Growing excitement for Chelsea show

Cape Town - Kirstenbosch has unveiled the South African national exhibit for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show ,which takes place in London from May 20 to 24. The highlight is a tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Team South Africa, from left, Ray Hudson, Roger Oliver, Sarah Struys, Elton le Roux and David Davidson, with a model of the South African exhibit planned for this year's Chelsea Flower Show in London next month. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Chelsea is the mother of international garden shows. Tickets usually sell out by March as 150 000 visitors vie to attend the five-day event.

Chelsea attracts a targeted group of international visitors who love flora and fauna. As such, South Africa’s participation is enormously important to the tourism industry.

By highlighting our unique biodiversity at Chelsea, South Africa is effectively welcoming a targeted, primarily upper-income audience to visit the country.

Why is Chelsea so well-known? It takes 800 people almost a month to build the show on the 11 acre site in central London. The construction includes 5km of piping, 185 toilets, and enough canvas tenting to cover six football pitches.

What do visitors get? More than 550 exhibitors, 30 show gardens of varying sizes, and more than 100 arrangements of floral art.

And after they all leave? Lawn experts move in every year to re-lay 7 000m2 of new turf – thereby restoring a grassed parkland known as the Royal Military Gardens for the rest of the year.

South Africa has sent exhibits to 38 of the 100 Chelsea Flower Shows. In the first few years, the South African exhibit was primarily a floral display of spectacular proteas.

However, over the past 20 years the stand has evolved into a world-class landscaped keynote exhibit, designed by South Africa’s premier landscape exhibition designers, David Davidson and Ray Hudson.

In Harmony with Nature is the theme for the Kirstenbosch-South Africa exhibit, which is co-ordinated by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

This year, Kirstenbosch will be striving to be awarded its 34th gold medal in 39 years.

The Kirstenbosch exhibit once again seeks to champion the country’s biodiversity. South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world, following Indonesia and Brazil.

Although South Africa occupies only 0.8 percent of the world’s land area, it is home to nearly 3 percent of the world’s plants and about seven percent of its reptiles, birds and mammals.

This year will be the 21st in a row in which Davidson and Hudson have been mandated to design the Kirstenbosch-South Africa exhibit.

The exhibit is divided into four sections, each of which features vegetation from four natural habitat types:

Interested in supporting the South African team at the Chelsea Flower show next month?

Two tours have been organised to the show and to the great gardens of Britain.

Both tours will visit HRH Prince Charles’s organic garden at Highgrove, and because of South Africa’s historical and special relationship with Chelsea, both tours have special entrance access to the Royal Horticultural Society members’ days at 7am (an hour before the official opening), and include a champagne breakfast at the show.

Join one of them.

It will visit Strilli Oppenheimer’s Waltham Place garden in Berkshire, legendary designer Nancy Lancaster’s magnificent garden at Great Haseley, Blenheim Palace and Stourhead – which features one of the world’s best landscape gardens, inspired by great 17th century landscape painters.

Keith has also arranged tours to a host of gardens not usually opened to the public in the Cotswolds.

Contact Dianne on 011 772 1112 or [email protected]

Based in London, this year’s tour includes a theatre night in the West End as well as visits to Lord Heseltine’s Thenford House garden, the 2.5 acre walled garden at Loseley Park and the spectacular garden designed by the late garden designer Anthea Gibson at Westwell Manor.

Contact Gill Durrant on 083 261 3961 or [email protected]