It’s been touted as “Bake Off with plants” – but Netflix’s latest offering in The Big Flower Fight is so much more than that, say its hosts.
Switching out iced cakes for literal floral fancies, the eight-part series – a major unscripted competition format – sees 10 creative teams square off in a bid to create the most outlandishly beautiful flower installations.
Think enormous garden sculptures festooned with foliage; ten-foot-high hairy animals made out of thousands of grasses, and stunning couture creations set for Floral Fashion Week.
“There are some very, very keen people who produce these magnificent structures almost out of nothing, and very quickly,” muses Vic Reeves, who co-hosts proceedings alongside What We Do In The Shadows star Natasia Demetriou.
“It always astonishes me. On the first day, you go in and there’s nothing, and by the end of that day there’s something quite incredible happening.
“They’re so passionate about it and it’s great to see anyone with that amount of passion producing anything.”
“We see how [the contestants] contend with the briefs – and by the end of it they just get bigger and bigger and more complicated and difficult to do. It’s unbelievable.”
“Every now and then you get used to it and it’s like, ‘Oh they’re going to knock up something really impressive’,” Demetriou, 37, concurs. “Then you see them and you’re like, wow!”
But the stakes are certainly high, for failing to impress judge and florist to the stars, Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht, with a larger-than-life structure comes at a steep price: elimination.
With one pair voted off at the end of each episode, the remaining competitors are vying for the series win, which bestows the ultimate honour of designing a sculpture to be displayed in London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
So who are these contestants – and just how cut-throat does it get?
“There’s a good amount of gardeners who know all the flowers, but there’s quite a lot who are as naive as me,” teases Reeves, who was once an aeronautical engineer.
He describes his and Demetriou’s role as the conduit between the contestants and the audience.
“But they know how to make things look good from a sculptural point of view and there’s some great characters there.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show with this amount of big characters in one place. It’s not Gardeners’ World, it’s punk rock gardening,” the comedy great jokes.
“I was looking around yesterday and thinking, ‘A lot of the people here could be in bands’.
“It looks like a documentary about some rock and rollers instead of gardeners. It’s really good.”
“I don’t want to sound fake, but I genuinely love them,” attests Demetriou.
“You get to know them so well. They’re all amazing, and lovely, and funny, and different, and weird.”
As for the competitive edge, “They were all very friendly but there are elements where you’ll see people stealing other people’s plants – there was some underhand stuff happening now and then,” admits Reeves, whose real name is Jim Moir.
“On the whole, though, [the niceness] isn’t fake, I can testify to that,” Demetriou jumps in.
“But yeah, it’s a competition, and when it gets stressful in the last two hours, there was a lot of ‘borrowing’. But that just makes for good television.”
Another big tick for viewers is the show’s commitment to conservation, with participants encouraged to think about plants which give back to the environment – such as pollinating, insect-friendly species.
“That’s a big part of the brief, to be sustainable,” 61-year-old Reeves says simply.
“[Due to the pandemic measures] you can almost smell the ozone now – things have really cleaned up and wildlife is coming back into the garden, so it fits the way people are thinking as well.”
“It concerns everyone, what’s happening, so you want to do a show that pushes taking care of your environment and learning about nature and what it needs – as well as re-purposing things,” Demetriou adds.
“Also with all the plants and the flowers, every week if there were any that hadn’t been used or would potentially be left, a charity would pick them up and they would go to old people’s homes in the local area.”
Do they think the series is likely to inspire a whole new era of budding florists and the like, especially with so many of us currently at home?
“It’s the new era of arts and crafts,” says Reeves, who these days spends much of his time painting in his home studio.
“You don’t have to make giant sculptures, you can make small ones, but I just think it’s great that people are actually doing things,” notes the father of four.
“It must be quite easy for people to watch TV and drink, and I think a lot of people are, but having said that this might encourage people to do a bit more.”
“Hopefully, it will just inspire people to get creative,” Demetriou agrees. “Using your hands, making something, it really is so good for your brain. I’ve got a little balcony and a few little plants.
“I got really passionate about it last summer because it’s the first time I’ve had outdoor space,” she shares, of her own gardening credentials.
“We all love gardens, though, don’t we? Pruning our rose bush and chatting to the neighbours. It’s very British.
“And houseplants have become a gigantic business too haven’t they?” she asks.
“I think we’re all so achingly aware of the climate and sustainability and the ability to grow your own stuff is soothing for your soul when you’re so unbelievably anxious about everything else.”
“I do try and garden, with a degree of success,” says Reeves, who next hopes to have comedy film The Glove made – a project he’s been working on with comedy partner Bob Mortimer for the last decade.
“I’ve got a raised herb garden and that fails regularly, so this year I stuck some tomatoes, courgettes and beetroot in, and it bloomed! But other than that, I get a gardener in.
“But I think that works quite well for this show; my position in this is to be a viewer,” he finishes. “If I do get a plant’s name right, I get quite excited. Other than that, I just try and say something witty now and again.”
The Big Flower Fight is available on Netflix from Monday, May 18.
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