Meet the 20 Talents Competing for the 2022 Sylvia Cup

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By Jill Brooke


For the 20 floral designers competing in the 53rd annual Sylvia Cup Design Competition at SAF Orlando 2022 — the Society of American Florists’ convention in Orlando, Florida, it will be both a challenge and honor.

“The whole competition is a surprise,” says Marlin Hargrove, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, chairperson of the Professional Floral Communicators-International (PFCI) Board of Trustees, which organizes the competition.

Armed with their tools, years of talents as well as stems provided by Certified American Grown and hardware from Smithers-Oasis, the designers will have two hours to create three mystery floral pieces.

Imagine the pressure! This is like the food bake-off contests but with beautiful blooms.

As SAF’s Sarah Sampson explained, “it could be a bouquet, a table centerpiece and a headpiece. Or it might be a party arrangement, a large foyer display and hand-held bouquet.” Another twist is the surprise theme that must be incorporated into each piece.

The grand prize winner receives $3,000 sponsored by Smithers-Oasis and complimentary registration to SAF’s 2023 convention.

This year’s contestants are coming to Orlando from across the country for the competition. Many are business owners and others work as lead designers. As Sampson shared, they are teachers, artists, gardeners, and exercise enthusiasts. Some are first time competitors, while others are regulars on the competition circuit. Some have placed at prior Sylvia Cup competitions.

Like athletes who compete in various arenas, some of these artists I got to meet at this year’s FTD competition during the AIFD conference such as  Sally Jablonski, Jenna Sleeman and Jenny Thomasson. So look forward to seeing them again as well as meeting new creative forces in the industry that bring consumers the pizazz that makes their homes and their events hum with beauty and a happy vibe.

Meet the contestants!

Alejandro Figueira, AIFD
Alejandro Figueira Floral Artistry, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Favorite Flower: All varieties of orchids. They are perfect, exotic, and elegant.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Line. For me it expresses the emotion of a floral composition.
Surprise Theme Dream: Abstract design


Anna Demetieva, CFD
Luxury Flowers Miami, Miami, FL
Favorite Flower: Aspidistra
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Grouping, petaling and sheltering
Surprise Theme Dream: Paradise garden
Hobbies: Making custom candles, cement vases and other décor.

Anahit Hakobyan, AIFD, EMC
Viva La Flora Designs, Ellicott City, MD
Favorite Flower: Simple white field daisy
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Using Gestalt in floral design
Surprise Theme Dream: Runway fashion
Hobbies: Dance, travel, hikes, exploring new foods, reading

Berma Solange Rubino
Beneva Flowers, Sarasota, FL
Favorite Flower: Rose Lily with Italian Ruscus. They blend very nicely together and provide a touch of sophistication.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Form and balance
Surprise Theme Dream: A contemporary floral design would allow for stunning architectural lines and showcase what is in at the moment.

Bob Tucker, AIFD, CEJ, FSMD
Miss Daisy’s Flowers and Gifts, Leesburg, FL
Favorite Flower: Orchids and tropical flowers lend themselves to unique and interesting designs.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Line is the one element that pulls you into the design and leads you into an incredible journey within the design.
Surprise Theme Dream: Hawaiian luau

Jaclyn Pline, CFD
The Skinny Vase, Raleigh, NC
Favorite Flower: Hands down, any kind of orchid, because they are sexy.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Color, simply because it is the first thing that attracts you to something. You can create such drama with color.
Surprise Theme Dream: Adding workout equipment such as resistance bands into a design. Hello movement!

Jenna Sleeman, AIFD, EMC
Infinite Gift, Miami, FL
Favorite Flower: I love exotic orchids and collect them in my garden. I love their longevity, symmetry, and colors.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Balance, because physically and visually all designs must be balanced to be in harmony.
Surprise Theme Dream: Dress a Cirque du Soleil performer

Jenny Thomasson, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, EMC
Jenny T Floristry, Dallas TX
Favorite Flower: Ornithogalum for its longevity, sturdiness and uniqueness.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Color, for its ability to translate emotion
Surprise Theme Dream: Design blindfolded

Jolene Powell, CFD, FSMD
Floral Expressions with Jolene, Elkton, VA
Favorite Flower: Peach roses! The color is a perfect blend for expressing friendship, care, sincerity, and gratitude.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Color. It makes the first impression.
Surprise Theme Dream: Create a wall quilt using flowers.
Hobbies: I’m a retired firefighter and paramedic, so I volunteer with the local fire department.

Kelsey Thompson, AIFD
Bloom Floral and Home Studio, Algona, Iowa
Favorite Flower: This is like choosing a favorite kid! I love the movement of Oncidium orchids.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: A story line evokes a lot of emotion.
Surprise Theme Dream: I love to cook, so something incorporating food or kitchen utensils.
Hobbies: Traveling with my husband and kids.

Kristi Berry, AIFD
Dahlia, Lexington, SC
Favorite Flower: 
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: 
Surprise Theme Dream: 
Flowers inspired by David Bowie
Hanging with my two cats and German Shepherd, Elvis. Traveling with my husband, Garrett. Any activity that involves being outdoors and laughing!

Michael Smith, AIFD, FDI, FSMD
Artistic Designs Unlimited, Marianna, FL
Favorite Flower: Dancing Lady Oncidium orchids. I love the bright yellow color and the movement they add to a design.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Line, because of how it directs the eye movement through a composition.
Surprise Theme Dream: Victorian

Olga Savchenko
Dragonfly Floristic, Cupertina, CA
Favorite Flower: Peonies, tulips and dahlias remind me of my home country Ukraine.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: I love textures and colors, negative space, and lines.
Surprise Theme Dream: Anything challenging!

Paula Davis
Blooms & Petals Flowers & Events, Lafayette, IN
Favorite Flower: The versatile rose
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Contrast
Surprise Theme Dream: Zodiac signs
Hobbies: I’m a fitness enthusiast, coach, and bodybuilder.

Ramona Paulino
Beneva Flowers, Sarasota, FL
Favorite Flower: Orchids because they are elegant and Monstera because they are exotic.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: All the elements are important because they are interdependent.
Surprise Theme Dream: Incorporating vases or ceramic containers
Hobbies: Painting furniture and arranging decorative elements in my home.

Sally Jablonski
Herbert E Berg Florist Inc., Worcester, MA
Favorite Flower: Sunflowers. My dad taught me to grow them.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Texture
Surprise Theme Dream: Interpreting a painting in an art museum.
Hobbies: Sewing, embroidery, gardening and reading.

Sam Prom-Chiem, AIFD
Floral Chateaux, Fallbrook, CA
Favorite Flower: I don’t have a favorite. I love them all — that is why I love my job.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Line because without it we don’t have direction or movement. Line creates a visual pathway for the eye through the composition.
Surprise Theme Dream: Lord of the Rings
Hobbies: I’m busy running an interior design business, a salon business and raising my three kids.

Sharon Ivey, AIFD, PFCI, GMF
Forty Years of Flowers, Mansfield, GA
Favorite Flower: Casa Blanca and Rose lilies.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Color. It determines and triggers emotions.
Surprise Theme Dream: “Dumpster Diving,” where you design using trash including packing materials, wood pieces and other old leftover materials.
Hobbies: Gardening, kayaking, fishing, digging ponds and enjoying time on our houseboat and with my grandson.

Shelly Huynh, AIFD
Orchid Dynasty, Salt Lake City, Utah
Favorite Flower: I’m an equal opportunity floral lover. I love all seasons and every flower.
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Line, because it is the beginning of all things
Surprise Theme Dream: Fashion, where you use anything from a headdress to a dress
Hobbies: I’m passionate about being an entrepreneur.

Steven Santos, AIFD
Galleria Farms, Boise, ID
Favorite Flower: Black Dahlia, the Arabian Night Variety
Key Floral Design Principle or Element: Balance and rhythm
Surprise Theme Dream: Start with a box of items and halfway through you have to switch with the designer to your right or left and work with what is left.
Hobbies: Paddleboarding, hiking and playing with my two dogs, Peter and Charlie

Look forward to sharing all the creative floral designs they produce next week for the convention.


Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD,  floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.