Bloomin' Biz

Maple Leaf Cup ’17: For the Love of Floral Design

Bloomin Biz Maple Leaf Cup 17

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 Friday, March 24 at the Edmonton Home and Garden show. It was an emotional win for Romanowski, who has worked 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 Maple Leaf Cup required contestants to show their skills by designing a dress for a mannequin. Heather de Kok, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, founded the event and chose the theme, “Hort Couture,” a play on “haute couture.”

As part of the competition, all the floral designers worked with 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 decorate. To help with their designs, all competitors received $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. It’s stressful, but the results are stunning, explained the event’s host.

“The creativity for each and every single mannequin was through-the-roof fantastic,” DeKok said. “My favourite thing is watching not just the seasoned designers, but the first-time competitors coming out of their shell and seeing them flourish.”

DeKok started the competition because she wanted florists to stretch their imaginations and to have some fun with their design skills. Additionally, she wanted to make the public aware of what florists can do.

She estimated that about 10,000 turned out for the competition. The expression she overheard repeatedly: “I never thought about using a florist before. I will definitely use a professional now for all my floral needs!”

“It’s important to educate the consumer,” DeKok said. “This shows them that whatever the occasion—a new baby, sympathy, or a birthday—they’ll end up with something spectacular.”

As winner of the event, Romanowski received a $1,000 prize and will be travelling and competing in the Sylvia Cup Design Competition in September at SAF’s annual convention in Palm Beach, Florida.

Competitor Margaret-Ann Hinkley from Edmonton came in second place and walked away with a $500 prize for her detailed long dress design.

DeKok described the competition as fierce. “Every single person brought their ‘A game.’ Win or lose, they put something out there that they might not have thought they could. I hope they all have more confidence in themselves.”

Stephanie Dubois
A print reporter for the last eight years, Stephanie Dubois is a freelance journalist and writer. When she isn't out covering breaking news in Alberta's capital, she also operates all of the social media for the Alberta and Northwest Territories branch of a national non-profit. On her free time, Dubois enjoys running, reading a good book, gardening and travelling the world.
Jamie Birdwell-Branson
Jamie is a freelance writer and editor with over nine years of editorial experience working as a writer, editor, fact checker, social media specialist, proofreader, and layout artist.
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