After a long absence, Belgium reached the final at the European Floral Styling Championships and that is a cause for celebration. It is a result that Stefan Van Berlo is rightly proud of but has also given him sleepless nights. The pressure I felt was enormous,’ the tired but satisfied Belgian looks back on his fifth place. ‘Without penalty points, the top-3 would even have been possible.’
With names like Daniël Ost and Tomas De Bruyne, Belgium would be at the top if there was an all-time world ranking of floral design. In recent decades, our country still had several great talents, but breaking through at a European Championship level did not happen. Sören Van Laer achieved a ninth place at the penultimate edition (a wonderful result for his age), but the craving for more remained. There was euphoria and relief in the Belgian camp when Stefan Van Berlo was named among the six finalists, after an intense preliminary round with five tough tests against 15 florists from as many countries.
Before the European Championships, Stefan Van Berlo was hoping for a top-5 place, he told our website. Mission accomplished.
Congratulations on your top-5 place. How did you feel when they called your name for fifth place?
Stefan Van Berlo: ‘I was super happy to be on the podium with the last six. It was within the expectations after seeing the pieces made and the many positive reactions from the people, but with this kind of competition you never really know.’
How do you feel now that a day has gone by?
‘I am very happy. It has been years since Belgium finished so high on a European Cup. I am proud and I hope that I have been able to make the Belgian floral sector proud. Could I have placed higher without penalty points? Probably, but that is something we will take into account with the Belgian florist federation in the future for my successors. Training, double checking, that’s what’s needed for this kind of competition. It is not enough just to make a beautiful flower arrangement.’
I am very happy. It has been years since Belgium finished so high.’ — Stefan Van Berlo
What did you think when you heard that you were heading to the final?
‘That I was going to share the stage with some incredibly talented individuals and that it was great to receive that recognition after all these years of hard work.’
What do you think of the top three?
‘The top three are all professionals. Come to think of it, the top five are. Two of the three were also in my own personal top three. I’ll keep the names of those three to myself.’
How did the European Championship go for you? Did everything go according to plan, were there things that went wrong or was there room for improvement?
‘The pressure is enormous. As a result, I am also sleep deprived. Constantly worrying about whether it will be okay and whether everything will be ready in time, that’s a lot. It’s pretty heavy. As I said, penalty points have been handed out. Where and for what I incurred for them, I don’t know exactly. I’m still waiting for the papers and if you can get rid of those penalty points, a spot in the top three would even have been feasible. So yes, there is work to be done for our future candidates and I’m happy to help get that accomplished.’
What creation are you most proud of?
‘’Dancing in the rain’ (see photo above) was the most stressful assignment for me, so I was so happy that it had succeeded. I was also able to showcase some flowers from our Belgian growers that had not been seen throughout Europe. Lots of people were amazed. I like to thank Deroose Plants and De Wolf Plants. What I am also proud of is that I won the first surprise assignment and that I achieved third place with the second surprise assignment. On that challenge, all the florists compete on an equal playing field, no training, no budgets. So that’s where your skills as a florist come in handy.’
What is the story behind the beautiful table decoration and the ‘Dancing in the Rain’ piece?
‘The table decoration was created for a school reunion and inspired by the song “Million Eyes” by Loïc Nottet. When you read the lyrics of this issue, my hope is that you can see it translated into the table decoration. For the “Dancing in the rain” assignment, droplet shapes were made in holographic foil, on a dance floor of plants from swampy areas. For anyone who is interested, I will soon give more information about this on my social media.’
‘Reaching the final six in the finale was more than I could have hoped for.’ — Stefan Van Berlo
Left: The body decoration of Stefan Van Berlo – Middle: The European Championship bouquet of Stefan Van Berlo – Right: The first surprise assignment of Stefan Van Berlo.
Were you nervous in the final? You seemed quite relaxed during the first assignments.
‘I had the most stress during the first day. When that was over, it got better. Once I was in the final, I was already super happy and satisfied that I was there. Reaching the final six in the finale was more than I could have hoped for. Even on that final surprise assignment, I didn’t panic. I was able to stay calm and do my thing. There was that leaky vase I was given, that was a challenge. Even the plastic bag to put in it had holes. But fortunately I wasn’t the only one that had problems with that.’
Do you want to go to the World Cup now?
‘I don’t think so. The pressure of this match and the sleepless nights were enormous. The World Cup is also a Fleurop competition and Belgium has not sent a candidate for years. So only if there are big sponsors behind it who could support me and my team, then I might reconsider.’
What are your plans after the European Championships?
‘I do hope that there will be some nice jobs resulting from this, since I have profiled myself on the European map and even beyond. I even got a phone call from Israel congratulating me on my performance and that they thought that I should have won the competition. For the time being, I will be giving some lessons and do demonstrations for Deliflor Chrysanten and Féerie Florale in Dendermonde. Hopefully many more nice things will cross my path.’