Fleurs de Villes comes to Edinburgh's St James Quarter: we speak to the florists rendering Marilyn Monroe and Mary Queen of Scots in blooms

This free 10 day public event runs from June 24 until July 3 note-0

If you currently need a bouquet made up, you might find that Edinburgh’s florists are a little preoccupied. That’s because Fleurs de Villes are coming to St James Quarter on June 24 - exactly one year since this destination opened - until July 3, with their FEMMES exhibition of floral mannequins that celebrate iconic women.

For this all-female Vancouver-based company’s first Scottish show, it commissioned the capital’s florists to recreate, among many others, scented effigies of Annie Lennox and Rose Lucinda Ayling-Ellis, which will be on display in the Galleria area. Over the course of the 10 days, there will also be a pop-up flower market, and a Jardin area that will host floral workshops and talks.

We spoke to a few of the brave participants, who have accepted the challenge to make what is essentially a human-sized bouquet.

Jane Austen Pic: By Veronica Photography

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Marie Bailey of Ollie & Ivy, who are creating Marilyn Monroe, www.ollieandivyflowers.com“I trained and worked in Paris with the internationally renowned floral designer Catherine Muller and started my career there. Returning to the UK at the start of the pandemic wasn't planned, but I decided to stay and set up Ollie & Ivy. Ollie is the dog and he was in Paris with me.Our style is French inspired and combines romance and sophistication with a feeling of the wild and rugged natural landscape of Scotland. Although we have a shop in Morningside, our primary focus is event floristry.We chose Marilyn as we wanted to take on an iconic femmes who oozed glamour and was somewhat misunderstood, in terms of her place as a female role model. Years ago, I attended a public lecture led by an academic expert who had undertaken a lot of research into her life and how she was portrayed in the media. She was a very complex individual and is perhaps not given enough credit for her role in the development of feminism.We’ve chosen to go with her iconic pink evening dress from her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She sings Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend in the outfit and it’s a key moment. It seemed a fitting choice among the luxury brands of the St James Quarter. We’ve started to design her outfit and have worked out which bits lend themselves to dried flowers or fresh. Floristry is all about problem solving. Working out the structure and water source is the tricky bit. The skirt is made out of chicken wire/mesh and there will be a hidden water source underneath. The mechanics of floristry are quite crude really – the key is to hiding it all. Often we use moss or agri-wool for the base, but it’s the frame that allows everything to stay in place.

It’s peony season right now, so, on the skirt, we’ll use some lovely big pink blooms that are very blousy and will open up during the exhibition. These are our killer stems, but you really are painting with flowers and need to make sure there are different shades to create depth and vibrancy. We’re looking to incorporate texture, form, shape and colour, as well as rhythm. So roses, snapdragon and scabiosa are likely to be featured too. The bodice and her long sleeved gloves will be made out of preserved rose petals and her hair - the most important part as it’s her defining look - made out of stipa. Taming blonde/bleached grasses into curls is the REALLY tricky part. Then of course there’s the diamonds. We aren’t allowed to use props, so we’ll use a choice of carefully selected delicate white flowers”.

Kayleigh McAllister of KDM Event Styling, creating The Lone Piper (Megan Beveridge), www.flowerwallsedinburgh.co.uk“We are absolutely delighted to be involved. My style is definitely wild, whimsical and forest-like but my team has varied styles which compliment each other.The Lone Piper was given to us by our sponsor The Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It’s certainly going to be a challenge but who can turn that down? The mechanics alone are certainly involving a lot of planning to ensure the flowers stay fresh for 10 days in the height of Scottish summer. In the design that was given to us, she is wearing the full military tattoo plaid kilt with bagpipes. Kerry, our florist manager, has been busy drawing up each segment and testing sample florals.There most definitely has to be thistles involved, possibly in every colour they grow naturally”.Bryony Quate, of floral event and design company Quate & Co, Edinburgh, creating a Mary Queen of Scots tribute, Instagram @quateandco“We are so privileged that Fleurs de Villes approached us and invited us to take part in the most exclusive floral extravaganza. Sharing the love of flowers is our forte.We have our very own floral queen in director Vivien Quate and our team working extremely hard behind the scenes to perfect this sensational project with an array of flamboyant florals. She will truly be a showstopper.Our image brief is a Renaissance queen wearing a lavish embroidered gown with corseted waist, ruffled neck collar and heart shaped headdress, beautifully finished with a delicate lace veil. We are in full design and prep mode, carefully selecting specific florals for longevity to create the detailed illustration provided by Fleurs de Villes. Structural mechanics are underway so there will be graceful fluidity to the overall shape.We will create our project using locally sourced fresh flowers and foliage, which needs to stay fresh for the full 10 day exhibition. Our extreme focus is on our water sources, and tactical structure to enable it to bloom beautifully for the duration. We aim to use colourful and fragrant florals in our Mary Queen of Scots colour palette. These include orchids, roses, peonies, hydrangea and anthurium, as well as dried flowers”.

Grace Kelly Pic: By Veronica Photography

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Frida Kahlo Pic: By Veronica Photography
Kerry and Kayleigh McAllister outside KDM
Marie Bailey and Ollie Photograph: © Hannah Houston Photography. All Rights Reserved. Please contact [email protected] or 07789 173481 to license any image