Maple Leaf Cup ’17: For The Love of Floral Design
Author: Stephanie Dubois
For florist Lea Romanowski, it all started with the late Hollywood actress and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn.
Inspired by Hepburn’s chic style, Romanowski created a detailed dress made primarily of flowers as part of the second annual Maple Leaf Cup Floral Design Competition recently held in Edmonton.
“I usually do much more wild, crazy work but I thought I was going to do something beautiful, haute couture from the 1960s and put my spin on it,” said Romanowski, a floral artist from Calgary.
Her design won the coveted Maple Leaf Cup competition held on Friday, Mar. 24 at the Edmonton Home and Garden show. It was an emotional win for Romanowski, who has been in the floral industry for 34 years and has competed in numerous floral competitions. But none as difficult as the Maple Leaf Cup, she said.
She was one of 16 competitors from across Canada who vied for the top spot in the challenging event. Fiercely competitive, the event required the florists to show their skills by designing a dress for a mannequin under the ‘Hort-couture’ theme, a play on words of ‘haute couture’ crafted by the event’s founder and experienced floral artist Heather de Kok.
As part of the competition, all of the floral designers were given the same flowers and materials, which included 50 stems of roses and two metres of black fabric, among other items. Maple Leaf Cup participants were also given a ‘surprise box’ the morning of the event, which included a purse to also decorate. To help with their designs, all competitors were given $100 to buy extra materials of their choice.
There was just one catch. Competitors had only three hours to design and place the flowers and other materials on their mannequin.
With a few hours the morning of the event to work on the hard goods of their design, competitors were only allowed to place the flowers on the mannequin during the three-hour competition held at the Edmonton Home and Garden Show as the public watched the florists at work.
It’s can be stressful, but the results are stunning, said the event’s host.
“I host the Maple Leaf Cup for two reasons: I want to get the florists outside of their bubble. I want to get them excited again about the industry,” said de Kok. “I want people to see the talent that florists have and why we should go to a florist shop to get our event flowers.”
The burgundy roses paired with the lighter pinks and gold colours given to competitors were used in varying ways, including headdresses, in the skirts of their masterpieces and on purses. Many of the florists also incorporated leaves and stems into their final designs.
Despite the time crunch, many of the florists competing in the Maple Leaf Cup event spoke of how designing a dress out of flowers in an afternoon reignited their passion for the floral industry.
“As florists, we have to do so many jobs we don’t really want to do so it’s amazing to just do something for pure artistry. It was fun to just create for the sake of creating,” said competitor Lisa Alary from St. Albert, Alta.
As winner of the event, Romanowski received a $1,000 prize and will be traveling and competing in the Sylvia Cup Design Competition in September at the Society of American Florists annual convention held in Florida. Competitor Margaret-Ann Hinkley from Edmonton came in second place and walked away with a $500 prize for her detailed long dress design.
After seeing the intricate and stunning designs created in this year’s event, de Kok hopes that competitions like the Maple Leaf Cup continue to showcase how important and necessary florists are for many of life’s occasions.
“I want to show consumers we’re there for them in all aspects,” she said. “If you let florists do their thing, we really can wow.”