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South Africa scoops top awards at Chelsea Flower Show

South Africa stole the show at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show when it not only won a gold medal with perfect scores from the judges, but was awarded “Best exhibit in the Pavilion” as well as the “Best New Design” award on Tuesday.

This is unprecedented for South Africa at the Chelsea Flower Show.

As reported by The South African website, this year’s Chelsea Flower Show is sponsored by The Newt in Somerset, a working estate owned by South African billionaire Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos.

RHS president Keith Weed CBE presented the awards to head designer Leon Kluge and his team on the opening day of the show.

The show will run until Saturday, 25 May.

Described as one of the most outstanding exhibits in the history within the Great Pavillion, this year’s design was inspired by the windswept slopes of the Cape mountains.

Kluge and artist Tristan Woudberg led a group of volunteers to create this year’s multi-award display which included large clay sculptures which formed the backdrop for an eye-watering display of fynbos cut flowers.

South Africa’s 38th gold medal

This is Leon Kluge’s third gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show after having won the top prize in 2018 and 2019 for South Africa.

It is South Africa’s 38th gold medal in its illustrious history at the Chelsea Flower Show dating back to 1976.

It’s the first time in history South Africa has won “Best New Design” and “Best in the Great Pavillion”.

A multitude of species was presented in the display, from the high-altitude fynbos to the strandveld brimming with bulbs which hug the coastlines.

The display celebrates the beauty and significance of one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.

An unprecedented 22 000 stems were used in the display to create a proudly South African explosion of fynbos.

This year special effort was made to include rarely seen hybrids such as the fan favorite, Protea “Snow Leopard” as well as featuring seldom seen species such as the pendulous Protea sulphurea and the delicate blushing brides (Serruria florida) .

Using natural clay to form the sculpture, artist Tristan Woudberg explains: “Large panels weave through the display creating an earthy backdrop for our vibrant flora to take centre stage.

“The sculptures take on the role of mountain ranges, dividing and isolating the different biomes of the Cape which have given rise to our unique flora over time.

“The natural cracking effect provided by the clay is a reminder of the contrasting wet and dry seasons of the fynbos biome as well as the fragility of these ecosystems.

“The negative spaces in these sheets of rock act as windows, creating new vistas to explore as one moves around the exhibit.”

Four-year Chelsea Flower Show hiatus

After a four year hiatus and the sponsor of three decades (1989 – 2019) withdrawing their support, a private sector-led team stepped forward to ensure South Africa’s flora was once again represented at the world’s premier flower show.

The team which is spearheaded by Kluge, an acclaimed plantsman and landscape designer with numerous international floral exposition awards to his name, along with Keith Kirsten, conservationist Michael Lutzeyer and Marinda Nel came together to realise South Africa’s return.

A transformative contribution from the Rupert Nature Foundation as well as Grootbos Private nature reserve along with numerous contributions from the private sector provided the financial support needed to create the display in London.

Contributions from Michael Lutzeyer and Grootbos Nature Reserve are centred on conservation and community upliftment, while Keith Kirsten brought his wealth of international experience and expertise to the project, not to mention his involvement in the South African exhibit for many decades at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The team also spotlights the Grootbos Florilegium, a collection of botanical illustrations depicting rare plants in the Grootbos Nature Reserve.

Marinda Nel, with a background in business development, played a pivotal role in managing the return of South Africa’s flora to Chelsea.

Cape Flora SA, a non-profit established in 2005, offered their support this year and remains steadfast in its commitment to the sustainable harvesting and growth of the fynbos industry.

The display promoted the demand for high-quality fynbos cut flowers in international markets, providing livelihoods for stakeholders and communities within the South African fynbos industry.

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