Cape Town - It was celebration time when the City of Cape Town Parks Department exhibit won its second gold medal at the 38th Sunday Tribune Garden & Leisure Show held in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.


The theme for this year’s show was “Be Yourself”, and Cape Town invited visitors to its display to be themselves in the city – “whether you are an urban junky, a free spirit riding the waves, a hiker enjoying the outdoors, or quirky and playful”.

Chief judge and guest of honour for this year’s garden show was South Africa’s Mr Chelsea Flower Show, David Davidson.

On the judging panel, he was assisted by Mary-Jane Harris, editor of SA Garden & Home magazine; Lindsay Gray, of Lindsay Gray School of Garden Design; and JJ van Rensburg, Radio RSG, Garden World, Honeydew.

“South Africa has won 33 gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show,” Davidson said in his opening address at the show’s prestigious awards ceremony.

“But until this year, I had never seen a gold medal,” he laughed, holding one up to show the audience while explaining that he had been honoured with a personal gold medal by the Royal Horticultural Society in May to commemorate his 20th South African exhibit at Chelsea.

“Winning a gold medal at London’s Chelsea Flower Show only gives an exhibitor the right to buy a commemorative gold medal,” he continued. “But here in Pietermaritzburg, you actually receive a gold medal with every win.”

Later that night, the large gold medal presented to City Parks’s David Curran was hoisted for all to see in a team celebration on the deck of the Cape Town stand.

In informal feedback discussions with the Cape Town team, Davidson commented on how impressed all the judges had been with the world-class beach display within the exhibit.

“Very few people realise how incredibly difficult it is to create a beach scene in an exhibit. It is a great deal more difficult than a planted landscape. Your beach was absolutely superb,” he said.


The City of Cape Town exhibit was regarded as one of three outstanding keynote exhibits at the show, with the trophy for the Best on Show exhibit going to a spectacular garden sponsored by Weekend Argus sister title, the Sunday Tribune.

Designed by Gordon Stuart, the winning garden included a rectangular formal pond surrounded by a gravel walkway, with a raised border of white Iceberg roses underplanted with pink and blue flowering perennials.

The third outstanding garden at the show was an underwater sea theme created by the eThekwini Metro (Durban) Parks Department. The towering exhibit included a number of bird’s nest ferns, which were remarkably effective as anemones, as well as giant jellyfish hanging from the 6-metre-high rafters.

Dolphins created out of driftwood were fitted with misters that spouted intermittent bursts of water droplets from air holes.


The Cape Town exhibit to the Pietermaritzburg show was primarily designed to remind gardeners in the north and east of the country that Cape Town is a superb destination for domestic holidays.

Design concepts for the exhibit began in February, and the final design was a collaboration of ideas among the now experienced team. The exhibit was dominated by a 3mx3m wooden deck which lay at the centre, accessed by two large 1.5m-wide walkways.

Even more spectacular was the 22m backdrop banner which featured vistas taken by City of Cape Town chief photographer Bruce Sutherland. Between magnificent images of the mountain were superb shots of corners of the beach.

The gardens around the deck included a formal water feature surrounded by pansies and four pincushion cones, a beach scene, a wetland scene complete with white arums, as well as masses of proteas planted up around a rill that featured an extraordinary artwork of sculptured engineering.

At the entrance to the exhibit was a spectacular water wheel, which powered and drove a rendition of the Cape Town cable car.

Created and designed by Mark O’Donovan, of Odd Enjinears, based in Woodstock, the sculptures were shipped to KwaZulu-Natal for the show. A nine-person team was dedicated to build the exhibit, and included Parks Department members from Atlantis to Strand, Kraaifontein and Khayelitsha, according to team leader David Curran.

After arriving in KwaZulu-Natal, the team took six days to build the exhibit, which was then judged before the three-day show opened.

While the deck and artwork was trucked in from Cape Town, delicate perennials such as the pansies were sourced from local nurseries.

The Parks Department was also assisted by numerous local suppliers, such as Hopetown-based protea growers Arnelia, who freighted protea plants up to KwaZulu-Natal for the exhibit.


Modelled on the Chelsea Flower Show, Pietermaritzburg’s Garden & Leisure Show is regarded as a premier horticultural event in the southern hemisphere, which attracts more than 20 000 visitors annually.


In addition to the City of Cape Town exhibit, major feature gardens were created by teams from the parks departments of Tshwane (Pretoria), eThekwini (Durban), Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg), Mbombela (Nelspruit), Mogale City (Krugersdorp), Sol Plaatje (Kimberley), kwaDukuza (Stanger) and Upington.

Based annually at the Royal Agricultural Society show grounds, this year’s show included 70 designer gardens, 50 school gardens, and a hall filled with floral art representing clubs from across KwaZulu-Natal.

The country’s largest floral icing sugar display also included more than 70 floral arrangements, many of which were placed on large wedding cakes.

Intricate arrangements take up to nine months to complete, and are a labour of love for the country’s top sugar artists.



* Gardening is known to be beneficial to the health of older people, providing it doesn’t involve heavy or strenuous work. Tuesday marked International Day for Older Persons. One of the most common problems for the elderly is not being able to bend or get up easily, and the answer is to build raised beds.

Raised beds should be situated where they get at least six hours of sunshine a day, and have rounded edges, be a comfortable height, and allow easy access without stretching. An alternative to a solid raised bed is a flower box on legs or wheels. Because these boxes do not have much depth, they are best suited for growing shallow-rooted flowers and vegetables.

* Thursday is World Sight Day. For those with limited vision, colour in the garden can provide visual stimulus. Large blocks of brightly coloured flowers, such as canna cultivars, marigolds, petunias and red salvia can act as markers and beacons in the garden.

The sound of water is always welcome, and a raised bubble water fountain is safe for people with limited vision. Wind chimes, providing they are not intrusive, can add further sound and help the gardener with restricted vision orientate himself.

A sunny sheltered area where scents linger is especially appealing to the visually impaired, and if the garden is made of raised beds, the plants will be more accessible to the nose. Scented flowers and foliage at the entrance to a garden, near windows and door, and along pathways can be enjoyed in passing. - Weekend Argus