Bella’s Bouquets, Swanscombe and Gravesend florist, named one of the UK’s best at the British Florist Association Awards for Sky Remote Control and Rolls Royce designs

A leading florist in Kent has earned his reputation as a master of the unusual by creating wacky arrangements from flowers and has been named one of the UK’s best.

Natalie Rayfield won the title of one of the country’s top 10 retail florists of the year at the British Florist Association (BFA) awards in recognition of her designs which include a Rolls Royce and a Sky TV remote.

Natalie Rayfield in her shop. Photo: Natalie Rayfield

The 35-year-old said: “I appreciate the unusual. I have a reputation for being weird and wonderful.”

In the four years of Bella’s Bouquets opening in High Street, Swanscombe, Natalie has seen all kinds of creative designs come out of her shop which also includes plenty of animal designs.

Natalie said the hardest thing she’s created to date was a lion’s head as she wanted to get the correct texture and eyes to keep her from looking like a teddy bear like she had seen on d ‘other models.

She said: “It gave me two sleepless nights. I panicked and told the family I could do a lion’s face. I was panicking. I woke up with ideas on how to do it. This caused me the most stress.

“You have to think outside the box of how we can achieve what we can do. There is not much we can do with flowers.”

A lion's head for a funeral.  Photo: Natalie Rayfield
A lion’s head for a funeral. Photo: Natalie Rayfield
His Rolls Royce with working headlights.  Photo: Natalie Rayfield
His Rolls Royce with working headlights. Photo: Natalie Rayfield

Funeral arrangements are her favorite projects to work on and she said she looks forward to what’s next. Natalie added, “I never know what someone is going to ask me.

“I find it more creative and I hear about the person and what they looked like and that’s when unusual people usually come in.

“It’s the last thing you can do for someone. It’s a little more sentimental.”

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

Born and raised in Swanscombe, Natalie decided to open her shop in the area near her grandparents whom she helps care for and said many of her customers know her and her family.

One of Natalie's creations.  Photo: Natalie Rayfield
One of Natalie’s creations. Photo: Natalie Rayfield
Funeral arrangements at the gates of heaven.  Photo: Natalie Rayfield
Funeral arrangements at the gates of heaven. Photo: Natalie Rayfield

Natalie’s journey to be one of the best in the county began seven years ago when she “fell in” after helping her friend late at night.

The former data entry for Medway Council fell in love with the creative form, went to night school to learn the trade, and quit her desk job to start her home business before opening the store.

She’s the only one working in the store, so these unique displays take her a day or two to create without counting the mountains of prep work needed beforehand.

To build her designs, Natalie uses blocks of “oasis” – a green sponge resembling a building block – that retain water to ensure the flowers last one to two weeks.

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

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

A wedding table arrangement.  Photo: Natalie Rayfield
A wedding table arrangement. Photo: Natalie Rayfield
One of Natalie's creations.  Photo: Natalie Rayfield
One of Natalie’s creations. Photo: Natalie Rayfield

Natalie was nominated for the BFA Awards without her knowledge and only found out after receiving an email asking her to submit proof of her work.

She said: “It was a surprise to be nominated and to get into the top 10, I was amazed.”

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

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

Her company is the only one in Kent to be nominated in the retail category.

Industry awards include other county businesses including Flowers by Beatrice in Sittingbourne for Florist of the Year website, Little Buds Peony Farm in Thurnham, near Maidstone for Producer of the Year and Southeast Sundries in Ashford for Sundries Supplier of the Year.

The BFA Awards aim to recognize the best in the industry and the winners will be announced on October 30.

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