Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show in London must have been delighted and surprised to see the late Nelson Mandela smiling down at them.
His portrait, in a frame filled with differently coloured rocks, stones and pebbles, formed part of the 2014 Kirstenbosch-SA Chelsea Exhibit that was awarded a silver gilt medal last week.
A profusion of Cape flowers, including specimens of the Strelitzia “Mandela’s Gold” were planted around the beautiful and unique tribute to Madiba, which even attracted royal attention. The exhibit was visited by Queen Elizabeth as part of her traditional tour of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Alan Demby, Chairperson of the South African Gold Coin Exchange (SAGCE) presented her with a Gold Medallion minted in honour of the late Nelson Mandela. The Gold Coin Exchange is a major sponsor of the Kirstenbosch exhibit.
The theme of this year’s Kirstenbosch exhibit was “In Harmony with Nature” and featured four different habitats: the enchanted forest at Kirstenbosch, the Limpopo province bushveld, a contemporary fynbos garden and the pristine ecosystem within a mountain ravine, like Skeleton Gorge on Table Mountain.
The good news for South Africans is that the exhibit, including the portrait of Madiba, will be recreated at Garden World in Johannesburg as part of their annual Spring Festival, from July 25 to August 31.
The Chelsea Flower Show is, without doubt, the trendsetter for gardening and landscaping around the world. It will be interesting to see what trends are reflected in the 10 new designer gardens and four re-vamped gardens at Garden World’s Spring Festival, which, on a local level, is also a trendsetter.
British garden writer Helen Gazeley identified the following trends at Chelsea:
- This year’s “in” colours for flowers are blue, yellow and white and the overwhelming favourites were perennials with spikes like foxgloves, lupins, verbascum, delphiniums, and irises.
- Planting styles tended to be “airy and woodsy” which, says Gazeley, “should please people who like gardens to feel like gardens and not corporate or industrial spaces.”
- A classical influence was evident in many gardens, marrying formality with a lush planting scheme.
- Plants were not “overwhelmed” by hard landscaping and where hard landscaping was used to create a sense of enclosure, it was more of a suggestion than hard bricks and mortar.
- Grasses and groundcovers were not as much in favour but trees were, especially silver birches with their peeling bark.
- Natural stone was preferred to wood and metal although copper made an appearance in more than one garden.
- Rills were the most popular water features.
Back to South Africa, and this year’s theme for the Garden World Spring Festival is “For the Love of Nature” which means, says show convener Terry Möller, that visitors to the show can expect “gardens that reconnect with nature, nurture the earth, and walk on the wild side.”
Participating garden designers include award winning Leon Kluge, known for his modern, contemporary landscapes, sustainable community projects and his specialisation in vertical gardens. Kluge was part of the successful South African team at Chelsea in both 2010 and 2012, and the Gardening World Cup in Japan in 2011, and then won a Gold medal at the 2013 Cup.