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Summer goes indoors at Winchester Cathedral

14 June 2013

by Christine Smith


In bloom:above: "Pastorale", the wildflower meadow in the nave

In bloom:above: "Pastorale", the wildflower meadow in the nave

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 exhibits.

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 pipes.

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

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