This And That

Florists get their own ‘Iron Chef’ like contest in Palm Beach

Sept. 18, 2008, Coral Gables, Fla. – Mario Fernandez feeds on the pressure of a
deadline, and he'll have a tight one in the Sylvia Cup Design
Competition.
The Miami-area floral designer is among 25 competing florists.

Sept. 18, 2008, Coral Gables, Fla. – Mario Fernandez feeds on the pressure of a
deadline, and he'll have a tight one in the Sylvia Cup Design
Competition.
The Miami-area floral designer is among 25 competing florists.
Each must complete three separate flower arrangements in two hours,
with no time to prepare in advance.

Much like the chefs on the Food
Network series “Iron Chef,'' the competitors don't know ahead of
time what their materials or tasks will be.
“You might have a bridal bouquet concept in your head and you
get there and you're not doing a bridal bouquet,'' says two-time
winner Conrad Quijas of Lincoln, Neb. “You may get a sympathy
piece, you may get a corsage. It varies as to what the judges give
you.''
The Sept. 18 competition takes place with live commentary before
an audience at the Society of American Florists' annual convention
in Palm Beach.
“It's like a really busy day in the shop with a really fussy
customer,'' says Ian Prosser, who judged the Cup in 2006 and won it
last year.

“We're looking for high standards of finish and
design.''
Fernandez says the pressure of competition isn't so different
from the need-it-now, need-it-perfect demands he fills for corporate
events, weddings and funerals in South Florida.
His approach is toward streamlined design.
“It has to look good on camera. A big, showy thing, in a
picture, it looks like frayed hair. It has to be tighter,'' he says.

Prosser and the 2007 competitors all had callas, roses, orchids
and metallic decorative wires to create three bridal arrangements
with the theme “California Dreamin' in the Sixties.''
Prosser's centrepiece balanced tight groups of yellow lilies and
orange roses below slim green callas. Hot pink roses and purple
miniature carnations cascaded from his bridal bouquet. His hairpiece
featured asterisk-shaped purple orchids accentuated by wispy loops
of apple-green wire.
Along with creativity and colour selection, the judges look at
how the designers secure their arrangements with glue, foam and
binding wire.
Any customer would expect those details to be invisible, says
Prosser, a Tampa florist.

Otherwise, exposed wires in a bouquet snag
a wedding dress, strands of glue become a sticky spider's web, and
an arrangement that comes loose from its foam base falls apart in
the delivery van.
The 40th annual Sylvia Cup is billed as the country's
longest-running, live floral design competition, and offers a $2,500
prize.
“Anyone can be a 'floral designer,' even at the supermarket,''
says co-ordinator Deborah De La Flor, a Cooper City florist. “This
sets us apart. We're artists, not just arrangers.''
Fernandez, though, hopes to see design elements from the Cup
bloom elsewhere. He says his goal is to create something that can be
reproduced, such as the double yellow-and-green crescents in a
sympathy tribute that earned him an honorable mention in 2006.
“It's easy to be copied. That's the objective,'' he says.
“That's the best compliment.''

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