Say Bonfire night with flowers?

Bonfire Night is upon us and it’s one of the busiest nights of the year for us pyros. I get to spend the best part of a week working knee-deep in mud and living out of a van. However, for the discerning pyrotechnician, creating a fireworks display is a real science-art mash-up in which the night sky becomes our canvas.

We use science to entertain huge crowds. We fire colours and effects in different parts of the sky and at various heights. We use a range of effects and pace to create a contrasting and stunning sequences. As a scientist and a performer, I love all this. I love the fact that I can be creative by using some pretty fundamental bits of science.

So with this in mind, when I was approached by Interflora to help create a world first – a fireworks display made from real flowers… well, you would, wouldn’t you?

Sounds crazy? Actually, there are some very logical links. Firstly, creating a firework display is not dissimilar to arranging a spray of flowers.The way a florist balances colours and creates patterns in the bouquet.

Multi-coloured peony aerial shells.

In fact, several firework arrangements are known as bouquets. And it’s not without coincidence that there has long been a historic connection between fireworks and flowers with many of our most popular aerial effects, such as peony, dahlia and chrysanthemum, also being the names of everyday garden flowers.

The aim of the project was literally to turn history on its head, with flowers exploding to look like the fireworks that are named after them.

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The footage looks impressive, but in order to achieve what we wanted there were a number of questions we needed to answer. Firstly, we didn’t know if creating this display would even be possible; would the delicate petals burn, be scorched or shredded by the burst or lift charges? The rapid acceleration could damage them. And if they did survive the pyro, would the petals flutter or hang in the air long enough to look like a real firework display to the naked eye?

Petals are really delicate and so to achieve these results we couldn’t use anything too powerful. For example, a CO2 blaster or a “mine” effect could rip the petals apart.

With a bit of experimenting, a team of pyrotechnicians, lighting technicians, a camera crew and a super slow motion camera, we got there.

And in true Tosh-style, here’s the ‘making of’ video:

Exploding petals isn’t footage I’d ever seen before, but it worked! It looks cool and is most definitely a quirky take on the firework-flowers link. I hope you like it.

There’s more information about the project on the Interflora website.