In celebration of Chelsea Flower Show, we caught up with the brilliant Florist, Lucy Vail and chatted all things Chelsea Flower Show, as well as wedding floristry and how she got into the wonderful world of flowers. She always aims to go above and beyond, which you can see in the Royal Arch she created for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.
A huge thank you to Lucy for taking the time to chat with us when you’re in the midst of the biggest flower show in the world, as well as planning for your upcoming wedding!
How did you come to be in the beautiful world of flowers?
I’ve been making Christmas wreaths since I was 16. I then went on to study History of Art at Edinburgh University. In my last year, I got a phone call asking if I could do this woman’s daughter’s wedding. It was for 250 people, and I thought absolutely not! I called the lady who taught me wreath making who said you absolutely can! I started watching YouTube videos and taught myself about suspending balls.
I then got lots of work off the back of that wedding. The most important thing for me as a florist is that I love to transform a space. I’ve always been artistic but totally transforming a room is something else. I then asked lots of party planners who the best florist in the world was to which they all said, Tuscany Flowers. I begged and begged for a job for 5 months before they finally gave in. I was paid €7 an hour and worked there for a year and a half; it was the best training I could have ever had. I then came back and properly set up Lucy Vail Floristry. My focus is colour mixed with texture, form, fruits and plants. The colour and mixing of plants is what I’ve learned from the Italians. I love the idea of creating a Dutch painting, you can see this at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show in the plants cascading off the urns. It’s been nothing less than a rollercoaster for the last 7 years, but I’ve always thought that if anything is plain sailing then you’re in the wrong job. Me and my team always seek to push ourselves and we really feel we’ve achieved it this year at the Chelsea Flower Show.
How did you become involved in Chelsea Flower Show 2022?
Pre-Covid we won the main tunnel, which at the time was one of the biggest installations a florist could do. However, due to the pandemic, it stopped us from creating this installation. Then this year they offered us the Royal Gate, to which we jumped at the idea! There is no point in doing a half-baked job and we wanted to go bigger and better than ever before creating a six-meter by six-meter archway full of 3, 500 plants from all British growers all over the country, as well as using my family’s flower farm; Florist and Flowers, who delivered 500 plants! I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself enough for what’s to come. Having done three 21-hour shifts over the 3 days before CFS, going straight into the press day on the Monday was quite a feat! But the adrenaline kept us all going, and we were super excited! The team I have are unlike any other and we have been working tirelessly to create something unbelievable, and that is what we’ve achieved!
Tell us about your magnificent royal gate display for Chelsea Flower Show.
Our main thing was to work with all British growers as well as all British craftsmen. Rutland Willows created the crowns and Joss Stoddart, the most amazing carpenter, created our 2-meter-high urns. The arch is a celebration of circular floristry. We have used 3,500 plants, all of which have all come from flower farms over Britain, which are used in our installation, and then will go back into the flower farms. We will cut the flowers to use for weddings in the next couple of weeks, and for years to come!
What is your next big project?
We have some very exciting ones we aren’t allowed to speak about just yet and some big ones coming at the end of this year but the nearest is my wedding in 3 weeks! Being a bride, designing your wedding, and having your ideas allows you to think of and design what you’ve never thought of before. We have 15 florists on the job, and we are going to be going to another level to showcase what we can do. With this comes a lot of stress but I’m extremely lucky to have my team running it. We are going to have big floral installations throughout the ceiling, massive archways, archways on the tables, and a tornado of flowers on the dance floor which turns into a disco ball later in the night through flowers and mirrors, it’s pushing designing to another level!
What is your most memorable piece of work?
Chelsea Flower Show is the biggest thing publicity-wise, but we’ve done some huge installations for weddings. Filling the ceiling at the Saatchi gallery with over 3000 British dahlias throughout the ceiling was a highlight. For me and my team, it’s about creating a piece of artwork, not something that’s so commercial and easily replicated, and we do this by pushing the boundaries of design.
What are your top two tips for amateur florists?
I would say you don’t necessarily need to do a course. I think the best thing to do is start working as a freelancer, training with lots of florists, and working out exactly what your style is and what you prefer. The best way to learn is through others and we’re so lucky to be in London, which is one of the main hubs for floristry, with all this unbelievable talent. My other tip would be don’t play it safe. Always push yourself, keep on designing and coming up with ideas as one day you will be able to do them, and it will be absolutely epic!
Where can people find out more about you?
Have a look at our Instagram, @lucyvailfloristry, but also have a look at our website. We upload journals every month and you can check out more about our weddings, events, installations, bouquets, our team, and the ethos we stick by!