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UK: Seasonal flowers at the Coronation service of The King and The Queen Consort

Seasonal flowers and foliage from all over the United Kingdom have arrived at Westminster Abbey, ahead of the Coronation of The King and The Queen Consort on 6th May. The flowers have been provided by Flowers from the Farm, a non-profit association that champions artisan growers of cut flowers, with foliage from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) at the High Altar. This was announced in a press release from  Buckingham Palace, provided to us by LM Flower Fashion Productions. 

From the Isle of Skye to the coast of Cornwall, and from the mountains of Snowdonia to Tobermore in Northern Ireland, over 120 varieties of flowers have been grown by over 80 members of Flowers from the Farm on farmland, allotments, and cutting gardens across the four nations of the United Kingdom.

The arrangements, designed by Shane Connolly and Co, will reflect Their Majesties’ deep affection for the natural world and their shared passion for gardening, and showcase the best of the British countryside in the spring, inspired by the richness of Westminster Abbey. The flowers and foliage will be arranged using sustainable techniques, without the use of single use plastics or floral foam.

The Great West Door
At the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, a pair of tall yew topiaries will be underplanted with a meadow of wild grasses and cowslips, primroses and violets. Following the Coronation, the yews will be replanted in the new biodiverse topiary garden at Sandringham, which will be open to the public, as a lasting reminder of the day.

The Grave of the Unknown Warrior
Echoing the colourful British wildflower meadow seen on the hand-painted invitations to Their Majesties’ Coronation, fresh spring flowers that are symbolic of remembrance will frame the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. These include sprigs of rosemary, bay for virtue, bluebells and forget-me-nots for constancy of love, daffodils for chivalry, cowslips, lilac for memories of youth, and lily of the valley and auriculas, which both appeared in Her Majesty’s wedding bouquet in 2005.

The Quire
Two floral installations of seasonal flowers of the United Kingdom will be positioned at either side of the Quire, surrounding the entrance to the Coronation Theatre, where the majority of the service will take place. The colour palette has been influenced by the rich golds, burgundies, purples, pinks and reds of the High Altar and the Cosmati Pavement, as well as Their Majesties’ Robes of State and Estate. The installations will feature hellebores – a particular favourite of The King, which appeared in His Majesty’s buttonhole for Their Majesties’ wedding in 2005, honeysuckle, tulips, ranunculus, blossom, jasmine, and aquilegia, which is an ancient symbol of the Holy Spirit, with foliage of rosemary, birch, bay and hazel, and wild broom grown on the Isle of Skye.

The High Altar
Boughs cut from flowering shrubs and trees from the five Royal Horticultural Society gardens across the British Isles will adorn the High Altar, including branches from the pair of Dawyck beech trees planted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh at RHS Wisley in 1978. Among the seasonal foliage will also be crab apple blossom, amelanchier, camellia, acer, hazel, rhododendron, and azalea will be arranged alongside beech cut from an ancient cluster of trees at RHS Bridgewater, which would have been visited by Queen Victoria.

Following the Coronation, all the flowers and branches will be donated to Floral Angels, a charity run entirely by volunteers that repurposes flowers from events into bouquets and arrangements to share with care homes, hospices, shelters and other vulnerable members of the community. The Queen Consort is Patron of Floral Angels.

Flowers From the Farm
So how is it for Flowers From the Farm to provide the flowers and how was the run-up? "For the past few months, we’ve been working closely with floral designer Shane Connolly to bring the beauty, joy and variety of seasonal UK-grown blooms to this historic occasion.  More than eighty flower farmers representing all four nations of the UK from Inverness and Norfolk to Snowdonia, Cornwall and Tobermore in Northern Ireland have cut over 120 different varieties of spring-flowering bulbs, perennials, blossom and foliage for the celebrations," they say on their website.

The flowers have been grown in harmony with the natural seasons, outdoors and in polytunnels on flower fields, allotments, cutting gardens and walled gardens. Since every plot has its unique growing and weather conditions, the displays in Westminster Abbey of more than 4500 stems will reveal a unique floral tapestry of springtime in the UK.

Nestled amongst the arrangements will be hellebores and hazel harvested on a croft on the Isle of Skye, apple blossom, Solomon’s Seal and euphorbia from Perthshire, crab apple from Aberdeenshire  and aquilegia and honesty from the fields of Yorkshire.

There will be lilacs and wallflowers from Tobermore in Northern Ireland, ranunculus, narcissus ‘Pheasant Eye’, lily of the valley, clematis, forget-me-nots and bluebells from Somerset and historic tulips from Wiltshire.

Growers in Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia have selected tulips, ranunculus and azaleas for the historic occasion, and trailing stems of scented honeysuckle have been cut in Buckinghamshire and fragrant jasmine in Lincolnshire. Branches of ornamental cherry have come from Norfolk and scabious, broom and snowflakes in Cornwall.

Shane Connolly says: “The honour of being asked to design and coordinate the flowers for the coronation of Their Majesties The King and Queen, is the highlight of my career. But I wanted the flowers to be centre stage, not the design. They had to reflect the sentiment of the day, and be from the soil of the United Kingdom; a natural tribute to a nature-loving King and Queen. Flowers from the Farm and the RHS have made that idea possible; they’re growers working in harmony with the soil and the seasons, to produce flowers that reflect the very best of British gardening and flower growing. The enthusiasm and dedication of each and every flower farmer and gardener has been humbling; working together to bring the simple beauty of nature into Westminster Abbey, as our gift to the new King and Queen.”

In preparation for the event, Flowers from the Farm members teamed up to relay buckets of freshly cut flowers and foliage to local collection hubs manned by volunteers. From the hubs, the flowers travelled to the Gloucestershire flower farm of Jo Wright and Wendy Paul, Co-Chairs of Flowers from the Farm. Here, the flowers were sorted and prepared for their journey to Westminster Abbey where they were arranged by Shane and his team.

Jo Wright, Flowers from the Farm Co-Chair, says: “We are delighted and honoured to be involved in this historic event, which places British flowers and small-scale growers centre stage. It has been a pleasure collaborating with Shane Connolly on the design and with Flowers from the Farm members from all corners of the UK to showcase the beauty and rich diversity of this season’s crops.”

The Coronation marks a landmark moment for the global flower farming movement. It demonstrates that local, seasonal flowers deserve to be seen at state occasions just as much as they do in bridal bouquets, funeral tributes or vases in the home.

Gill Hodgson, founder and now Honorary President of Flowers from the Farm says: “It feels as though flower farming has come of age and I could not be prouder of Flowers from the Farm. A decade ago, we were told that our flowers were just for bunting and jam jars, so to see them in Westminster Abbey designed by Shane Connolly, an internationally acclaimed floral designer, will be a very special moment. We have spent weeks planning and imagining our flowers in the very formal historic setting. It is incredible to think that the flowers that were just a few days ago growing in my field in Yorkshire are now going to be on display to the world in a building of national importance on such a momentous occasion.”

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