A creative Donegal woman has won a place as a finalist in an international floral design contest with a unique display – of weeds!
Cheryl Rock used the natural resources around her hometown of St. Johnston to create a stunning display that was one of 10 winners of the McQueens International Floral Design Competition.
Not only did she use wild-growing weeds, but Cheryl also brought the beauty of homegrown cabbage from Ballyholey Farm into her art.
The idea bloomed from Cheryl’s experience of the Covid-19 lockdown. Her daily walks with her mother in St Johnston led her to appreciate the rural wildlife within her 2km circle. She noticed the vibrant yellow Ragwort, also known as the ‘Stinking Willie’, growing all around and used at as the main feature of her wall installation.
The originality of the design clearly impressed the judges of the globally-renowned Mc Queens Flower School, who were on the lookout for budding florists for a four-week scholarship. As a finalist, Cheryl has been offered a discount on the course and is currently coming up with creative ideas to finance the rest.
Cheryl’s work as an art director complements her interest in floristry. As a filmmaker, actress and storyteller, she wanted to upskill in another creative field during lockdown. She saw the McQueens contest as the perfect opportunity to showcase her skills.
The shortlisted entry was built in the heritage barn of Dunmore Gardens in Carrigans, with the support of proprietor Amelia McFarland.
The installation reflects the wild colours of Donegal
She said: “I am always inspired by Donegal, I’ve looked at the fields my entire life. All I could see is yellow. I looked up the weed and found farmers can’t use it so I thought – how can I make that look good? These weeds found in abundance everywhere, they are invasive to some degree, so I thought what else can we do with them?”
“You can spend a lot of money on expensive floral designs, but you can always work well with the environment in front of you.”
Marty Hynes at the Pine Workshop in Lifford and Cheryl’s helpers Della and Eva also played a key part in making her dream design a reality.
Cheryl is looking forward to using more Irish resources such as bog cotton at a once-off workshop with McQueens Flower School Principal, Sophie Powell.
For now, she is sowing the seeds for another installation idea in an iconic location in Donegal. Watch this space.