Our Chelsea gold medal was a triumph of logistics and determination made up of a hundred separate success stories. Appearing at the show was never going to be an effort by just a select few members but was always intended as a shared experience for all. 14,000 stems were arranged by a team of just seven members but the victory belonged to absolutely everyone.
2018 was the year spring gave us ‘The Beast from the East” – icy winds and freezing temperatures kept our spring flowers sitting shivering and stunted in their pots when normally they’d be growing away like the clappers. The nature of our collaborative installation meant that our display was always going to be a design challenge, created with the unseen best of blooms contributed by our members from across the UK. The awful spring conditions that faced us made this even more unpredictable! As the cold snap dragged on, at times we wondered if we would even have flowers at all!
Undaunted, 100 members accepted the open challenge to send their flowers to Chelsea, Mother Nature’s desire to send forth flowers proved indomitable, and we began planning how on earth to transport our geographically scattered blooms to London. Growers from Inverness to the Scilly Isles took their freshly picked blooms to their nearest neighbour – the trickle of buckets feeding into larger streams as more tributaries of flowers joined together to form an overnight torrent on their journey to SW3.
Our exhibit entitled ‘Going to Market’ depicted a sleeping farmer transporting his flowers to market on a cart pulled by our beautiful wirework and straw horse (who we fondly christened ‘Flora’). As he dozes, he’s blissfully unaware that his flowers are tumbling off the back as the cart travels down a bumpy lane. A small boy runs alongside, trying to alert the farmer about what’s happening and a young girl follows the cart, gathering up the flowers which have fallen on the ground.
The public loved the display and many current members cite a visit to our stand as the catalyst that pushed them into taking the leap into flower farming. Our founder Gill Hodgson’s spontaneous decision to take our flowers onto this hugely popular national stage was vindicated and our success, our story and the resulting publicity proved to be a landmark in the growth of the British flowers movement and of our organisation.