28 February 2024

Behind the scenes at Salisbury Cathedral’s Festival of Flowers

Salisbury Cathedral’s Celebration: A Festival of Flowers begins tomorrow (10th May 2022), and today, over 450 flower arrangers have been preparing around 127 exhibits.

Featuring over 30,000 blooms, the 2022 Flower Festival celebrates a number of themes including the postponed 800th anniversary of the cathedral, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and celebrations of heritage, romance, inclusion and colour.

Take a look behind the scenes here:

The huge festival was designed by Michael Bowyer, the Creative Director of Flowers at Salisbury Cathedral and President of Salisbury Flower Club, Angela Turner, a professional florist who has been arranging and designing for over 25 years, and Pam Lewis, a National Demonstrator who has won gold at Chelsea Flower Show.

Speaking to Love Salisbury Micheal Bowyer said, “Flower festivals have been part of the Cathedral’s activities since they were first inaugurated in the 1970s.

“This festival was meant to happen in 2020 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Cathedral but COVID put a stop to that and here we are two years later. We have still kept some of the themes but it’s given us the opportunity to come up with something a bit new and different and really linked to the Queens Platinum Jubilee.”

Micheal Bowyer Creative Director of Flowers at Salisbury Cathedral

Micheal says that a flower festival of this size takes a minimum of two years to create and prepare.

“A lot of the early time is spent working out what we are going to do. It involves a lot of sitting in the cathedral and looking, talking and working things through until you come up with the final designs. Then, you have to ask people to come and help and hope that the number of volunteers you get matches the number of designs you need, and then you have to work out the flower orders for everything you see.”

One of the floral displays on show pays tribute to The Honourable Mary Morrison, a Lady in Waiting to Her Majesty The Queen.

“She is probably the Queen’s longest-standing lady in waiting and she lives near Tisbury so she is very local and is coming in to see the display before driving to the palace to do her duty.”

The displays are also largely inspired by a book by John Parkinson titled ‘Theatricum Botanicum’ which dates back to 1640. The book was discovered by Gill Pelton, a guide at Salisbury Cathedral and the chair of the Salisbury Flower Club, in the Cathedral’s library.

“John Parkinson was the Royal Botanist to Charles I and he was also herbalist and apothecary to James I. He became a very very successful man, and was very keen on plant collecting and plant hunting so he complied this book.

“I told Micheal, the floral director, that I had found this fabulous book and I had done one or two talks about it because I find it fascinating. It has inspired some of the exhibits here today and we have brought it out to showcase it and brings the library down here as well,” explained Gill.

Gill Pelton

The exhibits also celebrate the importance of plants in people’s lives, reminding viewers to take care of the environment, plants, and biodiversity around them.

“We have a whole series of things hanging in the cloisters that are all about recycling, repurposing, and giving new use to old items. You’ll find that one of the installations, full of bee-friendly flowers, is all in jam jars, and I mean hundreds of jam jars. You’ll also find things where we have the mechanics of wire netting, which goes right back to the 1950s when the flower movement first started.”

For Micheal, this kind of event is important to the city of Salisbury for two reasons.

“One is the visiting public, we want to give them a truly magical, special experience of coming around the cathedral, this beautiful beautiful building, while it is full of glorious scented flowers.

“There is also another side to it and that’s the 450 people that have put this together. For them, they might be arrangers in their little village church, they get the chance to come and work on something big scale. The festival involves community projects like the hearts which involve people in care homes and day centres.

“For us three as designers it’s a great privilege to be asked to come and design something in this cathedral and for all the flower arrangers, they give all their time and it’s just magical and I hope the public enjoys their visit.”

Tickets for Celebration: A Festival of Flowers are on sale via the Cathedral website.

Written by
Beth Doherty
View all articles
Written by Beth Doherty