The International Year of Biodiversity was given an extra boost as the South African National Biodiversity Institute's (SANBI's) 2010 Kirstenbosch-SA Chelsea entry entitled 'Bio[logical] diversity is the variety of life' scooped up a silver medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show (CFS) in London.
This is yet another feather in the cap of the designers and the hardworking team who assist in putting the exhibit together. With a full complement of exhibitors this year the South African exhibit was up against serious competition but once again proved its worth.
But all was not plain sailing this year! The drama unfolded when the cargo arrived in London on Wednesday. UK customs refused to release the plants due to a possible harmful bug they found on some of the leaves of one of the specimens.
Some laboratory tests later these turned out to be harmless but nearly three precious set-up days had been lost before the cargo was released. The plants had also been standing in the heat for two days due to lack of cold room space so, when the cargo finally arrived on Friday evening, it was with trepidation that the team unpacked. True to the hardiness of our wonderful plants virtually nothing was unusable and the team pulled out all stops to complete another award winning exhibit.
Gaining silver was worth the huge effort!
Once again the designers David Davidson and Ray Hudson showed the public an innovative interpretation of our spectacular plant heritage. Taking the fact that biodiversity occurs at many different levels, 'ranging from complete ecosystems to the chemical structures that are the molecular basis of heredity', the designers illustrated the diversity as well as the genetic variability of the botanical wealth that makes South Africa the third most biologically diverse country in the world.
Notching up their 18th medal in the same number of years of designing the exhibit, Davidson and Hudson had set themselves a difficult task, but one that obviously paid off.
The South African exhibit is always a major attraction at the show and this year certainly did not disappoint. Representing several of the different vegetation types comprising the nine biomes of South Africa, the exhibit was grouped in four separate nodes, each with its own cluster of interconnected, hexagonal compartments.
Fine-scale examples of genetic variability within a single species as well as diversity among species and within different genera featured strongly and the four clusters featured plants from the following biomes:
Fynbos (Cape Floral Kingdom – proteas, restios, ericas [heathers]); Forest/Thicket [Sub-tropical] (cycads, euphorbias, strelitzias); Desert/Succulent Karoo (succulents) and aloes and Savanna/Grassland (aloes, grasses and bulbs.)
Showing off our rich heritage at this major show maintains the fascination that visitors have with the South African plant kingdom. With more than 60 of the 300 possible species from the Protea family (limited by what is currently in flower) representing a number of the 13 different genera in the fynbos section of the display, the exhibit is one that is always visited by Queen Elizabeth. From the magnificent examples of Strelitzias to the diversity of aloes and the elegant Quiver tree, Cycads to Euphorbias, each of the other biomes offered their own focal point to intrigue and educate the public. An added attraction was a geodesic domed roof structure (similar to the domed climatron greenhouse of the Eden Project in Cornwall) that bore an uncanny resemblance to a soccer ball!
"What a wonderful reward, particularly under the difficult circumstances we worked this year," said designers Davidson and Hudson.
"This is the perfect way to say thank you for the long hours that the team worked to ensure that the exhibit came together as we had envisaged. Biodiveristy is the variety of life has created such enormous interest here and once more has captured the imagination of both judges and public alike. This 2010 exhibit shows more of what makes South Africa the third most biologically diverse country in the world and we hope to attract many more tourists to our country to see first hand the beauty of our plant kingdom."
Dr Tanya Abrahamse CEO of SANBI was delighted on hearing the news saying "Once again our team has done us proud and shown world class status! The Chelsea Flower Show continues to show the beauty of nature, by bringing this to the forefront, underlining how nature affects our physical and mental wellbeing. We look forward to recreating the exhibit later this year on home ground so that South Africans can share in this pride"
This 2010 award winning exhibit will be recreated back on home ground later in the year in Port Elizabeth, Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town giving us the opportunity to celebrate another medal winner!