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Bella's Bouquets named among UK's best at British Florist Association awards for Sky remote and Rolls-Royce designs


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A top florist in Kent who has earned their reputation as a master of the unusual by creating whacky arrangements out of flowers has been named among one of the UK's best.

Natalie Rayfield has picked up the title as one of the country's top 10 retail florists of the year at the British Florist Association (BFA) awards in recognition for her designs which include a Rolls-Royce and a Sky TV remote.

Natalie Rayfield in her shop. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
Natalie Rayfield in her shop. Picture: Natalie Rayfield

The 35-year-old said: "I enjoy the unusual ones. I have got a reputation for the weird and wonderful."

In the four years that Bella's Bouquets, in High Street, Swanscombe has been open, Natalie has seen all sorts of creative designs come out of her shop which also includes many animal designs.

Natalie said the most challenging one she's created to date was a lion's head, as she wanted to get the texture and eyes right to prevent it looking like a teddy bear like she had seen on other designs.

She said: "It gave me two sleepless nights. I panicked and I have told the family I can do a lion's head. I was panicking. I would wake up with ideas of how to do it. It caused me the most stress.

"You have to think out of the box about how we can achieve what we can do. There is only so much we can do with flowers."

A lion's head arrangement for a funeral. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
A lion's head arrangement for a funeral. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
Her Rolls Royce with working headlights. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
Her Rolls Royce with working headlights. Picture: Natalie Rayfield

Funeral arrangements are her favourite projects to work on. Natalie added: "I never know what someone is going to ask me for.

"I find it more creative and I get to hear about the person and what they were like and that is when the unusual ones usually come in.

"It is the last thing that you can do for someone. It is a bit more sentimental."

The florist also works on arrangements for small weddings, table displays and classic bouquets but prefers custom designs.

Born and raised in Swanscombe, Natalie decided to open her shop in the area close to her grandparents, who she helps care for, and said many of her clients know her and her family as a result.

One of Natalie's designs. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
One of Natalie's designs. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
Gates of Heaven funeral arrangement. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
Gates of Heaven funeral arrangement. Picture: Natalie Rayfield

Natalie's journey to become one of the best in the county started seven years ago when she "fell into it" after helping her friend late one night.

The former data inputter for Medway Council fell in love with the creative form, went to night school to learn the trade and quit her office job to start her business at home before opening up the shop.

She is the only one who works in the shop so these unique displays take her one or two days to create, not including the mountains of preparation work involved beforehand.

To build her creations, Natalie uses blocks of oasis - a green sponge-like building block - that holds water to ensure the flowers last for one to two weeks.

The blocks can come pre-cut into shapes but if the design is unusual or challenging Natalie has to sculpt them herself and sometimes uses wooden structures to hold the displays in place.

From her home in St Hilda's Way, Gravesend, she also offers Christmas wreath-making workshops.

A wedding table arrangement. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
A wedding table arrangement. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
One of Natalie's designs. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
One of Natalie's designs. Picture: Natalie Rayfield

Natalie was nominated for the BFA awards without her knowledge and only found out about it after receiving an email asking her to submit evidence of her work.

She said: "To be nominated was a surprise and to make it into the top 10, I was astonished."

Natalie started screaming when she knew she had been shortlisted and now says she wants to win but admits she has some tough competition.

Natalie also offers Christmas wreath workshops. Picture: Natalie Rayfield
Natalie also offers Christmas wreath workshops. Picture: Natalie Rayfield

Her business is the only one from Kent nominated in the retail category.

The industry awards include other businesses from the county including Flowers by Beatrice in Sittingbourne for florist website of the year, Little Buds Peony Farm in Thurnham, near Maidstone for grower of the year and Southeast Sundries in Ashford for sundries supplier of the year.

The BFA awards look to recognise the best in the industry and the winners will be announced on October 30.

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