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Interflora Florist of the Year 2013: Meet the Finalists Including Vinny Yeates, Flowers by Lucy, Kilkenny

For over 40 years Interflora competitions have presented an opportunity for our finest floral designers to compete for the coveted title of Florist of the Year. Seen as the pinnacle of achievement and a great stepping stone towards future success, previous winners have gone on to win floristry competitions all over the world.

After a number of years of hosting the competitions behind closed doors, in 2011 the Grand Final was held in public at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show for the very first time. This proved to be a roaring success with the general public so this year we’re returning to the show to celebrate the expertise and talent amongst our network of florists on an impressive public stage.

The 8 competition finalists made it through tough regional heats last year to secure their places in the last stage of the competition. They will be asked to demonstrate every element of their skills – their inspirations, their design ideas and their creativity.

Working to the theme “To Celebrate Interflora’s 90 Years of Fabulous Floristry” they will be asked to create four different designs: a free expression piece, a celebration floral cake design and a surprise item will be created in front of a live audience on the day of the competition. A floral handbag will be made in advance and brought to the competition.

Here’s your chance to meet the finalists…

Vinny Yeates, Flowers by Lucy, Kilkenny

Vinny has been creating and designing floral displays for over a decade, but has been producing bouquets and floral presentations with his mum ever since he was born. He still works with her now and their shop has been an Interflora member for over two decades. Vinny is no stranger to competing, having previously represented Ireland in Interflora’s Florist of the Year finals in 2007. Vinny is looking forward to competing in this year’s competition, and his ambition is to one day represent Interflora and Ireland at the Europa Cup.

Tracy Griffin, Sandra’s Florist, Holbury

Tracey’s love of flowers started at a very young age, having grown up within her mum’s floristry business. Tracey has many qualifications but always strives to learn more, and improve her floristry skills. She regularly travels around the UK teaching and demonstrating floristry. In 2010 Tracey was invited to compete in the British Floristry Association, Florist of the Year competition. She has won multiple RHS Chelsea Flower Show medals, and also came 2nd in the 2011 Grand Finals of the Interflora Florist of the Year. She wants to carry on competing and improving for as long as possible, as she believes she will never stop learning.

Vicky Rymell, Hubbard’s Florist, Coventry

Vicky wanted to be a florist from a very young age, because of its artistic and creative nature. She started working at her local florist shop 11 years ago and still works there today. She has her NVQ Levels 1, 2 and 3 and is currently working towards her Level 4 Higher Diploma. Vicky has previously competed at RHS events, having won Gold in 2009 and a Silver-gilt in 2011, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s Young Florist of the Year. She enjoys competing as she is able to create designs outside the boundaries of commercial floristry.

Neil Whittaker, The Design Element, Irlam

Neil is one of the UK and Europe’s most renowned and respected floral designers, and has travelled the world both demonstrating and teaching. He was very proud to be listed as one of the UK’s top ten florists featured in “The Independent On Sunday”. As well as winning two gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, becoming Interflora Florist of the Year in 2007 and 2011, and BFA Florist of the Year 2007, Neil was the UK representative in the Europa Cup in 2009, the European Florist Championship, and was placed 4th. Neil’s success continued in 2010 when he represented the UK in the Interflora World Cup in Shanghai and achieved 7th place. More recently, in 2011, Neil represented the UK at the Europa Cup in the Czech Republic, and finished 3rd; the highest placed Brit since 1960. Neil loves to push the boundaries of floral design and techniques, and is hoping to continue his competitive success.

Arkadiusz Woniacki, Flowers by Arkadius, Edinburgh

Arkadiusz, originally from Poland, has been working as a florist for the last thirteen years, and was just ten years old the first time he created a floral bouquet. Starting his horticulture degree at university, Arkadiusz chose a floristry module, and that’s when he realised this was the area he wanted to concentrate on. He was awarded first place in his initial floristry competition, straight out of university. Moving to Warsaw, Arkadiusz started working for one of the best florists in Poland, creating displays for dignitaries such as the country’s President. In 2008 Arkadiusz moved to Edinburgh, and last year started his own business. His decided to enter the Interflora Florist of the Year competition as way of improving his floristry skills, and he wants to eventually become one of Britain’s top floral designers.

Lucinda Knapman, Broadwater Flower, Ferring

Lucinda has worked in the floristry field for the last 25 years, and is shocked and thrilled to have won her regional heat. Originally a Saturday girl in a local garden centre’s floristry department, Lucinda decided not to go to university to study Art- instead becoming fully employed at the garden centre, and completing her NVQ Levels 1, 2 and 3. Following this Lucinda opened her own shop at the age of 25, and she has been an Interflora florist for the last 6 years. This is Lucinda’s first RHS event, and the first Interflora competition she has entered. She would love to win the Florist of the Year competition, and will definitely be entering again next time, as she has the bug!

Erica Tippet, Bluejen Florist, Bude

Erica started working in the floristry industry at the age of 19 as a Saturday girl, and had opened her own shop by the time she was 21. A career in floristry was never something she had seriously considered when she was younger, but she was hugely inspired by her first employer and went on to do her NVQ Levels 2 and 3 when working full time. 3 years ago Erica took second place in the BFA Young Florist of the Year competition, and won a Silver-gilt in 2010, Silver in 2011, and a Bronze in 2012 at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. In the future Erica would like to have more than just her one shop, and she strives for her work to be different and stunning, whatever the occasion.

Charlotte Cooke, Hilary’s Four Seasons, Abergavenny

After completing her Art Foundation degree, Charlotte started working for her family business aged 20. Her mum is a florist, and Charlotte admits she stumbled into the profession, but her decision has been justified, as she has progressed within the industry ever since. Charlotte got the competition bug in 2009, when she won a UK Skills Gold medal at RHS Tatton Park. She was also placed 3rd in Interflora’s Florist of the Future competition in 2011, and came 2nd in last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show Young Florist competition. Charlotte loves the challenges and freedom of creativity the competitions provide, and she enjoys them so much she makes sure to compete every year, as it improves her skills and herself as a modern florist. She eventually hopes to represent Interflora and the UK, in competitions around the world.

Visit the British Florist Association marquee at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in Knutsford, Cheshire, on Thursday 25th July and Friday 26th July 2013 to see the Interflora competitors in action.

Source: Interflora - Interflora Florist of the Year 2013: Meet the Finalists Including Vinny Yeates, Flowers by Lucy, Kilkenny