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Floristry students exhibit at Floriade

Published: 14 Sep 2023

From pages to petals, Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) students will tell some of their favourite childhood stories in the form of flowers as part of a 10-day display in the Wonderland Spiegeltent at Floriade from 16 September 2023.

Alice in Wonderland, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar are among the childhood classics that have inspired eight CIT students as part of the Floriade display Storybook Flowers.

CIT student Maggie Phimphakayson, 30, had always wanted to study floristry, but was hesitant because she suffered bad Hay fever.

"But one night I just had an epiphany and said 'I'm doing it', and it has been the best decision," Maggie said. "I think I've acclimatised, though my classmates will tell you I still sneeze a lot in class.

"I used to study tourism, so it's so exciting to now be displaying at Floriade."

Maggie is focusing her display on Tinkerbell from Peter Pan.

"I'm creating a floral gown and a mystical land, there will be more than 200 flowers. We've also been encouraged to use different plant materials and be creative, so I've got a tree stump for a fairy house and fresh logs of mushrooms. There's 15 different plant-types."

Another CIT student, Tallulah Farrow, is building an interactive display around the genie's lamp from Aladdin and The Arabian Nights.

"The floral installation will be a cloud of flowers emerging from a genie's lamp," Tallulah said.

"It will also be an interactive display and be set up as a meditative space with pillows and candles. Visitors will have the chance to rub the lap and enter their three wishes via a QR code."

Tallulah was originally studying philosophy and anthropology as part of a US College tennis scholarship, returned home to Canberra during COVID and found her professional passion through plants and floristry.

"I wanted to try a different way of learning through TAFE and it's been fantastic," Tallulah said.

"During COVID people wanted to bring the outside in, so I started an indoor plant business, including installation and care. Adding floristry skills has inspired me even more."

CIT floristry teacher Narelle Phillips said Canberra's tourism festival Floriade was a highlight for students every year and a wonderful opportunity to showcase their new skills.

"Many of our students have spent years visiting Floriade and tell me they've been inspired to study our Certificate III course in floristry because of seeing our displays at Floriade," Narelle said.

"It's such a huge event and every year at CIT we try to do something different at Floriade that will challenge our students logistically and creatively. The students go through the full experience of creating a public floral display, including initial client meetings with Floriade organisers through to building their displays on site.

"This is a key assessment for them. They need to apply all the new techniques and skills they've learned. That also includes selecting the right plants, because these displays need to be rigorous and hardy enough to survive a 10-day display.

"With the Storybook Flowers they need to engage the public so viewers can immediately know what story they've interpreted."

Narelle said spring was an exciting time for CIT and its students, with 17 students recently touring Sydney for a two-day excursion.

"We visited the Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan, the Sydney Flower Market and prominent public displays in department stores and hotels. It's just a great chance for students to see where a career in floristry can take them.

Explore CIT's course and career options in floristry at