LONDON – The world’s most prestigious floral and garden exhibition opened Tuesday with Barbados winning its 20th gold medal in its 35th year.
The Barbados Horticultural Society’s portrayal of the landmark Charter of Barbados, signed between Barbadian Royalists and Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1652, struck gold at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show, on the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital in west London.
Having flown overnight last Wednesday, accompanied by 81 large shipping boxes, carefully packed with a vast array of blooms and foliage of all hues, shapes, sizes and textures, the team immediately got down to work on Thursday morning.
After four long days of work, the display was completed late Sunday night, just in time for judging on Monday.
Mounted on a 20’ x 20’ standalone platform that visitors can walk around, the flamboyant floral display surrounds a wooden façade, made in Barbados by Anthony Roett, to depict The Mermaid Tavern in Oistins where the Charter of Barbados was signed, complete with a table and a replica of the Charter.
A set of three open double-doors allow views of the beach area on one side and the land on the other. The land side features a blaze of reds and purples, created with Prince of Darkness, Volcano and Richmond Red Heliconias, Anthuriums, Stralitzia and Orchids, along with ‘flaming coal pots’ of Exotica and Crotons, and ‘market trays’ of Tropical Ornamentals such as Pink Pineapples and Purple Bananas.
The beach area is a bank of pink and white Anthuriums and Gingers, orange Exoticas and River Salmon Heliconias, finished off with a display of indigenous palms and coconut tree saplings.
The vast majority of these plants were grown in Barbados, hand-picked and packed last week by BHS members and other volunteers, then flown to London for the show along with the team.
The standard of the flowers and foliage this year was judged exceptional, a remarkable achievement itself given a drier-that-usual dry season at home.
The society has praised main suppliers Michael Gill, C.O. Williams Flowers, Hunte’s Gardens, James Taylor, Coral Reef Club, Cobblers Cove Hotel, Audrey Thomas, Jenny Sisnett, Michael Stoute, Julie Landis, June Hutson and a host of individual BHS members.
The Barbados exhibit at Chelsea is also used to promote the island as an attractive place to live or visit, as the BHS, well supported by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Virgin Atlantic and other corporate and individual sponsors, worked to spotlight Barbados to a massive British and international audience.
In addition to the approximately 160,000 people who are expected to visit the stand throughout the week, the gold awarding-winning Barbadians are expecting the huge amount of media coverage that the Chelsea Flower Show always attracts.
This was particularly evident during Monday’s special Celebrity Day, when Barbados was very well-represented by iconic British TV chef Ainsley Harriott and celebrated British author and journalist Hunter Davies, both of whom are longstanding visitors to Barbados.
Distinguished Barbadian guests included High Commissioner to London Milton Inniss and Cheryl Carter of the BTMI. Some extra flair was added to the Barbados exhibit by visits from several other UK celebrities, including Baroness Floella Benjamin, singer/actress Elaine Paige, celebrity chef Marcus Wareing, and TV presenter Dani Sinha.
The Barbados Horticultural Society attributes the ongoing success of Barbados at the Chelsea Flower Show to a great collective effort of many people willingly sharing their skills and resources. The BHS describes the Chelsea Gold Medal as another laudable example of how Barbadians can achieve truly world-class standards when they work together as a team. (BT)