Singaporean takes home a gold at Chelsea Flower Show

Mr Keith Lin and his lauded work, A Journey To Find Myself, which features bamboo stems wrapped with twine and covered in foliage and flowers in a riot of colours.
Mr Keith Lin and his lauded work, A Journey To Find Myself, which features bamboo stems wrapped with twine and covered in foliage and flowers in a riot of colours. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KEITH LIN

Keith Lin's debut entry of a 1m-tall sculptural spiral display picks up a gold medal in the Floral Arrangement Awards category

When deciding what to make for his debut floral arrangement at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, Mr Keith Lin looked to his life for inspiration.

The floral artist, who worked for seven years as a senior horticulture officer at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, tapped into his experiences when he was making the switch to a new job. Two years ago, he joined Living Decor, a creative studio that does landscaping and provides flower arrangements for weddings and events.

The result of his retrospective look at his life was a 1m-tall sculptural spiral display, made with bamboo stems wrapped with neatly bound twine and covered in foliage and flowers in a riot of colours.

The 31-year-old's work, which he named A Journey To Find Myself, wowed the judges in the Floral Arrangement Awards category and he was rewarded with a Gold medal. He was one of several gold medal winners. Other prize categories were Silver-Gilt, Silver and Bronze.

Mr Lin, who tried to enter the competition last year, but was not shortlisted, says he was not particularly focused on taking home a medal.

"Of course, I was hoping for an award, but you can't control what the judges like. So, I saw it as a chance to challenge myself and race against the clock to see what was the best I could come up with."

The annual flower and garden show is organised by Britain's Royal Horticultural Society on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London. This year's event was held from May 23 to 27.


Mr Keith Lin and his lauded work, A Journey To Find Myself, which features bamboo stems wrapped with twine and covered in foliage and flowers in a riot of colours. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KEITH LIN

Mr Lin's trip and floral arrangement, which cost a few thousand dollars, was sponsored by Mr Alan Tan, founder of Living Decor.

Mr Lin was on a tight schedule trying to set up the arrangement. The bamboo part of the structure, which is bent at various angles, was first assembled in Singapore. It was then dismantled, flown over for the show and rebuilt on site.

He also scoured the New Covent Garden Market - the largest wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower market in the United Kingdom - for blooms that he needed.

"There was always going to be some degree of surprise because I didn't know what flowers I could get.

"If something wasn't available, I had to think on the spot about what else would work and how it would change the colour combination."

He pulled off the complex look in just two days, with some help from Mr Tan, who travelled with him to London.

At its base, the arrangement starts with green and white flowers and leaves, to represent hopeful beginnings. That portion blends into a darker section that features flowers in brown, purple, dark blue and black hues, which was meant to symbolise the uncertainties in Mr Lin's life.

From the centre moving up to the top, he used a series of pink, orange, red and white flowers to express his "understanding and appreciation (that) life is filled with great joy and confidence".

More than 30 types of flower and leaves went into the display, including the Dahlia Cafe Au Lait, Scabiosa Marshmallow Scoop and Pulsatilla vulgaris seedpods.

Mr Lin says the display represents the ups and downs in his career. When he changed jobs, he was not sure if he had made the right decision.

Then when he took part in competitions - he has also competed in shows here and in Japan - and did not get as far as he wanted, self- doubt crept in. But he eventually learnt to enjoy the process.

The win at the Chelsea Flower Show is extra special as he is the first Singaporean in recent years to snag a gold award.

In 2013, high-society floral designer Harijanto Setiawan, a President's Design Award winner, was awarded the Silver-Gilt Flora prize in the Floral Arrangement Awards category. A year later, floral designer and founder of Fiore Dorato, Ms Brenda Lee-Monteiro, also won the same prize.

In the Show Gardens category, landscape designers John Tan and Raymond Toh of Esmond Landscape and Horticultural in Neo Tiew Crescent flew the Singapore flag by bringing home the Silver- Gilt award in 2015.

Mr Lin plans to participate in the Chelsea Flower Show again, though he will probably give next year's edition a miss to concentrate on the biennial Singapore Garden Festival. "Singapore is gaining a reputation for its high standard in the festival. I want to give my all for it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Local floral artist wins gold at Chelsea show'. Print Edition | Subscribe