East Durham College are thrilled to announce that floristry lecturer Rebecca Hough has rose to the occasion, beating the countries’ best 16 floral talents to be crowned this year’s RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London.
Rebecca, 29, from Peterlee, also won a gold medal at the Show alongside her new title as the top florist in the UK.
Having previously qualified to compete at the show after winning a place at the Regional Heats, Rebecca travelled down to London alongside East Durham College floristry students Allan Raby, 50, from Thornaby and Vicki Abbott, 26, from Hartlepool who also qualified at the regional heats.
They were then invited down to compete at the world’s most prestigious flower show against each other, and other professional florists from across the UK. The finalists were tasked with creating a floral throne designed for a spring wedding.
Rebecca’s throne was made of driftwood, which she collected personally from local beaches. Over 1200 stems of flowers and over 200 plants adorned the throne, including Roses, Germini, Dianthus, Allium, Tillandsia, Succulents, Ceropegia, Chrysanthemums, Ranunculus, Craspedia and Clematis.
“To be honest, winning had never crossed my mind.” said Rebecca Hough. “I’ve watched that competition for years now, and the standard was always so high, I never imagined I’d be able to claim the top prize! When I had set my throne up, and we left the show ground (at 2.30am!), I was happy with what I had produced and I was proud of it, and that is what mattered to me.
“Obviously you always hope for a medal, and I had my fingers crossed for a gold, but you never know – just to get a medal would have been great! When the results were to be announced, we all had to gather in the corner, and we were surrounded by cameras, so it was nerve racking just being there! Then when they announced my name, I couldn’t quite believe it, I didn’t really know what to do! It was just a blur to be honest; from the minute it was announced, there was people just queuing up to speak to me or take my photo. It was bizarre, but brilliant! I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet…”
While Rebecca clinched the top prize with an amazingly-designed throne, students Allan and Vicky also did themselves extremely proud with their designs. Allan was awarded a bronze medal for his throne, while student Vicki, who has suffered in the past with severe anxiety, has done incredibly well to come from having no floristry experience to competing at the Chelsea Flower Show within 9 months.
Rebecca said: “Allan and Vicky did amazingly well, just being there is a huge achievement. Not many people can they are a Chelsea florist! Their pieces of work were unique, and showed great levels of creativity and craftsmanship and they should both be very proud of themselves, as I am of them!”
With over 100 students attending floristry courses across Level 1 to 3 at the college’s Houghall campus in the heart of Durham, floristry is rapidly becoming one of the college’s most popular course programmes.
And this year has been one of continuous blooming success too for the college, which has seen students thrive in a competitive environment. Students have attended competitions including NECTA and the Harrogate Show. At NECTA, students achieved three gold, three silver and three bronze medals, while an amazing display inspired by Mrs Browns’ Boys and created by a team of floristry students secured a silver medal at the Harrogate Show. 17 learners competed at Harrogate, with student Debbie also achieving second place in her category.
Outside of competitions, students have been brightening up the North East by creating displays for the Houghall campus reception (including Christmas and Easter presentations) and participated in a flower festival at St. John’s Church in Shildon. At the festival, students created floral designs inspired by musicals including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wicked, helping to raise over £1200 for the church.