By Tara Longardner
Cape Town – Inspiration led South Africa to win its 34th gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in London.
While South Africa has been a contender in the show for 41 years, there has been no focus on the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve – until this year.
The garden sits between mountain and sea in the heart of the Cape Fynbos Region. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), in partnership with Kirstenbosch Gardens, chose the garden for its unique plant species.
“This is a place of such natural beauty and complex floral diversity for it to be recognised as perhaps the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspot,” said SANBI Chief Executive Tanya Abrahamse.
Among the protea cultivars and hybrids featured in the show was the marsh rose, a rare and beautiful endangered protea. Aloe dichotoma, kokerbooms and resurrection plants, known as bobejaansterts or black-stick lilies, were also featured.
Safe and timely transport was one of the biggest challenges SANBI faced.
Plants had arrived late or damaged in the past. This year, they were shipped overnight and passed customs smoothly, a factor Kirstenbosch events manager Sarah Struys said played a significant role in the win.
“The plants arrived in pristine condition, giving the designers, staff and volunteers plenty of time to put the display together with attention to every last detail,” she said.
Logistical planning for Chelsea starts almost immediately after the previous year’s show ends. Designers spend about six months planning the exhibit and the plants are carefully grown, chosen and packaged for the trip to London. Once they arrive, the team has only the weekend to create the display.
“By Sunday night, we know that we have done what we can and it is over to the judges to make their decision on Monday morning,” said David Davidson, who has designed the Chelsea display with Raymond Hudson for the past 23 years.
“We are kept on tenterhooks and away from our stand while the celebrities and Queen Elizabeth enjoy the show, so we only heard the happy news (Tuesday) this morning.”