Olympics watch: The florists to the Olympics know a little about winning, too

The Olympic winners were 67-year-old Margitta Schulz and 75-year-old June Strandberg. They beat 58 other competitors who were vying for the title of Florist to the Olympians. The two Vancouver-area florists pooled their resources and designed a bouquet that beat 58 competing florists.

They needed something grown locally and that reflected the color palette of the games -- blue and green. They couldn't include anything too allergenic (cedar was nixed), or too pointy (in case the bouquet is tossed), so the pussy willows that grow in abundance in the British Columbia area were eliminated.

Schulz and Strandberg designed green circular bouquets of hypericum berries, spider mums and broad-leaf foliage that includes leather-leaf fern, monkey grass and aspidistra leaves. They tied a blue ribbon at the top of the recycled paper handle.

The winning bouquet design met all the selection committee's criteria, but Strandberg says she believes that her staff sealed the deal. She teaches floral design to marginalized women recently released from prison, drug addicts, former sex-trade workers and women who are battered or at risk. For 13 years, Strandberg taught floral design in a women's maximum-security prison. Her staff comes from the ranks of her former students. To meet the quantity needed, she has hired women with physical and mental challenges to prep the flowers for her designers, who have to make 1,800 bouquets for the Olympics and Paralympics.