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South Africa Chelsea Flower Show exhibit celebrates sustainability


Words: HIPPO Communications

(April 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, 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.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is geared to respond to the task that it has been mandated to do: that of championing our exceptionally rich, life-sustaining biodiversity through exploration, conservation, sustainable use, appreciation and enjoyment for all South Africans. Although South Africa occupies only 0.8% of the world’s land area, it is home to nearly 3% of the world’s plants and approximately 7% of its reptiles, birds and mammals. This makes South Africa the third most bio diverse country in the world (following Indonesia and Brazil).

Winning another gold medal is the goal and is also the synergy that has made the SA Gold Coin Exchange and the Scoin shops sponsor the exhibit for the fourth year. Chairman Alan Demby has once more shown his commitment to our unique heritage.

In line with the SANBI mandate, designers David Davidson and Ray Hudson, who celebrate 21 years of creating the award winning displays, will be presenting yet another innovative exhibit. Featuring vegetation from four natural habitat types, integrated with outstanding examples of unique local architecture and other examples of bio-mimicry (nature-inspired design), specifically designed in harmony with Nature, the display shows the creation of sustainable legacies through the transfer of ideas from biology to technology.

The display features dioramas of four different habitats:
• The Enchanted Forest habitat at Kirstenbosch is also home to the newly constructed ‘Boomslang’ (Tree snake) 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 display features the walkway and plants of the forest understory, 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. Its Interpretive Centre used modern developments in structural geometry along with an ancient construction technique to implement a unique and beautiful structure, authentically rooted to its location and awarded World Building of the Year (2009). This display features grassland vegetation including Xerophyta, aloes and thorn trees as well as a ‘bird’s nest’ hide.
• A contemporary fynbos garden will feature 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 (cone bushes), restios, ericas and bulbous flowering plants.
• This representation of a pristine and functional ecosystem nestled in a mountain ravine habitat, like Skeleton Gorge on Table Mountain, will feature an extension of the ‘snake skeleton’ that inspired the design of Kirstenbosch’s Tree Canopy Walkway and moisture-loving plants. Ecosystem services are one of South Africa’s greatest assets – its biodiversity richness in terms of landscapes, ecosystems and species provides goods and services such as pure water, grazing, fisheries, medicine, energy, food, pollination, carbon sinks and clean air. Sustaining intact and pristine ecosystems – the web of natural life – is vital for human wellbeing and the survival of the planet.

Add to this a unique tribute to Madiba and the 2014 exhibit is set to show how conservation can be achieved through a state of harmony between man and nature.

“We celebrate the diversity that is South Africa and the innovation that is synonymous with Kirstenbosch,”says Alan Demby of SAGCE. “The Mandela’s Gold Strelitzia at Kirstenbosch was the inspiration for a limited edition Gold Mandela medallion, featuring a portrait of Mandela on the obverse and the Strelitzia on the reverse. The richness of our flora is translated beautifully on to the gold coins and we continue to be inspired by our natural heritage. We look forward to our team winning yet another gold medal at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show”

Dr Tanya Abrahamse, CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (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 the RHS Chelsea Flower Show attracts over 150 000 visitors from all over the world during the five days from May 20 to 24 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.

Says David Davidson: “Over the years our stand in the Great Pavilion has been one of the most popular, drawing visitors from many countries, many of whom travel to South Africa as a result of seeing our floral heritage on display. There is a fascination with the plants that form part of our biosphere and an awe in the magnificent views and habitats we are able to illustrate. Showing how nature inspires new architectural developments offers an unusual view to the thousands who visit the South African stand.”

Farmers, landscapers and community projects from all over the country provide plants for this prestigious display and take pride in contributing to what has always been an award winning exhibit.

It’s a question of teamwork too. SANBI Director of Marketing Lihle Dlamini will join the team with Roger Oliver, Kirstenbosch horticulturist as project coordinator on site, joined by Elton le Roux (Kirstenbosch Estate Manager) and Azwinndini Mudau (Horticulturist from Free State NBG). Enthusiastic volunteers, many of whom travel from South Africa, join expats living in London to create a workforce that exudes enthusiasm, energy and pride, culminating in the creation of a world class exhibit.

Further information please contact 021 799 8783