By: Antonietta Culic for Fort Erie & Woodbine
TORONTO, October 20, 2020 – Mary Currie is a little bit of a perfectionist, but she has good reason to be. She has been in the floral industry for more than 37 years and even operates her own floral design school. In addition to creating unique floral designs for weddings and special events, she is also responsible for prestigious projects such as the floral blankets for OLG Canadian Triple Crown races.
Currie opened The Monarch Florists in 1983. The next year, she was approached by Darryl Wells Sr., a neighbour and close family friend, who asked if she would be interested in making the floral blankets for signature Woodbine stake races, such as the Queen’s Plate. Their previous supplier was using pins to attach the flowers to the blanket, which were not good at securing the flowers and would also prick the horses.
After a bit of trial and error, Currie’s sister came up with a method of attaching the flowers to the blanket that they have kept a secret to this day. They put together a sample product and have been the exclusive supplier for the floral stoles ever since.
Currie’s father was a graphic designer, and he created the patterns and templates for the blankets that she still uses today.
“Some people over the years have tried to change up the patterns, and we always comply, but they never turn out as good, especially if there is too much detail,” said Currie, who always goes back to her tried and true original designs.
Each blanket is seven and a half feet long by two feet wide. The backing is made of a special type of thick canvas, and the surface is covered with more than 1,000 chrysanthemum and daisy blooms. A double-faced satin ribbon borders the blanket, which is complete with a gold fringe on the ends.
Currie makes the blankets a few days in advance, and after 36 years, she said she feels like she can do them in her sleep. If all goes well one blanket will take approximately 4-5 hours to make, but she knows from experience that all does not always go according to plan.
“One year I didn’t have enough flowers because the blooms were too small. One year I ordered the flowers from a supplier that was closing his business, and the next day all the flowers were dead. One year my supplier gave all my flowers to the wrong flower shop. I never assume that I’m going to finish a product in a couple of hours, because a lot of things can go wrong,” she said.
Despite the occasional challenge, Currie has never failed to deliver a flawless blanket. “I always stress about making sure the final product is perfect. Even if nobody else notices the small details, I notice them, and I’m happier with the product when I do the best job possible.”
Currie will soon start working on the blanket for the Breeders’ Stakes, coming up at Woodbine on October 24. The event is the third jewel in the OLG Canadian Triple Crown, and this year is more important than ever. After winning the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine and the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, Mighty Heart has his heart set on becoming an OLG Canadian Triple Crown champion.
Over the years, many great horses have won a Canadian Triple Crown race and have worn one of Currie’s beautiful floral stoles, but only the truly legendary horses are adorned with all three.