College is getting ready for a £1m floral fantasia

The previous event at Chicheley Hall

The previous event at Chicheley Hall

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

THOUSANDS of flowers will be blooming both inside and out when an Oxford college hosts the city’s biggest cut flower show.

Lady Margaret Hall is set to be transformed with £1m-worth of flowers for Flowers@Oxford, a three-day show with displays, competitions and demonstrations.

Former Oxford resident and florist Judith Blacklock is the mastermind behind the event, which will see visitors marvel at 20,000 roses and gerbera.

She said: “In 2011 I had a similar event in Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire, and it was beautiful but isolated in the middle of nowhere so there was no passing trade.

“I have this great passion for Oxford, I went to St Clare’s College in Banbury Road, and I had the time of my life when I was there.

“It was like a revelation: Oxford is the perfect place. It’s beautiful, it’s in the centre of the country, it’s got good facilities for visitors and just the obvious location.”

As well as her school days, both of Mrs Blacklock’s children, Charles, 35, and Jane, 32, went to Oxford University.

Now 65-year-old Mrs Blacklock lives in London, but says she has always hoped to return to the city. She said: “The gardens at Lady Margaret Hall are amongst the best in Oxford. People don’t realise just how beautiful they are and how well-kept.”

Flowers@Oxford will run from Friday, August 22 to Sunday, August 24.

It will see the college’s chapel decorated with 1,000 blue Vanda orchids and 1,000 red roses, and its library decorated with rings of carnations.

Mrs Blacklock, who has appeared as a professional demonstrator at the Chelsea Flower Show, said: “The weekend is a celebration of the things you can do with cut flowers, the varieties available and the huge market we have got that is growing in the UK.

“People are not aware of what can be done with this industry.

“It will just be the most inviting and exciting ways with fresh flowers. It will be a visual feast for the eyes, it will be absolutely stunning.”

More people than ever are becoming interested in flower arranging and gardening.

Mrs Blacklock – who runs a floristry school – said: “Flowers are becoming more and more popular, and it’s without a doubt to do with the Mary Berry affect, the renaissance of traditional hobbies.

“People from all over the world come and I teach them very quick ways of learning about flowers but in a fun and comfortable environment.

“Lots of my students are people in their 20s and lots go and open their own businesses afterwards, and are very successful.”

She said: “You can lose yourself in flowers, no matter what’s going on. You can just forget yourself and enjoy the pleasure of nature.

“Gardening and flower-arranging are so closely intertwined. I love spending hours in my garden. Flowers just bring the house alive. It lifts the spirits.”


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