South Africa wins 26th gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show
South Africa has scooped its 26th Gold Medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, which opened in London today (25 May) and runs until Friday (28 May).
The Kirstenbosch, South Africa exhibit, titled "Under an African Sun", features a giant 6m tall sculpture of a baobab tree surrounded by over 150 species of indigenous plants and flowers in a spectacular display celebrating South Africa's 10 years of democracy.
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Designer of the South African exhibit David Davidson said: "We are so proud that we have been able to add to South Africa's democracy celebrations with this gold medal. Our design this year was bold and ambitious and the baobab was a gamble but the judges loved it."
Davidson said that the giant baobab tree sculpture had created quite a stir at the show. "People have been flocking to our stand to see it and we have even had an offer from someone to buy it after the show."
The South African exhibit at the 2004 Chelsea Flower Show was made possible by a partnership between the Western Cape Provincial Government, City of Cape Town and Old Mutual.
"We know that Cape Town, the Western Cape and South Africa is a gold-medal winning destination and this award simply confirms it," said the City of Cape Town's Alderman Clifford Sitonga.
Advocate Abri Meiring, Business Environment Manager for Old Mutual said: "The success of the team at Chelsea is another reason for us to be proud to be South African. They have done a fantastic job of showcasing South Africa to the world, and Old Mutual is delighted that the judges have acknowledged our country as being home to not only some of the world's most spectacular plants, but also to some of the world's most talented designers."
Co-ordinator of the South African team, Collette van Aswegen said the exhibit had been well-received by both visitors to the show and the show organisers. "People have been telling us they think this is the best-ever South African exhibit they have seen at Chelsea. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip stopped to admire the stand during their royal walkabout and the exhibit also attracted the attention of ex-Beatle Ringo Starr."
Western Cape Minister for Economic Development and Tourism, Lynne Brown said: "Only a week ago we won the right to stage the most prestigious event on the sporting calendar, the 2010 Soccer World Cup and now it is the 26th Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. We are so proud of the fighting and creative spirit of South Africa and South Africans. On behalf of the Western Cape Government, congratulations to each member of the team for winning. It is an outstanding manner to celebrate South Africa's ten years of democracy. The South African team met the judges' strict standards by creating a very original floral exhibit. They managed to strike a unique balance by uniting more than 150 different species of South African plants and flowers. This achievement will definitely influence more overseas visitors to come and enjoy the beauty and hospitality of our part of the world".
The Chelsea Flower Show is attended by 157 000 people over four days. The show boasts over 600 exhibitors and 52 show gardens covering 11 acres of showground. There is a strong Southern Hemisphere presence at the show this year with the first-ever show gardens from New Zealand and Australia joining South Africa at the show. This is the 82nd year the show has been held in its current site at the Royal Hospital Showgrounds in Chelsea, London.
One of the gardens attracting a lot of interest at the show is the National Lottery Garden, designed by UK television gardening personality Diarmuid Gavin, who lists the Teletubbies as one of his design inspirations for this garden which features only green plants and huge colourful spheres resembling lottery balls. Other highlights at this year's show are a restaurant garden designed by Sir Terence Conran which boasts a fully-functioning kitchen, greenhouse and dining area and Tourism New Zealand's "Ora Garden of Well-being". (For further information on the Chelsea Flower show and a web-cam link to the show visit www.rhs.org.uk).
Another show garden with a South African connection is the Leeds City Council "From Freedom to the Future" garden which highlights Leeds' partnership with Durban and celebrates its famous Freeman, Nelson Mandela. Schoolchildren from Durban and Leeds helped make the "Freedom Path", a central feature of the garden.
See images of build up of stand
The flowers leave for Chelsea
African sun rises at Chelsea