Great British Bake Off: Bishop's Stortford florist Elegant Stems produces stunning bouquets for the finalists
The finalists in this year's Great British Bake Off were presented with bouquets created by Bishop's Stortford mother and daughter florist team Elegant Stems.
Carla Zelezinski, who has run the Wickham Hall-based business for 15 years with mum Jan and celebrates her 40th birthday this week, said it was wonderful at last to reveal the secret of their involvement in the hugely popular Channel 4 TV show, which was filmed under quarantine at Down Hall Hotel, Hatfield Heath, in the summer.
Around 9.2 million viewers tuned in to the final on Tuesday evening (Nov 24), when the youngest ever winner was crowned. Peter Sawkins, 20, from Scotland, triumphed in the 11th series and received his Elegant Stems bouquet from judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood, as did runners-up Laura Adlington and Dave Friday.
Laura even commented on the flowers during the show and has since been in contact via Elegant Stems' social media sites to say how lovely her bouquet was and how it had lasted so long.
Carla said that their involvement marked a positive end to what had been a devastating year for the floristry industry.
"For us, it was so amazing to have something really positive because the bulk of our work is weddings, around 75 per cent, so we lost our entire summer season," she said.
"Coronavirus has had a huge impact on us and we had to pivot the business really quickly and offer more local deliveries and redo our website, so this was a really lovely experience. We felt very privileged to have been involved in something that was so top secret and is so popular."
It was a member of the production team, who hails from this area, who got in touch with the family-run business situated at Wickham Hall Business Park, off Hadham Road.
"She was a local girl, although the production company is based in Bristol, and by chance she used to work at Parklands in Quendon, where we used to do lots of weddings," said Carla. "She knew of us as she'd worked there as a waitress, so it was a bit of luck her knowing our work."
Their brief was to create a summer garden-style bouquet, but with the inclusion of a South African protea. They had to create three identical bouquets and avoided the use of plastic by wrapping each in hessian fabric.
"It was a lovely fit for us because our natural style is quite English garden and romantic vibes, which is in keeping with Bake Off. We took our own twist on it and included some English grown flowers as well as flowers from as many different places around the world as we could," said Carla.
"The flower growing industry has had such a dreadful time during the pandemic. It was destroyed during that first lockdown, with millions of pounds worth of flowers lost, so we felt we had a responsibility to the flower industry beyond just buying British. It was important that we did our bit for those people around the world for whom the virus has had a bigger impact."
Carla said they had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and everything was "very hush hush" during July filming and the subsequent running of the show.
"We weren't allowed to say anything and weren't allowed near the marquee when we delivered them," she said. "We were escorted there after being met at the gates of Down Hall, but we got to see the marquee!"