Extraordinary Voyages

Willow wins Gold and People's Champion for her Chelsea in Bloom floral installation for Ralph Lauren. She shares what it was like behind the scenes, how she transformed a shop into a train, and why you can never have enough gypsophila!

Willow Crossley and Angus Buchanan outside their floral installation for The World of Ralph Lauren store, Sloane Square.

Willow Crossley and Buchanan Studio teamed up with Ralph Lauren to create an immersive floral installation for this year's Chelsea in Bloom, the annual floral art show that accompanies the Chelsea Flower Show. The theme for 2021 was ‘Extraordinary Voyages’, inspired by ‘Around the world in 80 days,' designed to evoke the spirit of optimism, adventure and the golden age of travel.

Willow and Angus Buchanan transformed the Sloane Square Ralph Lauren store into an old fashioned train, racing through a dried grassy savannah, gypsophila smoke plumes billowing, with windows displaying the new autumn collection, adorned with wild grasses, exquisite florals and luscious greenery.

Willow and her team worked through the night to install the train, using no floral foam and finding more environmentally friendly techniques to put the installation together. The RHS judges were certainly impressed and awarded the display a GOLD, and the public also voted it their favourite, winning the People's Champion award.

This year's theme was 'Extraordinary Voyages.' How did you come up with the concept for your installation?

It took a while to settle on the train theme. We went around the houses for a while thinking about cars and motorbikes, Ralph loves cars and they were keen to incorporate them but after watching the film of Around the World in 80 days, which the theme was based on, I realised there were in fact no cars in the film. Or motorbikes! We played around with boats for a while and then fell in love with the train idea.

Ralph Lauren

How long does it take to prepare for an installation like this? Can you share where you sourced your flowers/grasses/foliage from?

It was about six months of planning. For the last month I couldn’t think of anything else, I was waking up every couple of hours in the night, freaking out about not having enough grass or gyp! For the past three months I've been picking grass from all over the country. My Dad and I went round lots of farms in Wales begging wild oats and barley from various farmers!

Willow with her brother Ned Corbett-Winder, his wife Sarah and baby Celeste
Willow with (L-R) her brother Ned Corbett-Winder, his wife Sarah and baby Celeste; her father, William Corbett-Winder; husband, Charlie Crossley; and her brother Tom Corbett-Winder.

What was it like to install? Any tricky bits?

By the time we got to the install night, we’d gone over every single aspect of it a million times so we were just really excited. Angus Buchanan was the one behind the brilliant set design and mechanics and we also had the best set builders from ‘Karmer'. There were a lot of us there on the night! We also had three of the Ralph Lauren team there throughout who were amazing and behind most of the props in the windows. We had a total dream team.

Tricky bits - we very nearly didn’t have enough gysophilia

Tricky bits - we very nearly didn’t have enough gysophilia. You always need more than you think. I didn’t factor in people trying to pick the grasses or creatures wanting to have a quick nap in them either!

Chelsea in Bloom is annual floral art show that accompanies the Chelsea Flower Show transforming the streets of Chelsea with floral displays. Produced by Cadogan in association with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), this annual competition has grown dramatically each year, with Chelsea’s best retailers, restaurants and hotels adorning themselves with creative designs to compete for the coveted awards.

The competition sees participants showcasing floral displays, each reflecting their own unique interpretation of the theme. The displays are judged by an expert panel and The People’s Champion Award is chosen by the public

Chelsea in Bloom 2021