An East Durham florist has clinched a top award at the country's most famous flower show.
Rebecca Hough, a lecturer at East Durham College, rose to the challenge at the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 in London.
The 29-year-old beat the country's best 16 floral talents to be crowned this year’s RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year.
The Peterlee woman also won a gold medal at the show alongside her new title as the top florist in the UK.
Having previously qualified to compete at the show after winning a place at the regional heats, Rebecca travelled down to London alongside East Durham College floristry students, Allan Raby, 50, from Thornaby and Vicki Abbott, 26, from Hartlepool who also qualified at the regional heats.
The finalists were tasked with creating a floral throne designed for a spring wedding and Rebecca’s was made of driftwood, which she collected from local beaches.
More than 1,200 stems of flowers and over 200 plants adorned the throne, including roses, germini, dianthus, allium, tillandsia, succulents, ceropegia, chrysanthemums, ranunculus, craspedia and clematis.
Rebecca said: "To be honest, winning had never crossed my mind.
"I've watched that competition for years now, and the standard was always so high, I never imagined I'd be able to claim the top prize. When I had set my throne up and we left the show ground, I was happy with what I had produced and I was proud of it, and that is what mattered to me.
“Obviously you always hope for a medal, and I had my fingers crossed for a gold, but you never know - just to get a medal would have been great. When the results were to be announced, we all had to gather in the corner, and we were surrounded by cameras, so it was nerve racking just being there.
"Then when they announced my name, I couldn't quite believe it, I didn't really know what to do. It was just a blur to be honest. From the minute it was announced, there were people just queuing up to speak to me or take my photo. It was bizarre, but brilliant. I don't think it's quite sunk in yet."
While Rebecca clinched the top prize with an amazingly-designed throne, students Allan and Vicky also did themselves extremely proud with their designs.
Allan was awarded a bronze medal for his throne, while student Vicki, who has suffered in the past with severe anxiety, has done incredibly well to come from having no floristry experience to competing at the Chelsea Flower Show within nine months.
Rebecca said: “Allan and Vicky did amazingly well, just being there is a huge achievement. Not many people can say they are a Chelsea florist. Their pieces of work were unique, and showed great levels of creativity and craftsmanship and they should both be very proud of themselves, as I am of them.”
With over 100 students attending floristry courses across Level 1 to 3 at the college’s Houghall campus in the heart of Durham, floristry is rapidly becoming one of the college’s most popular course programmes.