Ribchester woman in finals of Chelsea Florist of Year contest

Sara Collinge
Sara Collinge

A RIBCHESTER florist is hoping to be first past the post with her latest floral creation.

Sara Collinge (48), of Flowers With Passion, has reached the prestigious finals of the Chelsea Florist of the Year title.

At next week’s RHS Chelsea Show, she is up against 15 top florists from throughout the UK who face the challenge of making a jockey “silk” out of flowers and plant materials.

“I’m overwhelmed, scared and excited all at the same time,” said a Sara, a freelance florist who lives in Church Street.

“I’ve only been training for four years. It was always my secret ambition to get to Chelsea one day, but I never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to be so soon!”

Sara will travelling to London next Wednesday and set up her display late that night, ready for judging early the next morning. The jockey silks will be on display in the grand floral marquee for the final three days of the show – Thursday to Saturday.

Sara said she has been entering competitions for the past three years. “Competitions make me think outside the box and try lots of different techniques to create something with a wow factor. However, this year’s brief for Chelsea is very daunting. A jockey shirt (known as a silk) is naturally very soft and lightweight. Trying to make one purely out of flower and plant material is going to challenge my creativity!,” she said.

To qualify for Chelsea, Sara took part in a British Florist Association hub meeting in Leeds in March. She came second, beating several previous Chelsea gold medallists. Normally only the heat winners from the hub meetings, held around the country, get as far as Chelsea, but Sara’s high score of 90 out of 100 was enough to see her through.

Last year she scooped two trophies at Southport Flower Show, as well as taking part in the North’s equivalent of Chelsea – the RHS Tatton Show.

Before starting her business, Flowers With Passion, Sara ran the award-winning children’s and gift shop Sara’s in Clitheroe for 20 and then opened the Carmen Rose Tearooms in Ribchester four years ago.

However, a year ago she sold the business to concentrate on her love of flowers and launch her new business.

She said: “I’m absolutely passionate about flowers, I seem to have spent half my life trying different things and although I’ve picked up numerous awards for my businesses nothing has ever meant quite so much as winning Southport last year and now getting through to Chelsea.

“I feel I’ve finally found my true vocation!” said a delighted Sara.