Harley Young attends the Interflora World Cup 2023 Finals at Manchester Central

Last weekend, florists and flower fans came together for the world’s biggest floristry competition. Held every four-to-six years, the Interflora World Cup gathers the best floral artists on the planet under one roof to battle it out and win the champion title and a £15,000 cash prize. 

Organised by delivery network Interflora, renowned flower transporters with a colossal 58,000 flower shops in 140 countries, the Interflora World Cup was born in 1972 and has continued to make history ever since.

This year’s edition was also the first time that the World Cup opened up to the public

Typically, the competition is held in capital cities across the world. But, this year, Manchester’s Central Convention Centre was where the top 20 florists called home for the weekend, going head-to-head with nail-biting challenges designed to push them to their limits when it comes to weaving and pruning the ultimate floral sculpture. 

This year’s edition was also the first time that the World Cup opened up to the public, allowing flora fanatics to join in the excitement, whether they worked in the floristry industry (or just wished they did).

We were lucky enough to be invited to both the opening day (Thursday 7 September) and also the gripping finale on Saturday 11.

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Spectacular floral sculptures Image: Interflora World Cup 2023
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UK entrant, Elizabeth Newcombe Image: Interflora World Cup 2023

Following a successful first day, we hung around for the press celebration to learn more about the hard work that had gone into organising the heats. After enjoying a glorious cocktail, using gin specially distilled for the occasion by the team behind Manchester Gin, I caught up with Interflora’s director of florist services Nick Priest. 

“Today has been everything I dreamed of,” beamed Nick, adding, “Four years ago, we sat down and drew up a plan of how we would like to deliver the World Cup and here we are today. If I’d pulled out that piece of paper from four years ago, this is exactly what we’ve delivered. I’m absolutely overjoyed.” 

As well as being prepared for a busy weekend of intense competition from some of the world’s best florists, Nick was looking forward to the ‘social occasion’ and described the event as ‘an incredible day out’ full of colour and vibrancy.

I also managed to grab a few minutes with this year’s co-host and previous Interflora World Cup Champion, Per Benjamin, who was in high spirits about the next few days ahead. Per won the Interflora World Cup back in 2002 and has gone on to write his own floristry books and become a florist coach. 

This year’s theme, ‘Our Natural World’, focused on being kind to our environment and showcased a range of sustainably-crafted floral art. A group of UK college students competed against each other, designing their own interpretation of the Manchester worker bee made entirely from flowers. Each creation was beautiful and paid homage to the city.

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Per on stage Image: Interflora World Cup 2023

Artisan market stalls sat at either side of the convention centre, featuring handcrafted gifts and trinkets; everything from scented candles to ginger root extract drinks and flower-themed decor. Throughout the weekend, The Royal Northern College of Music took to the bandstand to perform a selection of their favourite medleys.

Guests were encouraged to add a special 'random act of kindness' message to a flower wall and share a photo of it on social media with the potential of winning a bouquet sent directly to a person of their choice on behalf of Interflora.

Ticket holders also had access to the ‘Inspiration Zone’, an area designed to help budding florists flourish with exclusive presentations and talks from some of the floral and agricultural world’s most respected artists including Lee Burkill, known as ‘The Garden Ninja’.

For an additional price, guests could book onto classes held in the ‘Creative Zone’. Here, they could get their hands dirty and have a go at making a variety of flower-based things including fascinators, corsages and floral arrangements.

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Vietnam entrant, Thanh Tran Image: Interflora World Cup 2023

Described as ‘the Olympics crossed with the Chelsea Flower Show with added drama’, florists were on hand with an arsenal of petals and pruning tools to show off their imaginative skills. 

The competition ran as a series of heats, all leading up to the grand final on the evening of Saturday 9 September where new reigning champion, Nicolaus Peters from Germany, was crowned top dog. Peters was closely followed by Norwegian runner up, Elisabeth Pålsson, and our UK entrant, Elizabeth Newcombe from The Botanical Company in Bramley, who took home third place.

The last task, which bagged Peters his first place award, saw finalists compete to create an arrangement that celebrated 100 years of connecting with nature. With over 600 people watching, including seven previous World Cup champions (one of which was Alan Nunn, the second ever winner who claimed the title back in 1974), the pressure was seriously on.

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UK entrant, Elizabeth Newcombe accepting her award Image: Interflora World Cup 2023

Throughout the competition, competitors were assessed on the four key aspects of good floral art; idea, colour, composition and technique, as well as how sustainable their designs were.

Upon winning first place, Peters said “I can’t believe I’ve won. It’s still sinking in. It’s an incredible achievement and I’m so proud and overwhelmed.”

Reflecting on an incredible three days, Nick Priest described Manchester as ‘a wonderful home for the Interflora World Cup’. 

“We’ve been delighted to welcome thousands of visitors from across the world who have enjoyed the incredible creativity from the elite of global floristry who are indisputably at the top of their game,” he said, continuing “We’re so delighted to crown Nicolaus as winner of the Interflora World Cup and wish him every future success.”

The contestant’s sustainable efforts don’t finish there. None of the flowers used to create the elaborate displays went to waste as they were donated to Manchester’s St Ann’s Hospice, where the flowers were sold to raise funds for the charity.

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An ecstatic Nicolaus Peters, winner of Interflora World Cup 2023 Image: Interflora World Cup 2023

Follow Harley Young on Twitter @Harley__Young

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