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    Budding florists get day in the sun in new reality series

    NEW YORK (AP) — They designed epic floral statements in limited time with some very intense judges, but the contestants on the new reality competition series “Full Bloom” did not wilt under pressure.

    Ten budding florists from around the United States compete in wildly creative floral design challenges on the eight-episode HBO Max series. It debuts Thursday on the streaming service.

    Contestants accept two themed challenges per episode — with the luxury of choosing from the best blooms — and spin flowers into art. The show lifts the curtain on the high-pressure world of floral design and what it takes to be successful. It’s not as easy as it may seem.

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    “It’s not just about who’s making the most beautiful bouquet. That is part of it. We all have to make beautiful things for our clients. But it is so much about the journey of being in the floral industry, which people just do not understand,” judge Elizabeth Cronin said.

    While it may appear that florists just “play with flowers,” she said, the work can and does lead to injuries, and the show reveals “the real deal of what it is to be a florist.”

    Cronin is one of the show’s three judges, along with Simon Lycett and Maurice Harris, all well-known in the floral design world and with some famous clients. Lycett has arranged flowers for England’s Queen Elizabeth II on occasions including weddings and parties; Cronin has created flowers for Lady Gaga and the Obamas; and Harris has worked with Beyonce.

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    The judges support and scrutinize the contestants’ creations, and their big personalities and chemistry contribute to the show.

    “What was extraordinary was the fact that virtually every single time we had to make some judgment calls and rank our fabulous florists, we would do that on our own, away from one another onto a sheet,” and yet nearly always agree, Lycett said. “It was purely the fact that there is this incredible energy and synergy between the three of us.”

    Challenges include replicating works of art, and managing the flowers at events and weddings. The judges also provide tips on styling and caring for flowers at home.

    “Whenever I’m overthinking anything, it’s just like, ‘Girl, calm down, keep it simple!’” Harris said, laughing. ”Even if you don’t have a lot of money, just like buy the prettiest thing … and just put it in a simple, small opening vase and it looks great.”

    Alternatively, get a “massive amount of something cheap, like baby’s breath or mums…. when you see it in mass and it’s loose and it’s easy, it’s really pretty,” he said.

    The end products don’t last long, but the show committed to giving parts of all the floral designs to people who might need a lift. In the first episode, producers surprised workers at a hospital with two large flower arrangements.

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