Intrigue Design’s Sarah Campbell and Jordan Marx talk about their struggles and strengths during the Netflix reality floral competition.
It’s been a decade since the last competitive floral design show made it to American television – the last being Logo TV channel’s The Arrangement. Many floral aficionados would argue that it’s been 10 years too long.
But Netflix has changed all that by bringing us The Big Flower Fight– an eight-part series set in the U.K. that pits 10 creative teams against one another to build larger-than-life floral installations. Hosted by comedians Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou, each episode features a unique challenge of epic botanical proportions, with the winning duo earning the honor of designing their own sculpture to be displayed in London’s world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
While many of the show’s creative pairings hail from various parts of Britain, there are a few American standouts – one none other than Intrigue Design’s Sarah Campbell and Jordan Marx.
Campbell, a renowned designer and master florist who has put her Annapolis, Md.-based wedding floral business on the map with her lush, larger-than-life designs and floral installations, says the show’s casting director found her on Instagram and reached out at the ideal time.
“Oddly enough, we needed some downtime and had intentionally taken a few months off,” Campbell said. “It was a miracle that we did because doing the show fit perfectly into that time frame.”
Marx, who is Campbell’s right hand at Intrigue and has worked with her behind the scenes, said she wanted to “do a feel-good piece of TV and team competition that’s both beautiful and visually inspiring.”
However, Marx shared, while Campbell is the floral mastermind, that’s not necessarily her own strong suit. “I told them [casting] that I wanted to come but that I didn’t know anything about flowers,” Marx explained. “I didn’t think they would be into it, but they loved the idea.”
Campbell said after the first challenge, the pair realized they were both way out of their comfort zone. “It kind of put us on an even playing field,” she said. You might think that Campbell – who is well known for her large, over-the-top floral bouquets and installations and even teaches traveling workshops on how to construct such pieces – would have a stem up on the competition.
However, she laughed, “I thought I did – until 15 minutes into the show,” adding that she was happy to have Marx with her. “She’s my analytical power. She was great at figuring out how many flowers and plants we would need.” Marx said her floral design inexperience actually became a blessing in disguise. “I have no prior knowledge of how we usually do things or how they’re supposed to be done,” she explained. “Instead, my brain immediately jumped to, ‘What’s the quickest, easiest way?’”
Campbell said Marx’s brainpower was definitely needed because, “Every one of the challenges was so hard.” Marx agreed, saying that being in a timed competitive setting was stressful. “Everything was very labor – and creatively – intensive, and we had to do them quickly. I kept saying, “Sarah, we don’t have enough time, we don’t have enough time!”
But this is where Campbell’s wedding design experience paid off. “I knew we were really OK. I just kept telling Jordan to trust that we can do this – because we can. Just keep working.” Campbell said her favorite part of the competition was the abundance of unusual flowers, plants and greens they got to work with. She said she’d used potted plants in floral design before but never built structures with them. “Every challenge was a surprise, so we didn’t know what we’d get to work with or the theme,” she said, adding that she fell in love with all of the different types of grasses as well as Heuchera, a very versatile type of potted plant. “It’s totally affected the way I look at plants and flowers now,” Marx said. “Normally I go to whatever is in bloom and succulents. But at the nursery recently, I discovered a whole section of grasses. And now I’m asking, ‘What color Heuchera do you have?’” she laughed.
When asked about some of the criticisms florists have made regarding the show, for example, that the level of actual floral design and proper techniques are lacking, Campbell had this to say: “To be truly successful, you have to know how to do a lot of different things – from a 60-foot flower wall to tiny elements in a boutonnière. There’s such a wide range of different types of floral design, and for someone to say their way is the right way, they are missing out.” Marx agreed. “It’s not just floral designers on this show – there are artists, fashion designers, plant specialists – somebody for everybody to take inspiration from,” she said. “And there’s not one section of this show that isn’t visually beautiful.” Campbell further pointed out that there’s a difference between education and entertainment. “You can reach billions of people through entertainment. You don’t see billions in a [floral] workshop,” she said. “And what a beautiful platform to share with others, some who may not know that floristry is a viable career path.”
Both Campbell and Marx said they really enjoyed working with the cast. “I hope the world gets to know these beautiful, creative individuals the way we did,” Campbell said. “These people are so special. They all came with good hearts and open minds,” Marx added. When asked if they would do it all over again, Marx said, “Absolutely! Book me a flight, I’m ready!”
Campbell said that seeing pictures of their designs recently brought it all back. “It was such a great experience,” she said. “Just mind blowing how large those pieces were.” Marx said that the pair was so busy working on every detail that her favorite moment was when they could walk away. “Being able to take a step back, turn around and say, ‘Wow, look at what we made!’ And then to say, ‘Wait, it’s actually really good,’” Marx laughed.
The Big Flower Fight premiered on May 18 on Netflix, and at publication time, the winner was still unknown.