‘Working as a floral judge at Floriade was a great experience’

Ilona Mars was one of the 40 volunteering industry professionals at work during Expo 2022 Floriade. Until 9 October 2022, she spent much of her time in Floriade’s Green House, judging hundreds of floral presentations from national and international participants vying for the top awards in the 13 alternating flower and plant competitions held throughout the six-month Expo. In the November 2022 edition of FloraCulture International Mars wrote the following column.

“I am 25 years old and represent the next generation of florists. Since completing an advanced national certificate in floristry, I have worked part-time at a high-end flower shop in my hometown Ommen, Netherlands. To make ends meet, I work as a teaching assistant. However, floristry is my passion, and this Spring, I set up my Ploon Floral Concepts business in Hellendoorn.

In 2021, I competed in the Netherlands’ Junior Floristry Competition. I was awarded the fifth position in a group of 11 enthusiastic finalists. The event organisers wished to connect us to top-class floral events so that we could gain hands-on experience.

One of the experiences on offer was to serve as a professional judge at this year’s Floriade in Almere. This was the perfect challenge because this was about judging tried and existing flowers, seeing exciting new varieties, and assessing them on exclusivity, uniformity, and application value within flower arranging.

The latter interested me more because it would allow me to use my expertise productively.

I served as a volunteer judge, presenting at five of Floriade’s Best in Green House Competitions. I joined forces with many other judges from different disciplines in the industry.

Teaming up with growers, wholesalers, breeders, and educators gave me great insights. It made me sometimes wonder how well the other partners upstream of the supply chain are aware of the florist’s needs and the end consumer.

The judging work at Floriade led to meaningful discussions for me about, for example, the proper maturity stage of cut flowers. Growers also were surprised and happy to hear my point of view.

When I looked at the different floral arrangements in preparation, I loved the beauty, but I was also attracted to the ‘flaws’ like a twisty stem and distorted flower head. I saw that not-so-picture-perfect flowers could also be great fun to work with in a floral display. Because, in the end, it is all about creating innovative arrangements that provide the wow factor among consumers.”

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