On 3 April, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) unveiled the design for the Kirstenbosch – South Africa Chelsea Flower Show design at an event in the conservatory at Kirstenbosch.

Dr Moshibudi Rampedi, the CEO of SANBI, welcomed everyone and introduced the Chairperson of the Board, Mrs Beryl Ferguson, in her first year of experiencing what SANBI does for the Chelsea Flower Show. Mrs Ferguson spoke about what it means to have an exhibit at this prestigious show.

“This is our opportunity to show the world the spectrum of our flowers. From the Highveld to the Lowveld, the East Coast to the West Coast, our Namaqua daisies to our aloes and proteas, the world sees a snapshot of our biodiversity”, said Mrs Ferguson.

Leon Kluge is the landscape architect of the exhibit entitled “Mountains of Abundance”.

Standing in the conservatory at Kirstenbosch amidst exquisite arrangements of brunias, metalasia and Protea Cinaroides, South Africa’s national flower, also known as the King Protea, Leon spoke about the 2019 concept and design. He talked about walking on our mountains, seeing all the different plants and noticing that each month has a different show, something that is a unique aspect of the plants on our mountains.

According to Leon each plant has a story to tell, and that is what he and the SANBI staff do at the Chelsea Flower Show, they relate the stories and unique aspects of the biodiverse South African Floral Kingdom.

He explained how the Protea Cinaroides got its name. Protea is derived from the Greek God Proteus who had the ability to change his form depending on his mood. The protea too has many forms, all beautiful, from the closed flower, the wide open colourful bloom to the dried out brittle brown skeleton once the flowers time is over. Still, in keeping with the theme of changing, Leon says that a Protea in one region will be quite different to another, citing Cape Town and Hermanus as examples.

The exhibit aims to recreate the way our proteas, aloes, disas, restios and fynbos occur naturally, and they will be displayed rising up a wall of slate extending three meters high representing Table Mountain and the Magaliesberg.

Local culture is brought into the design “I get inspiration not only from the Ndebele, but all the tribes and I fused them together to add a cultural and human element to the exhibit.” This adds vibrancy and colour to the display, as well as a human interest which is important to Leon. He uses a Ndebele hat as the source of a river through the design, and this theme is continued via subtle patterns on the slate, and beaded artifacts in the display. “a garden needs movement to make it come alive” says Kluge.

Finally, Leon unveiled the beautiful painting by artist Tristan Woudberg, depicting this year’s exhibit “Mountains of Abundance”.

Seeing the painting it is easy to understand Leon’s statement “the South African stand at the Chelsea Flower Show is always popular for is creative and vibrant displays, and its reputation as a gold winner.”

Leon introduced the SANBI Director of Marketing and Communications Ms Lihle Dlamini, who he referred to as “the mom at the show. She calms everyone down and offers a shoulder to cry on when we need it,” Ms Dlamini concluded the launch with these powerful, heartfelt words.

“We have 36 gold medals, this is who we are. We are going to London to get another one. We go for gold or we don’t go at all.”

The Chelsea Flower Show will be held in London from the 21st – 25th May and we have high hopes of achieving another gold medal for SANBI and South Africa, bringing the total to 37 gold medal awards.

The artist’s depiction shows only one side of the four-sided exhibit and we are looking forward to seeing the live display next month. The painting of the design will be on display at the information desk at entrance 1 at Kirstenbosch.

We are going for gold.

Watch preparations for Chelsea Flower Show 2019 below:


Follow the South African Chelsea Flower Show story on Twitter @KirstenboschNBG, and on Facebook @KirstenboschNBG for updates, behind the scenes happenings and the awards.
#RHSChelsea #MountainsOfAbundance #Kirstenbosch

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