Floral designs break the mould
Students battle it out in first floristry competition at Tatton Park
It's dahlias at dawn in the Floral Art marquee at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show this week as keen floristry students from three colleges square up to each other for the first-ever Floristry College Competition.
Each college is conjuring up a magical creation of flowers and foliage inspired by the title 'Flights of Fancy', showcasing the latest ideas in floral art inspired by a new wave of European design.
When the 2012 awards were announced, Askham Bryam College won best Floristry College exhibit. Best Professional Floristry exhibit went to The Cheshire Area of NAFAS with ‘To keep thee what thou art - an English home’.
Floristry tutor Heather White's students at East Surrey College are evoking water meadows with flights of floral 'birds' and reed-like Equisetum hyemale. She says the design, using test tubes to hold flowers in place and frames woven with textiles, reflects today's more naturalistic trend.
'It's quite a contemporary, European style,' she says. 'It's free and linear, with vertical and horizontal lines.'
At Bishop Burton College, near Hull, they're using similar techniques to very different effect. Taking the pioneering flights of aviator Amy Johnson as their theme, the students are using flowers to evoke England, India and Australia.
Alongside Vanda and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) there are curry plants (Helichrysum italicum), while cinnamon sticks rub shoulders with bark, woven rattan and even wire 'strings' of Aloe vera. These days, tutor Ruth Robinson says, anything goes.
'We've tried to make it so people think, "That's interesting – I'd never think of using that material",' she says.
Meanwhile students at Askham Bryan College, York, are quite literally taking off with their design of suspended perspex and copper, with bronze and orange flowers floating 2.5m above the ground.
Tutor Kate Pepper believes today's style is something anyone can recreate at home: all you need is a little imagination.
'Use anything that catches your eye,' she says. 'Get away from the traditional and look around nature: use bark or reeds for containers, and weave in moss or grasses for movement.'
You can see the creations of all three colleges – and find out which design won – in the Floral Design Studio in Area D.
See our photogallery of images from the Floral Design Studio