flowers in the UK than with a unique selfie trail at the Leeds Castle Festival of Flowers which was launched to the public at a special VIP evening attended by His Excellency Nestor Osario, the Colombian Ambassador to the UK.
Full of the most glorious flowers Colombian growers produce, the five part selfie trail was the perfect scene setter for this year’s Festival of Flowers which had even more top name florists decorating the Castle rooms in the most stunning style.
Starting at the main arrival point, the trail, designed by Colombian Florist Ambassadors Morgan Nuth and Karen Broxholme, featured five very different design concepts to show alternative ways people can have floral backgrounds at their parties, weddings and special events;
A Magic Tree complete with dream catchers, wind charms and brightly coloured flowers. The Family Album with frames to fit every member of the family. A rainbow of colours in the flower bedecked Moat Arch and two very different walls; the first a classic flower bedecked backdrop of flowers, the second a very different twist on a theme.
Within the castle thousands of Colombian roses, Hydrangeas and Carnations were used in the most amazing installations; all proof that Colombia grows some of the very best flowers in the world.
Because whilst you may not instantly associate Colombia with flowers, they are the 2nd biggest grower of flowers in the world and, since 1965, high in the hills of the Sabana de Bogota, have developed a world beating flower industry.
An industry that doesn’t just produce glorious blooms but, even more importantly, provides work for more than 200,000 people; not to mention education for their children, medical and dental facilities, help-to-buy housing schemes and a transformation to their lives by providing well paid and secure employment.
Commenting on the Leeds Castle project Caroline Marshall – Foster, who heads up the Colombian Flowers initiative in UK said: “The perception of Colombia has not always been good but, having been there so many times, I know first-hand that the flower industry isn’t just vibrant in colour but in action as well. Since I first went over in 2001, the Colombia flower industry has grown dramatically and alongside growing flowers has developed a world renowned and respected social and environmental programme, Florverde which hasn’t just helped workers in the flower industry but is now being scoped out to other sectors as well. Every time someone buys a Colombian grown flower they aren’t just getting a beautiful, long lasting bloom but helping someone else as well … to me that’s the real power of flowers.”
More than 11,000 Colombian flowers were used over the six day Festival including a series of demonstrations hosted by a team of top designers from around the world. All were supplied via leading importer Optimus Flowers and conditioned and delivered by Colombian Ambassador wholesaler Southeast Flowers in Ashford, Kent, suppliers to Leeds Castle for over 20 years. Special thanks go to the following Colombian growers who gave extra special support. Colibri, Multiflora, Silvestre, San Francisco Gardens, Suasuque, Vuelven and Bicco
The Selfie Trail in Pictures
Look out for our special step by step features in the New Year
Photos are often group affairs but what happens when you’re not all the same height? Our Family Album frame is a really neat twist on the traditional flower frame and means you can use it for individual shots or for groups, however short or tall they are. The lush, textured flower groupings include Orange Crush, Hot Paris and Pink Floyd roses, along with Green Trick and Green Goblin carnations, and purple statice. All are worked into a floral sausage from the OASIS® Floral Products range of frames.
The Magic Tree
Trees are naturally beautiful … we made this one even more beautiful with a shimmering wall of brightly coloured organza, wires and flowers that pop and zing ... all made even more magical with streamers of organza secured to the ground with contrasting flobs ... Floral Objects made onto Oasis foam spheres. The flowers, which include Orange Crush, Pink Floyd and Hot Paris roses with gerberas and carnations, were placed in water filled test tubes so they stayed fresh while wind charms and dream catchers add a touch of magic and true romance to a wall that is so different but oh so special.
A rainbow of colours in this flower bedecked arch takes the classic look to new lengths with rivers of flowers running down the sides to echo the water below. To create the maximum impact the team have created bold groupings of Freedom and Black Baccara roses, purple and white hydrangea, pink bloom chrysanthemums, moonlight carnations and Eryngium, to give real impact to each colour scheme, and because it is made onto foam filled sausages the installation will last for ages.
Flower Wall #1
Flower walls are oh so on trend but can also be very expensive. However you don’t have to be Kim Kardashian to get the look. This wall is every bit as lush but because of the clever foliage placement and choice of flower – including white Mondial and Sweetness roses, Chrysanthemum blooms, spray carnation, blue hydrangea with echeveria plants - we’ve created an oh so gorgeous backdrop for any event but at a more affordable price. Made onto prototypes of the brand new OASIS® Floral Products Floral Tile, being launched in the UK shortly the flowers have a really good water source so will look gorgeous for ages.
Flower Wall #2
Sometimes there’s a part of a building that screams out for flowers and that was the case with these protruding bricks in the Gatehouse wall. However as with any ancient building you have to be careful and here we used soft foam and tape to secure a superstructure that produced enough support for the flowers, foliage and succulents without damaging the stonework.
The Leeds Castle Colombian Flowers Design Team
Ambassadors - pictured below left to right
Louise Roots, Leeds Castle, Kent
Karen Broxholme, Bluebells, Lincoln
Ian Lloyd, Ian Lloyd Events, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Keri Walker, Keri Walker Florist, Wallingford, Oxon
Morgan Nuth, Old Oak Florist, Ascot, Berkshire and Ealing, London
Helmer Cuartas, Cymbidium, Barnes, London
Caroline Pecorelli, Fleurs, Horsham
Design Assistants - pictured above left to right
Jo Hornsby, Daisy Chain, Shepperton
Amanda Elliot, Old Oak Florist, Ascot, Berkshire and Ealing, London
Daisy Hudson, Sims Flowers of Messingham
Sarah Tracey, Old Oak Florist, Ascot, Berkshire and Ealing, London
Abby Millis, Old Oak Florist, Ascot, Berkshire and Ealing, London
Helen Chambers, Evolve Flowers, Lincolnshire
WHERE IT BEGAN
The Colombian flower industry started back in 1967 when a graduate student in horticulture at Colorado State University, David Cheever, wrote a paper entitled "Bogotá, Colombia as a Cut-Flower Exporter for World Markets.".
He concluded that the fertile savanna above the capital city of Bogotá that fanned out from the Andean hills would, with its high altitude of some 8,700 feet and proximity to the Equator, provide near perfect growing conditions that would not be reliant on heat or light; a factor that would become even more import in the following decades as climate change became more important.
His report started an economic revolution as growers quickly introduced flowers to their production and have never looked back. More importantly it was to become one of the leading industries that would help workers displaced by the drug crackdown and give them a chance of a new life.
Recognised as one of the world’s biggest flower exporters, Colombia’s flower industry is worth about €1.35bn. Its farms cover an expanse of 20,000 acres in land, and employ approximately 130,000 people.
Florverde is Colombia’s stamp of ethical approval. Funded through exports from the Environmental Affairs Direction of Asocolflores, it provides an accreditation system so that buyers know they’re working with farms that adhere to social and environmental standards. It also assists activities and welfare programmes, such as those that aim to cultivate peace in the family, offering children a safe space away from the dangers of forced labour.
Led by the Florverde Sustainable Flowers team, the Florverde stamp of approval strives for and has already achieved real change in the communities surrounding Colombia’s flower farms.
In terms of carbon emissions and airmiles, virtually all flowers are brought over to the UK as ‘belly filler’ cargo on passenger planes which means it is as environmentally friendly as it can be. Indeed, research at Cranfield University concluded that due to the expensive and environmentally unfriendly levels of heat and light needed to grow flowers in Northern Europe, it is better to ship flowers from countries like Kenya and Colombia as well as being a benefit to the local communities in those countries.