What it feels like to ...

The Herald Magazine - - First Up - CLAIRE BISHOP SO­PHIE MCLEAN

IWAS brought up around flow­ers so I was al­ways a nat­u­ral with them. My mum made flo­ral art ev­ery year at the Royal High­land Show near Ed­in­burgh and I loved help­ing. The show was big for art, so there were lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties to get cre­ative. I loved mak­ing de­tailed minia­ture gar­dens the most.

My dad had his own busi­ness and I didn’t see him much but when he was home, we liked dig­ging in the gar­den. He liked growing beans and peas. I found it mag­i­cal that I could take food and eat it from the plants. The smell, fresh­ness and the fact we had grown them in our own gar­den was spe­cial.

My ad­vice is al­ways to give plants love be­cause it will show in their crop. I have my own green­house and grow chill­ies, rocket, let­tuce, peas and toma­toes. My fireman hus­band loves the hot chill­ies. There’s noth­ing nicer than hav­ing a bar­be­cue and cut­ting leaves I’ve grown from my own gar­den, know­ing that if I cut rocket, it will grow back. It’s also much cheaper than su­per­mar­ket prices.

When I worked as a florist, I loved pick­ing flow­ers from the Dutch vans ar­riv­ing at the shop in the morn­ing. I re­mem­ber three of the most beau­ti­ful roses ar­riv­ing. It was the smell of the freshly cut flow­ers that I liked most: there’s no bet­ter smell than that. Peo­ple would al­ways comment on how good I smelled; I miss work­ing with them.

Plants are very in­tri­cate and they change sea­son­ally, so I was never do­ing the same thing and never got bored.

I started my own busi­ness, which re­ally took off. I ran it for 12 years, but it grew so much that I ended up fo­cus­ing on ac­counts and didn’t even get my hands on the flow­ers. I sold it on to an em­ployee and worked in re­tail as a vis­ual mer­chan­diser dress­ing win­dows and cre­at­ing dis­plays. It was all about mak­ing the most of the space they had. Then I ap­plied for a position at Dob­bies, where I got the op­por­tu­nity to be a vis­ual dis­play judge at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in Lon­don, which was my life­long dream.

The shows have dif­fer­ent themes ev­ery year, but spe­cific cri­te­ria must be met: fresh ma­te­rial must be

in­cor­po­rated, good use of space and no ar­ti­fi­cial prod­ucts. The show fo­cuses on suc­cu­lent liv­ing and how to plant for pur­pose by look­ing at ways to create more green space and make plants more ed­i­ble in cities. Tran­quil mind space is im­por­tant for peo­ple’s men­tal well­be­ing and keep­ing plants helps the bees to pol­li­nate more, which cleanses the air.

I’ll be judg­ing the RHS Hamp­ton Court Palace Flower Show this week as a panel leader and in­flu­encer. It’s the sec­ond big­gest show and sets the same cri­te­ria as the Chelsea show, ex­cept it’s a much larger site. Although I’ve done it be­fore, I still feel ner­vous.

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