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Florists of the Year bring new meaning to silk flowers at Chelsea 2011

For the third year running, Manchester florist Joe Massie has been crowned the RHS Chelsea Young Florist of the year at the 2011 Chelsea Flower Show.

This year’s challenge for florists in both the Young Florist and Florist of the Year categories was to make a jockey’s silk jacket. The judges’ criteria stated that they were looking for a finished piece which although not to be worn, could be removed from the stand for judging, so it had to be strong enough to stand up on its own. Competitors were also challenged to make ‘sensitive use of modern techniques’. Joe Massie’s first challenge was to find out what a jockey silk actually was before he could begin!

Creating the jacket from flowers was hard he admits, considering he has never designed from fabric. He looked to Alexander McQueen's alien-themed 2010 fashion collection for inspiration before producing a jockey silk which featured a combination of brilliant purples and cerise flowers interwoven, stitched and pinned into the jacket in an intricate yet powerful style. Judges said his work showed great finish and workmanship, combined with a real flair. ‘It was a nightmare to begin with, but after finding my technique in a few practice runs it turned out well’, Joe said, modestly.

Joe, from Springbank Flowers in Manchester, was one of only a few men in this area of the competition, but he laughed off the suggestion that it might bother him, saying he preferred to focus on the work rather than the competition. When asked just before this year’s judging what he felt was the reason he had dominated the competition for two years, Joe said it was important not to become complacent. His approach has certainly paid off this year. After the prize was awarded Joe described himself as shocked and speechless. “This was the most difficult piece of work I’ve ever had to create. I didn’t really expect to win because it was such a difficult schedule and the standard was so high” he added.

For florists over 26 years old, the Chelsea Florist of the Year is always a hard fought battle. This year, over 400 florists competed to win the title, before it was awarded to Sarah Horne, of Sarah Horne Flowers in Leamington Spa.

Her fantastic jockey silks design called heavily on the Vintage style she has embraced over the last year. The softly flowing design in greens, whites and blues was strong yet delicate, and clearly reflected Sarah’s interests in old lace and china. Unlike Joe Massie’s, Sarah’s winning design was the first draft she created. "You need to be hungry to get the design right first time" she said, adding "I began to think I would never win!"

The stunning jockey silk jackets at this year’s Chelsea Flower show may never see the stable or the turf but they certainly reflected an exciting dash to the winning post, and created a fabulous spectacle of the best and most imaginative work today’s florists can offer.

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