Florists and biologists in Chelsea Flower Show drive

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IT must rank as one of the most bizarre collaborations in the history of floral art - the national branch of Scottish flower arrangers and marine biologists from Aberdeen University.

Marine scientists from a Scottish university, who search the sea bed for new drugs, have teamed up with Scotland’s top flower arrangers to help design one of the central displays at this year’s prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.

The Scottish branch of the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) have been chosen by the association to produce the organisation’s national entry at the show for the first time in 23 years.

And they have joined forces with academics at Aberdeen University’s Marine Biodiscovery Centre to assist them with their Jacques Cousteau-inspired display.

Entitled “Far Below the Sea Blooms,” the arrangement will attempt to replicate coral reefs and other underwater landscapes as part of their floral presentation.

Marcel Jaspars, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the centre, admitted: “Working at the university’s Marine Biodiscovery Centre takes us into some strange areas of work but this one was particularly unusual and intriguing.”

He explained: “We worked with the flower arrangement team to explain the work that we are doing at the university and also to explain the structure of coral reefs and describe the individual animals to ensure that their floral display was an accurate representation of a coral reef.

“We were also keen to convey the message that underpins the work we do at the university, which is that reefs are an excellent source of new drugs that can have huge health benefits for the human race.”

The completed design will be one of the biggest displays at this year’s event in Chelsea and will be on show in the Grand Pavilion.

Valerie Davidson, who is leading the team of crack Scottish floral artists, said: “Marcel and I share a love of Jacques Cousteau’s beautiful photographs but it took Marcel’s explanation of what the reef consists of and the wider issues around it to really put us on the right track.”

She continued: “The exhibit will take its cue from nature, where vibrant, bold, rainbow colours will juxtapose with subtle tones and tints as well as highlighting the iridescence of marine life.

“The exciting forms, textural and colour contrasts witnessed in marine life closely resemble much of the plant material the team will utilise in the exhibit. Sustainable, harvested, Orkney sea weed fertiliser is being used to propagate and grow on some of the plants being used.”

Ms Davidson added: “The exhibit underlines that sustainable harmony is key to our survival and through the display we’ll promote the fact that everyone has a responsibility to maintain this. The exhibit will feature many sustainable materials, such as seacell,a type of seaweed, and bamboo. Colouring of these fibres will be achieved by using vegetable dyes. We will also be using recycled oyster shell chick grit rather than aggregates.”

The plant material being used in the display is being sources from the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, the Logan Botanic Garden, and Threave Estate at Castle Douglas.