Celebrating Sustainability at Chelsea Flower Show

KBosch Chelsea 2014

In Harmony with Nature is the theme for this year’s South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Kirstenbosch – South Africa exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London in May. Featuring South Africa’s rich natural biodiversity with its wealth of design inspiration and paired with the cultural diversity and architectural creativity of its people, the exhibit will once again be striving for a gold medal – the 34th in its 39-year-history of exhibiting.

Designers David Davidson and Ray Hudson feature dioramas of vegetation from four natural habitat types, integrated with examples of local architecture and “biomimicry”:
– The Enchanted Forest habitat at Kirstenbosch is also home to the newly constructed ‘Boomslang’ Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway.
Designed to mimic the sinuous skeletal frame of a snake, the walkway is more than just a traditional boardwalk structure. Like a snake, it winds and dips and is, in essence, a highly sophisticated bridge. Every part of its complex skeletal design contributes visually to its serpentine quality and structurally to the stability of the walkway. This part of the display features the walkway and plants of the forest understorey, including various species of Plectranthus, Clivia, Scadoxus and other forest floor-dwelling plants
– The Savanna habitat of Limpopo province, with its mixed bushveld vegetation, is the location of the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site.
Awarded  The World Building of the Year (2009) its Interpretive Centre uses modern developments in structural geometry along with an ancient construction technique to implement a unique structure, authentically rooted to its location. This display features grassland vegetation including Xerophyta, aloes and thorn trees as well as a ‘bird’s nest’ hide.
– A contemporary fynbos garden features flora of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Fynbos being the collective term referring to the uniquely diverse Cape Floral Region, this display features an exuberant mix of signature species including proteas, leucadendrons, restios, ericas and bulbous flowering plants.
– A representation of a pristine and functional ecosystem nestled in a mountain ravine habitat, like Skeleton Gorge on Table Mountain, features an extension of the ‘snake skeleton’ that inspired the design of Kirstenbosch’s Tree Canopy Walkway and moisture-loving plants.
– Add to this a unique tribute to Mandela with Kirstenbsoch’s especially cultivated gold Strelitzia, showing how conservation can be achieved through a state of harmony between man and nature. 

Dr Tanya Abrahamse, CEO SANBI sees this exhibit as one of the most positive ways of promoting our botanical heritage and the reason why travellers should be choosing to visit our country. “Chelsea allows us to highlight our ecological infrastructure and this year’s display shows the harmony between nature and architecture. Our eco systems form the basis of life-giving resources and underline the preservation that is vital for the continuation of the human race. The display illustrates this and also underscores our mandate, showing the world our richness in diversity and our commitment to conservation.”

“Showing the world” is almost an understatement as Chelsea Flower Show attracts over 150 000 visitors from all over the world during the five days from 20 to 24 May in London. Packed with over 550 exhibits the show is a paradise of unusual displays showing innovation and gardening design globally. It is the ‘Olympics’ of gardening and winning gold is the ultimate goal for all entrants.

It’s a question of teamwork too. SANBI Director of Marketing Lihle Dlamini joins the team along with Roger Oliver, Kirstenbosch horticulturist as project co-ordinator on site, Elton le Roux (Kirstenbosch estate manager) and Azwindini Mudau (horticulturist from Free State NBG). Farmers, landscapers and community projects from all over the country provide plants for this display, while enthusiastic volunteers, many of whom travel from South Africa, join expats living in London to create a workforce that exudes enthusiasm and takes pride in contributing to this prestigious event.


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