The Flower Team, known collectively as the ‘Flower Fairies’, consists of Sylvia Birtwisle, Sue Cobley, Pat Wilson and Tricia Wathen. It is their responsibility to ensure that fresh flowers appear by the side of the altar every week, excluding the periods of Lent and Advent. This usually means that each member of the team arranges flowers about ten times a year. Although Sylvia has had some limited training, Sue, Pat and Tricia are self-taught. The Flower Team also offer the service of providing wedding flowers for those getting married at St. Helens, with all proceeds helping to support the flower fund.
In a nutshell, the system works thus. Each year, a list of those who wish to donate to the church flowers is compiled by the team leader, Sylvia. This list consists of people who wish to commemorate a special event, so request flowers to be in Church on a certain Sunday. Sylvia is responsible for receiving and then distributing these monetary donations to the flower ladies. Sometimes, weeks do become vacant, for various reasons, in which case, Sylvia will pass this information on via the Church Magazine.
In conjunction with Sylvia and Sue, the ladies organise the weeks they will be available to arrange the flowers. The ‘flower week’ usually begins on a Wednesday, with the gathering together of the ‘greenery’ needed for the arrangement. This is usually sourced from their own gardens, friends’ gardens, local parks – with permission - or hedgerows. This greenery is then ‘conditioned’, which means that the lower foliage is removed and then soaked in water for at least three days, maybe longer for different types of foliage. The next part of the process, usually a couple of days later, is the purchasing and conditioning of the flowers.
When the designated arranger arrives at Church, usually on a Saturday morning, she is armed with all the greenery and flowers she requires for creating a pedestal arrangement. Once the bowl and mechanics have been organised, the pedestal put in place and floor protection organised, she is ready to begin. After the arrangement has been completed, it is placed by the side of the altar, for the enjoyment of everyone. The arranger is then responsible for maintaining that arrangement all week, as well as watering, dead-heading and finally, deconstructing the previous week’s arrangement.
At the festivals of Easter, Harvest and Christmas, when there are more arrangements in Church, the team is very lucky to be joined by another ‘Fairy’, Marjorie Jobber.
There is nothing mystical about flower arranging and newcomers often discover that they have a natural aptitude for the craft. Enthusiasm and a sense of humour overcome most difficulties, as far as flower arranging is concerned. The team are a friendly lot, approachable, like a good laugh – usually at themselves, and are happy to give guidance, if it is needed.
If you would like to join the ‘team’, then please contact Sylvia Birtwisle on 01606 42083.
If you don’t feel that you could commit to arranging several times a year, then why not come along to help at one festival? Helping doesn’t only mean flower arranging, it can mean making tea and clearing up – very much appreciated. Due to other commitments, Tricia is not available each Easter, so the team is always minus a ‘Fairy’ at this time.
The next time you look at the flower arrangements in Church, the ‘Flower Fairies’ hope you appreciate more fully the ‘behind the scenes’ work, whilst thanking God for the beauty of the flowers and foliage He has provided.