South Africa

Chelsea Flower Show: Petal to the metal for SA

Leon Kluge at the show

South Africa walked away with two Gold Awards from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show in London this week.

South Africa’s exhibit was led by designer Leon Kluge and artist Tristan Woudberg and inspired by the Cape mountains.

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It includes clay sculptures, which formed the backdrop for an eye-watering display of fynbos cut flowers and was awarded as the Best Exhibit in the Pavilion as well as the Best New Design award.

The exhibition was made up of a multitude of species from the high-altitude fynbos to the Strandveld brimming with bulbs, which hug the coastlines.

It featured 22 000 stems in the display to create a proudly South African explosion of fynbos. This year, rarely seen hybrids such as the fan favourite, protea snow leopard, as well as rare species such as the pendulous Protea sulphurea and the delicate blushing brides, Serruria florida, were included in the display.

Kluge said he was speechless. “Words can’t describe how proud we are as a team,” he said.

Kluge said the journey started about a year ago. “First, we do the design, then the design gets approved and then the difficult part follows,” he said.

“The Chelsea Flower Show is in mid-May, which meant our proteas and fynbos were just about to flower.

“All the flowers from the northern part of South Africa, such as Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, have finished flowering. So, we are very dependent on the fynbos to bring to the Chelsea Flower Show.”

Kluge said winning a Gold Award at the show was the equivalent of winning an Olympic medal in the industry.

“The South African display is called The Cape Floral of South Africa. We focussed mostly on the Proteaceae that occur in the Cape. The plants we have chosen are mostly hybrids from cut flower farms,” he said.

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Woudberg said he was proud of the awards. “South African Proteaceae speaks for themselves and took centre stage at the world’s most prestigious flower show.

“We do this for all the farmers, farmworkers, those who work in the tourism industry and just ordinary South Africans who take pride in our unique flora. Our natural heritage is something to be celebrated and conserved.”

Cape flower farmer Jo van Zyl said Kluge and his team have showcased the incredible talent and diversity there is in South Africa, not only from a floral perspective but from what South Africans can achieve when they work towards achieving great things.

“Their hard work and dedication to showcasing the very best of South Africa on an international platform is breathtaking and inspiring.

“We are so incredibly proud to have Leon as South Africa’s ambassador,” she said.

Van Zyl said she loved that they promoted the cut flower industry alongside the natural fynbos and proteas by using flower varieties that have been bred specifically for longevity and cut flower use.