Lifetime experience for florists at RHS Chelsea

Reaseheath floristry students and staff enjoyed a lifetime experience when they helped to prepare and install a floral arch for HM The Queen at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The arch, a gift to the Queen on her 90th birthday, welcomed Her Majesty as she arrived to tour the world-leading show and wowed thousands of international visitors as they passed through the iconic Bull Ring entrance on the bank of the River Thames.

The make-over of the famous gates was led by royal floral designer Shane Connolly, who invited college students to become part of the build. Level 3 Diploma in Floristry students Clare Street, Lee Law, Sophie Garratt and Abi Rowley, accompanied by Course Managers Fiona Davies and Helen Cooke, spent a day preparing and conditioning the floral materials in New Covent Garden flower market.

Fiona and Helen returned to London the following day to join Shane’s team of 30 volunteers as they worked through the night constructing the arch from cherry pickers. The arch was made from British blooms, donated by UK growers, which will be recycled to charities after the show closes.

Shane, who holds a Royal Warrant of Appointment to HM The Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales and was responsible for the flowers at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, paid tribute to the contribution from colleges.

During a television interview from the show he said: “I was honoured and delighted to be asked to design this archway for HM The Queen’s Birthday. I wanted it to showcase the beauty and range of British grown plants and flowers and the skills of the British flower and plant growers. Having students of floral design to help install it provided the icing on the cake.”

Commented Helen Cooke: “We jumped at this opportunity to give our students this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It was a great honour and fantastic that Shane genuinely appreciated our contribution.

“Watching this structure grow from a scaffold frame to a stunning archway bedecked with fabulous British foliage, plants and flowers was incredible, a floral journey we will never forget.”

  • Former Reaseheath floristry student and lecturer Mark Entwistle was also celebrating at RHS Chelsea Flower Show after the Interflora team, of which he was a member, won a gold medal for their stand