Cape Town – On Tuesday May 24, the 2016 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show opened in London.
By breakfast the news was out – the SANBI-Kirstenbosch team had won their 34th gold medal at this prestigious gardening event.
Known as the Olympics of gardening, the Chelsea Flower Show, a five-day event, draws over 160 000 visitors to the grounds of Chelsea’s Royal Hospital in London.
Designers of SANBI-Kirstenbosch’s 41st annual entry at Chelsea, David Davidson and Ray Hudson, took a new direction this year. Rather than broad biome themes, this year’s exhibit focussed on the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden – A Gateway to the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve World Heritage Site.
Located just an hour’s drive out of Cape Town, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is home to more than 1 880 plants species. Of these, 77 occur nowhere else on Earth.
Said SANBI chief executive Tanya Abrahamse at the launch of the exhibit model in April: “Our garden is in the area of Betty’s Bay, uniquely located within the renowned Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a place of such natural beauty and complex floral diversity to be recognised as perhaps the world’s greatest biodiversity hot-spot.”
SA exhibit at Chelsea
Exhibiting at Chelsea takes long-term dedication and planning. Designs are completed months before the show and plants carefully nurtured, collected and packaged for their journey north. On the weekend before the show starts, the hard work to build the exhibit begins.
Davidson and Hudson, together with a group of SANBI staff members and volunteers, worked to build the exhibit in the popular Great Pavilion.
The coveted Best in Show award was presented to The Telegraph Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon. The garden highlights the need for gardeners to adapt their gardens to their environment and futureproof them against climate change.
The best Fresh Garden was The Marble & Granite Centre – Antithesis of Sarcophagi designed by Martin Cook and Gary Breeze. Designer Sarah Eberle scooped the award for Best Artisan Garden for the Viking Cruises Mekong Garden. Clematis chiisanensis “Amber” was crowned the 2016 Plant of the Year, exhibited by Taylors Clematis.
Trends at Chelsea
Each year a number of trends stand out at Chelsea, either completely new or evolving from previous years.
Water wise designs
The need to efficiently use as little water as possible was once again highlighted in many of designs. With the right plant selection, a garden can be beautiful and sparkle with colour, even in areas where rainfall is limited.
The Royal Bank of Canada Garden was inspired by the dry Mediterranean pine habitat of Dibeen in Jordan. Another gold medal winner, the L’Occitane Garden, designed by James Basson, was inspired by the Provence region where very hot, dry summers are experienced.
Colour and flowers
Following on from last year, vibrant orange, copper and gold were again used in creative ways in the show gardens and coupled with shades of purple, mauve and lavender.
The “Princess Charlotte” chrysanthemum, a baby-pink flower with green-tipped leaves and a peach rose named in honour of children’s author Roald Dahl, by David Austin Roses, were launched at the event.
Go big with stone
Bold constructions of boulders and rough-hewn stone were popular in a number of the gardens. Stone for the Brewin Dolphin Garden, designed to highlight the plight of the threatened chalk streams in the south of England, was sourced from Bodmin Moor. Between 30 and 40 tons of stone were shipped in for Cleve West’s oak woodland-inspired M&G Garden 2016, recipient of a RHS gold medal.
Kay Montgomery, Independent HOME