The Kirstenbosch exhibit at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, which showcases South Africa’s rich natural biodiversity and includes a portrait of Nelson Mandela made of proteas, has received a Silver-Gilt Medal and a visit from the Queen.
Meeting the Queen is something that every exhibitor at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show (CFS) hopes for. For Lihle Dlamini, Marketing and Communications Director of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Alan Demby, Chairman of the South African Gold Coin Exchange and major sponsor of The SANBI Kirstenbosch – South Africa exhibit, the dream came true when Queen Elizabeth ll made her traditional tour of the Chelsea Flower Show. Presenting her with a gold medallion minted in honour of the late Nelson Mandela was a high moment for both Dlamini and Demby.
Prior to the show, SANBI had sent a letter to the Queen inviting her to visit the South African exhibit. Honouring the invitation, her first stop on her CFS tour was their stand when the team presented her with this commemorative medallion.
This year the exhibit was awarded a Silver Gilt medal, notching up yet another medal in 39 years of exhibiting. The exhibit, ‘In Harmony with Nature’, had already attracted much interest from media, celebrities and the royal family at Monday’s preview.
Being awarded the Silver Gilt Medal was a welcome 21st birthday ‘gift‘for the two designers, David Davidson and Ray Hudson, who have been creating these unusual and innovative displays for that number of years.
The 10m by 10m structure, which features dioramas of four different habitats, shows our rich biodiversity. South Africa occupies only 0.8% of the world’s land area yet is home to nearly 3% of the world’s plants and approximately 7% of its reptiles, birds and mammals. This makes South Africa the third most biodiverse country in the world (following Indonesia and Brazil).
The stand also features a tribute to Nelson Mandela with a pixel-portrait on a stone memorial wall made of dry protea flower head rosettes in a palette of eight natural colours.
Dr Tanya Abrahamse, CEO of SANBI was very happy with the outcome. “Meet the Queen and being awarded a medal is a privilege. This opportunity to show the world our unique biodiversity and the harmony between nature and architecture is a source of great pride. The Tree Top walkway or “boomslang’ featured in the exhibit is a perfect example of how nature has inspired architecture and visitors to Kirstenbosch are now able to enjoy this new attraction. Our biodiversity is a national asset and the role that we have in its conservation is vital. Chelsea gives us the opportunity to highlight this and encourage many more visitors to the country and to enjoy our network of nine National Botanical Gardens.”
It is always a rush to finish the stand on Sunday before the judges’ visit on Monday to make their recommendations. Teamwork is the name of the game and led by SANBI’s Lihle Dlamini, as Project Coordinator on site, the tension is high.
Exhibiting at this ‘Olympics’ of flower shows is one of the major tourism opportunities to promote South Africa and its rich natural biodiversity and cultural heritage and, with more than 150 000 visitors to the show over the next four days (20 to 24 May) the South African stand is always a major attraction. This is the fourth year that the South African Gold Coin Exchange and Scoin shops have sponsored the exhibit.
With more than 550 exhibits the Chelsea Flower Show is a paradise of unusual displays from all over the world and competition is fierce. Being awarded a medal is the ultimate goal for all entrants. There is a rush by exhibitors to get into the show early on Tuesday morning to see what their stand has won and then it is over to the public to admire the winners and take inspiration from the magnificent horticultural displays.