Summer broke into a damp and cloudy June evening on Tuesday at a
gala opening for Winchester Cathedral's "Symphony of Flowers".
Standing under an arcade of miniature daisies that led down the
nave to a breathtaking wildflower meadow, rippling in a cool breeze
that replicated the weather outside, the actress Patricia Routledge
congratulated the design team for enabling such humble flowers to
shine amid a display of traditional and contemporary floral
Elsewhere, 52 large-scale exhibits, created in two days by 300
flower arrangers from the Wessex and Jersey area of the National
Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS), interpret
musical genres or hymns, each in relation to their cathedral
surroundings. "Duet" by the Warsash and Forest Edge Flower Clubs,
is a portrayal of summer rain around the tomb of St Swithun, with
dozens of individual blooms suspended in light-reflecting glass
stem vases, and shimmering gauze ribbons.
"Procession" by the Hayling Flower Club, is a white linear ar-
rangement in the quire, suggesting the choir, candles, and organ
Sculptural and non-floral decorative elements feature in many of
the arrangements. In the north and south retroquires, "Sanctus",
"Jerusalem", and "You Raise Me Up" spring visual surprises, with
their surreal representations of trees and geometric forms. "All
Creatures Great and Small" by Winchester Cathedral's children's
workshops, features a natural woodland scene teeming with life in
the form of pipe-cleaner spiders and cotton-wool birds.
But there is much to please traditionalists, too. "Waltz" by the
NAFAS area chairman and two past presidents, is a trio of classic
floral pedestals in soft, pastel colours. The cathedral's own team
of flower arrangers, led by Helen McGarry, has created a festival
within a festival: a delectable English Garden around Jane Austen's
tomb, with a pale and bonneted mannequin at her writing, turned
modestly towards the wall.
The creative director, Angela Turner, a six-times Chelsea Gold
Medal winner, spoke of the challenge of responding to such an
imposing building, and letting the individual "personalities" of
the flowers speak in such a setting. The Dean, the Very Revd James
Atwell, went a step further: "The profusion of flowers enables this
stunning space to sing."
"Symphony of Flowers" is open until 16 June. Entry £10
(discounts available). For details, see www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk