Does Chelsea need an overhaul?


I confess I walked into Chelsea 2017 with a degree of nerves. It had already been widely publicised that the displays were going to be smaller … or non-existent due to falling sponsorship but I was more interested in what the floristry side be like.

And my fears were confirmed. Yet again a plethora of wire, glue and the same old flower heads … this time crafted into kites that whilst hugely impressive seemed to be more about engineering skills and how many hours a contestant had to make them.

And it both worries and saddens me. Not just because I am personally sick to the back teeth of seeing flowers and plant material cut down within an inch of their life and manipulated into contorted shapes; the hat morphed into a racing jacket which morphed into a dress and as for the trees … oh Lor the trees! But have any of them really shown off the full skills of a florist.

Yes this love affair with textured pieces may show great technical merit – and there is no doubt there were some stunning designs, particularly from the youngsters - but a showcase for floristry? Hmmm not so sure about that.

Now I wouldn’t necessarily want it to go back to the old days when competitors had to make five set pieces against a very boring back drop; I totally know that for the winners the PR benefits of having a Chelsea medal are HUGE and in no way am I knocking the blood, sweat and tears the contestants go through to get to Chelsea in the first place never mind making the final piece.

I’m also told (by BFA) that the RHS, who apparently set the schedule, want show stopper designs to impress the visitors and thanks to the labour – and funding – by the contestants who spend hundreds of pounds each they get their wish.

However as a showcase of what our part of the industry does and can do for consumers I am not so sure it works. Even allowing for the theory that ‘haute couture’ design can somehow be morphed into ‘off the peg’ I struggle to see how the repetitive use of wire, stachys leaves, craspedia, and a million and one Vanda orchids can become a £35 design that Mrs Bloggs will buy from her local florist. Indeed, if anything, it makes me wonder if actually it makes florists look even more unapproachable and elite!

Time will tell if there will be a change of heart to allow florists to use flowers on the stem and in a way that shows both the beauty of the flower AND the skill and creativity possible without a tube of glue. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.