living poinsettia dress

December 12th 2015, is International Poinsettia Day, celebrating this most expressive of Christmas plants via the Christmas Star website.

Funnily enough one thing I really do know about is poinsettias, having been plant buyer for the Hillier Garden Centre Group for 27 years I was the person responsible for finding the best poinsettias, working out how many we needed, getting them into store and then back to the customers home without mishap and making sure we sold everything we had bought.

So when I left Hillier this summer I thought my poinsettia days were over, But a quick call from PR guru Liz Anderson and I found myself back in the middle of the most fabulous poinsettia nursery, Hills Brothers, in the wilds of Chichester earlier this month.

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Using poinsettias as cut flowers is easy but they need very specific preparation to stop the sap from running. Once cut dip the end of the stem and any leaf nodes where you have taken leaves off into water at 60 degrees for 20 seconds then put them into cold water. This worked brilliantly and we started working on cutting more than 300 flowers (or more correctly bracts) that we needed. These flowers, properly conditioned and then put into water can last up to two weeks. 

We had the pick of poinsettia plants from nurseries in the UK and Jess created an ombre effect dress starting with rich red at the bottom and working through every shade to cream at the top of the bodice. Tara, our model was enormously patient, as the dress was built up around her, and in some cases on her. Once the majority of flowers had been glued using endless tubes of Oasis Floral Glue we needed to get Tara into position. Okishima and Simmonds had invisaged their haute couture dress emerging from a sea of red poinsettias. So a space was cleared, Tara slipped into the space and we then worked on building up flowers on the ground to meet the dress.

This involved lots of tricks of the eye and sleight of hand but eventually the dress was ready. Then photographer Julian Winslow started to work his magic.

This is the final image of the dress. I think it really lives up to the original visual!

Thank you so much to all the team for asking me to help, it was a fabulous day and such great experience. There was even an extra flowery perk for me - which I can't tell you about until next week - so watch out for my next post!

Pip