Belfast Telegraph

Game of thrones for Northern Ireland trio as they vie for glory at Chelsea Flower Show

By Linda Stewart

Three florists from Northern Ireland have been beavering away in London all weekend with secateurs as they prepare to take part in the finals of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show today.

The students from CAFRE Greenmount were putting the final touches to their floral flights of fancy in the Great Pavilion at the UK's premier horticultural event.

Megan Ingram (18) from Belfast and Clare McAuley (23) from Comber are finalists in the Young Florist of the Year competition, while Anne Kirkwood (35) from Londonderry is contending for the Florist of the Year title.

This year's theme - fittingly, given the marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on Satuday - is A Spring Wedding, and competitors have to construct a floral throne that will go on display in the Great Pavilion.

Earlier this week Megan took a day away from the frantic preparations to visit the Balmoral Show while she waited for the flowers to arrive. "I'm here for the horses!" she said.

CAFRE Greenmount floristry lecturer Anne Marie Grant explained: "We would have our local heats throughout the whole of the UK and we host one of them at Greenmount.

"From all the heats the top 16 best designs are chosen to go through to the final at Chelsea.

"We don't normally have as many finalists, but over the last 10 years we've had a finalist every year in one of the categories, whether it was a current student or past student.

"They've been constructing the thrones and planning how to do it, and then you go over to make it and put it in place.

"Once you get there you have four hours to finish it off in order to make it look gorgeous."

Megan certainly has the pedigree as a third generation florist.

Her granny founded Alexander Florists in Belfast and was followed into the business by Megan's father. Now she has followed suit.

She wasn't allowed to say too much about her design, but said she had been inspired by an opulent tapestry look.

"I wanted to make it look like it was plumped-up cushions that you could sit on and it would be comfortable," she explained.

"I am using my favourite flowers - a mixture of roses, freesia and eustonia."

The flowers were due to arrive late last week to be conditioned and prepared before the trip to London at the weekend on the overnight boat.

"To keep them nice and fresh, we're buying them at the last minute, then we'll be driving down to London and constructing our designs," she added.

"We'll be setting them up in the Great Pavilion on Sunday night for judging on Monday morning."

While Megan was too focused to think about celebrity spotting, there is one TV chef she's a fan of.

She conceded: "I'm looking forward to seeing Mary Berry."

Belfast Telegraph

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