She quickly wiped away a bead of sweat that had collected on her brow, focused on placing the stemmed rose in precisely the right place. She only had 25 minutes left in the competition before she would have to step away from the mannequin and leave it to the judges.
It was her first floral competition, and it was nerve-wracking.
“It was stressful, and good and exciting. It was a mixed bag,” said Lisa Alary, owner of Fleur-de-Lise in St. Albert.
The accredited florist participated in the second annual Maple Leaf Cup, a national floral competition that drew 15 participants from across the country to the Edmonton Expo Centre on March 24.
“This year they did floral couture, so you design floral fashion on a mannequin, which is a really interesting concept,” she says.
The competition kicked off at 2 p.m. and the florists had three hours to pull their entire outfit together. They were also instructed to make a matching purse, given as a surprise challenge the day of the event.
In the end Alary wasn’t declared the winner, but she didn’t leave disappointed.
“(The winner) has actually been a mentor to me,” she explains. “So I thought if I can’t win myself, that’s the next best thing.”
She says the winner, Lea Romanowski from Calgary, has been a source of encouragement at times when she was ready to call it quits.
“It was more so the retail side and I wasn’t using my creativity as much. Things were becoming mechanical and I was pretty disheartened. She knew that from some of my posts on social media and she reached out to me and kind of reeled me back in,” she says.
Heather de Kok, organizer of the Maple Leaf Cup, says the creativity among the competitors was “outstanding.”
“Lisa did tremendous and she knocked it out of the park,” de Kok says. “Honestly I’m blown away by all their talent and Lisa is phenomenal.”
Alary opened her home-based business in January 2016, after 16 years of experience in the floral industry.
Prior to opening her own business she worked at Hole’s Greenhouses in St. Albert, where she still occasionally freelances.
“They had a really strong floral department, lots of opportunities to work with bigger clients and bigger events,” she says.
Alary is currently working on building up her brand, focusing on floral designs for events such as weddings and galas.
She says she hopes to take on regular corporate accounts and eventually get to a place where she’s travelling, judging and setting floral trends in the industry.
For now, Alary is setting her sights on the next event to take place in April where she’ll be designing floral fashion on a mannequin at Southgate Centre in Edmonton.
“It’s similar to the Maple Leaf Cup, but different enough that it’s going to be a challenge,” she explains. “We have more time to design the outfit but the outfit has to stay alive for five days.”
The event is being planned through Fleur de Ville, a travelling exhibition based out of Vancouver. This summer malls across Canada will feature mannequins dressed by florists as the exhibition travels across the country.