Almost 2,800 flowers and more than 400 fresh plants will be used to decorate the three venues where Pope Benedict XVI will be holding public engagements when he visits Malta next month.

Pride of place will be two flowery carpets, 26 metres long, that will lead the Pope all the way up to the tribune on the Granaries in Floriana where he will celebrate Mass. And there are no prizes for guessing what colour the flowers will be.

"Yellow and white are natural choices for such an event given they are the colours of the Pope's flag," floral designer Alistair Fenech, 31, says.

He feels privileged to have been chosen as the florist for the Pope's visit and insists it is a challenge in terms of volume - with so many flowers - and importance.

It is the weather that weighed heavily on the choice of flowers since the three locations are open-air venues.

Apart from the Granaries, the Pope will also have a meeting for young people at the Valletta Waterfront and another event with children in Rabat when he visits St Paul's grotto.

"The weather is a big unknown in the equation and so we had to choose flowers and plants that are durable. It may be a hot day, rainy or windy, so our choice had to factor in these variables," Mr Fenech explains, insisting the beauty of the flowers when put next to each other was another consideration.

Yellow roses and carnations will feature in the floral bouquets but so will gerberas, eremurus, alstromelia, lilliums and tulips on a backdrop of monstera leaves. Most of the flowers were imported from the Netherlands.

The yellow and white will be punctuated by green plants ranging from ferns to sansaveria.

The logistics are intricate and Mr Fenech estimates it will take two full days to get the arrangements in place and work will probably continue throughout the night between Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18.

"I am doing this with two other experienced florists, Rita Testaferrata Bonici and Connie Scerri. However, in the run-up to the Pope's visit we will have a team of 20 people to transport the flowers and eventually put them in place," he says.

And with hay fever season in full swing is this issue something to contend with?

"The venues are open-air and allergies were never an issue," he adds with a smile, saying flowers will not get into the line of sight of the congregation gathered at the venues and television viewers.

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