Australia’s ‘Circle of light’ competition draws inspiration from Covid-19

Flower crown by Katrina Ciechowski.

MT ANNAN, Australia: WildFlowers Australia (WFA), the national industry body focusing on the marketing and sales of cut flower and foliage products of Australian and closely related South African species for the floristry industry, is delighted to announce the winners of the its annual competition for student florists.

WFA has been hosting a national competition for student florists since 2008. Students training at Certificate III level enter the competition via their teachers, applying the practical design elements, principles and skills learned in class to produce an arrangement that explores our theme of the year. At least 75 per cent of the flowers and foliages used must be Australian and South African wildflowers. The competition encourages the students to explore the versatility and beauty of these wildflowers, learning their names and distinctive features and how to incorporate them into interesting floristry arrangements.


The competition’s themes over the years have explored romance and eternal love, a new baby, themed weddings and occasions, happy birthday, and specific events like the Rio Olympics in 2016 and ‘recovery’ from the challenges of the 2019 2020 drought and bushfires that impacted heavily on our wildflower industry.

Each entry includes design notes where the student describes their research into the suitability and style of the design to fit the theme and lists the components used, including sundries and plant materials, providing both the botanical and common names.

The notes must also describe the techniques used and discuss the importance of the forms, colours, textures and space. A research task is also set where students choose 3 Australian native and 2 South African flower or foliage products and describe their special features. Three high quality photos and an assessment from the teacher complete the entry.

2021 competition

The 2021 competition theme was ‘Circle of light’ and attracted a record level of interest, although the added pressure of lockdowns and on- line learning meant that several colleges could not take part. The task was to design and make a hair circlet, also known as a flower crown, drawing inspiration from the word ‘corona’ but looking for a deeper, positive, floral interpretation of the word.

Students rose skillfully to the challenge and took inspiration from a very diverse range of ideas and concepts, everything from honouring front line health workers to celebrating life after COVID, the circle or cycle of life, the sun and other astronomical themes and people who are a ‘circle of light’ to others.

The entries demonstrated remarkable flair and impressive confidence and ability in using Australian and South African flowers and foliage. Sponsorship from WFA industry partners funds the competition and provides attractive prizes for the winners.

Here are three of the winners…to showcase three very different interpretations.

First place: Katrina Ciechowski TAFE NSW Padstow campus, Sydney                   

Katrina’s wildflower crown represents the transformations of change, chaos and complications experienced during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 and 2021. It’s inspired by the impact of coronavirus restrictions on the arts industry, especially Australian artists in the entertainment industry. Her vision is to have an inspiring Australian artist wear this crown on stage.

The design is circular with asymmetric balance, the materials chosen to create a contrast of colour, texture and balance. The visual value of the design comes from the hairy and prickly textures of the Banksia, Waxflower, Oak-leaf Dryandra contrasting with the velvety and waxy textures of the Protea, Flannel Flower, Kangaroo Paw, Leucadendron, Eucalyptus Mallee and Yellow Flowering-gum.

Harmony is created by the repetition of colour using complimentary tints of pink and green from the Protea, Kangaroo Paw, Waxflower, Mallee, Acacia Wattle and Royal Hakea. The bright contrast of the Paper Daisy and Flannel flower creates dominance and focal point areas

Second place:   Kathryn Shaw   Pearsons School of Floristry, Sydney NSW

Flower crown by Kathryn Shaw Pearsons.

Kathryn explored an individual’s radiance, halo or aura. An aura is said to look like a luminous body of light/energy surrounding a person or a glow representing their health, personality and character traits, and can vary based on outside stresses. Although personal auras can vary in colour, white is considered the rarest and purest form of aura. Her design represents a halo depicting purity, hope, renewal. After the COVID 19 pandemic, everyone can have a renewed perspective on life and hope for the future.

She used soft materials and layering techniques to convey a softness or ‘glow’ which encapsulates a sense of movement (from the Flannel Flowers) which she lightly layered over the top of other materials to convey the ever-changing element of auras. She used a monochromatic colour scheme of white with hints of yellow. The design has symmetrical balance and is constructed using a full wired base.

Third place: Julia Zhu     Pearsons School of Floristry, Sydney NSW

Julia’s theme was ‘Flourish’. She sees planet Earth flourishing as a result of fewer human activities, and people are nourished from spending more quality time with family. Pollution and emissions went down across all countries during the lockdown; thankfully the earth finally got some time off to breathe and flourish with more green on our planet!

Flower crown by Julia Zhu Pearsons.

Julia’s design is also inspired by the nature of spiky wildflowers – they are sharp and solid in the tough environment of Australia; the grouping technique also brings softness and elegance by using sharp spear grass to create the curve. The fluffy Berzelia leaves bring a dramatic feel, representing the crazy external world happening around us at the moment. Her hair circlet is suitable to be worn to an event like our world famous Melbourne Cup horse race.

All entries in the competition, along with descriptions of the other winners’ design inspirations, can be found on our Facebook page –

Sincere thanks to the following competition sponsors: East Coast Wildflowers (main sponsor); Koch & Co. (gold): silver sponsors Helix Australia, the International Protea Association (IPA), Wildflower Industry Network of NSW Inc (WIN) and Wildflowers WA; bronze sponsors All Things Botanical, Flowers magazine, Premium Greens, Tesselaar Flowers and Wafex.

* Bettina (Gollnow) Herron and Del Thomas coordinate the competition for WildFlowers Australia.


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