Mountains of Abundance: SA's biodiversity colours in Kirstenbosch's entry for the Chelsea Flower Show

2019-04-04 11:57 - Gabi Zietsman
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The biggest garden event in the world, and South Africa's got the best to represent its beautiful biodiversity on the global stage.

On Wednesday Kirstenbosch and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) unveiled their stunning design for this year's Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London - themed 'Mountains of Abundance'.

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South Africa's chelsea flower show design from SAN

The design for the South African entry into the Chelsea Flower Show. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

Flower designer pointing to proteas at unveiling

Leon Kluge talking about the various plants that will be used in the display. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

Inspired by the proteas that flourish on Table Mountain and Magaliesberg, the concept was dreamt up by the foremost garden designer in Africa - Leon Kluge - who won South Africa a gold at last year's show for the 36th time. He took over from Raymond Hudson and David Davidson, who unfortunately passed away last year, who was in charge of the design from 1994 to 2017.

"Abstract waterfalls and streams will be created with bright traditional Ndebele hats against slate mountains. Around this mountainous theme, various species of proteas, aloes disas, restios and fynbos will be arranged as they occur together on the wild slopes of our mountains," explains Kluge.

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About one tonne of flowers for the display will hail from South Africa's botanical gardens, with Kirstenbosch taking the lead, and local growers like Bartinney farm in Banhoek Valley, who will be sponsoring the proteas and fynbos. 

Some of the big challenges for Kluge and his team is making sure the plants stay in shape throughout the transport and the week of the show, as well as obtaining plant export permits, which needs a team by itself.

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Some of the fynbos that will be included in the exhibit. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

protea flower

(Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

But it's not just about the plants' biology - it's also about the stories that come with each plant. One such story is about how protea got its name. It was actually named after the Greek god Proteus, a sea god known for his changing nature, because a protea is very different in the various places it grows. 

These and other stories will be on display for the world at the Chelsea show - which has been held annually at the Royal Hospital in London since 1912 and will take place this year from 21 - 25 May.

Leon kluge standing next to his design

Leon Kluge, designer of the exhibit. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

"We are anticipating a mix of modern contemporary and classical designs at this year's Chelsea Show. Chelsea always produces a vast array of exciting new garden designs each year - it is ever evolving and never the same - that's the magic about gardening," says Beryl Ferguson, SANBI board chairperson. 

Flower displays at the show are judged on plant quality and selection, creativity, design uniqueness and impact.

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Ndebele beadwork and garden shears

Some of the cultural elements in the exhibit, alongside the late designer David Davison's trusty shears that will be travelling with in memoriam. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

unveiling of SANBI design for chelsea flower show

The team behind making the design come to life. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

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