A blooming success as college hosts Chelsea Flower Show heats

Floristry in the North East was shown to be blooming, as passionate florists and floral visited East Durham College for the Chelsea Flower Show’s regional heats.

The event marked the first time East Durham College had been chosen to host the heats, which allowed competitors to submit their floral designs with the aim of winning the opportunity to attend the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2018 as a competitor.

Hosted at East Durham College’s Peterlee campus in The Lubtekin Theatre, the event saw nearly 100 members of the public attend the North East Inspiration Day where they could view the competitor’s floral designs, see a presentation from a leading floral designer and hear the results of the competition as they were announced.

Sue Lee, Floristry Lecturer, at East Durham College, said: “What a brilliant day, the British Floral Association (BFA) were delighted with the number of competitors in each category of the competition and the visitors who attended the Inspirational Day demonstrations in the theatre.

“Congratulations to all our students and the other competitors for taking part and putting their heart, soul, time and dedication into making every design truly inspirational.”

The nine competitors who took part in the Chelsea Florist of the Year bracket, including seven East Durham College students, were tasked with making a special floral design: a wedding stole to be worn by a bride in a Scottish castle.

In a tough decision for the judges, East Durham College students Allan Raby took home the first place prize  and Vicky Abbott came in second place with just one point less.

Allan and Vicky will now have to nervously wait for the results from the other regional heats to see if their scores qualify them for the finals at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Floristry is a big change for Allan, who used to run and own the Oak Public House in Middlesbrough. After the pub closed, a friend asked Allan if he would help him over Mother’s Day in his florist shop, and Allan found that he really loved floristry. He then decided to enrol at East Durham College’s Houghall campus, in Durham, where he is studying floristry.

Allan has excelled during his time at Houghall, gaining a work placement at Elegance Florist in Middlesbrough, a gold and silver medal at the Nectar Competition and a gold medal and best in show award at last year’s Harrogate Flower Show.

Allan, who is 49 and lives in Thornaby, said: “I was over the moon that I had got first place. It took 18 hours to put the flowers on my piece one-by-one – there must have been 5000 hyacinth pips glued to the stole!”

Victoria, 26, from Hartlepool, who has suffered in the past with extreme anxiety and struggled with leaving the house, faced her fears by enrolling on a floristry course at Houghall. As a creative individual, she wanted to work in a creative, practical way and decided to pursue a career in floristry.

All of the floristry team at East Durham College are thrilled with Victoria’s success at the heats, and extremely proud of her for overcoming her previous issues and attending something as nerve-wracking as a regional heat.

Victoria was amazed that she had received 2nd place. She said: “I can’t believe it, I’m still in shock. I’m extremely happy with the result as this was my first ever floristry competition. Someone recommended entering the newcomer comp but I thought ‘what have I got to lose?’ and went for the full regional heats… I am so glad I did now!”

In the future, Victoria hopes to finish her Level 2 course in Floristry at EDC’s Houghall campus and set up as a home-studio-based florist. She’s already pursuing her dream, and has set up the name and branding for her studio, Floressence Floral Design.

East Durham College is planning to work with the BFA in the future on other floristry events and hopes the success of this event will continue to inspire florists from across the region.


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