Florist’s Chelsea success

Sara Collinge
Sara Collinge

A Ribchester florist has taken a prestigious silver medal at Chelsea, despite fierce competition from some of the country’s top floral designers.

Sara Collinge, 48, of Flowers With Passion, won the medal in the RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year competition.

Sara said: “I’m completely overwhelmed. I only took up floristry four years ago, so to get to Chelsea so soon in my career is incredible.

“I was up against 15 of the best florists in the country, many with over 20 years’ experience. I couldn’t believe it when I found out I had won silver.”

The competitors had to design and make a jockey “silk” out of flowers and plant material. British Florist Association event director Dennis Van Wonderen said this year’s brief was the toughest schedule yet and the judges had a really tough time trying to pick the winners.

Sara was singled out for praise by the judges for the amount of painstaking work that had gone into the design.

“I made the silk from thin strands of hot glue and then wove tiny pieces of black grass – Ophiopogon – through the glue. It took hours and hours. Normally I’m not very patient and at one point I was in tears because I thought I’d never get it finished. In fact, I was still gluing flowers onto the silk in the Great Pavilion at 12.45am on Thursday!”

The results were announced in front of the BBC TV cameras. Sara said: “We all had to gather on the stand and waited for what seemed an eternity for the results. It was incredibly nerve wracking. I felt physically sick and faint, even though I wasn’t expecting a medal! I got a bit tearful when I realised I’d been awarded silver and I still can’t believe it’s actually happened. An hour after the results my daughter rang me from Ribchester to say I was on the TV, it was all so surreal.”

So after the excitement of Chelsea what’s next? “I’m a freelance florist and currently specialise in wedding, funeral and event work but I’m now launching a mobile florist shop. The idea is to offer a home delivery service of beautiful fresh flowers.’’

And in another two weeks Sara will be entering her next competition, in an effort to qualify for next year’s Chelsea show.