Preparing for Chelsea Flower Show

The focus this year is on proteas.

Designer Leon Kluge is taking on his second Chelsea flower show exhibit, which was launched at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden on Wednesday April 3.

This will be the 44th year that Kirstenbosch has been exhibiting – and winning medals – at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show from Tuesday May 21 to Saturday May 25.

The theme of this year’s exhibit is “Mountain of Abundance”.

Mr Kluge, the designer behind Kirstenbosch’s 2018 exhibition, which won it its 36th gold medal, said this year’s exhibit would be bold and abstract, presenting a hand-made slate mountain, with one side depicting a silhouette of Table Mountain, the other showing the Magaliesberg.

“Abstractwaterfallsand streams will be created with bright traditional Ndebele hats against the slate mountains. Around this mountainous theme, various species of proteas, aloes, disas, restios and fynbos will be arranged as they occur together on the wild slopes of our mountains,” said Mr Kluge.

“Inspiration came from mountains of the Cape, also Gauteng, where most of our plant species occur. I walk the trails in the Cape every weekend and would love to share that journey with the public at the show. It’s mind-boggling the amount of species we have on our doorstep. Other countries can only dream of such abundance,” said Mr Kluge.

“The flowers and foliage in the display have been carefully chosen to complement the structures we are building. Each flower needs to elevate the next and, importantly, occur in the same region,” said Mr Kluge.

The task of bringing home gold from Chelsea is nothing new for the avant-garde landscape architect who has created spectacular gardens for the rich and famous all over the globe. However, it does come with its challenges.

“One of them is to ensure our plants remain in tip-top condition – it is no small feat to get them all to London from South Africa in one piece. But opening those containers and unpacking all of the plants is one of my favourite parts of the whole experience. Then comes the challenge of what the different climate in the UK will do to the plants once they are there – a sharp change in temperature is not great.”

From an early age, Mr Kluge has nurtured a great affinity for plants. His grandfather was the curator of the Betty’s Bay Botanical Garden and his father was the curator of the Lowveld National Botanical Garden, while his mother owns and runs a wholesale nursery in Nelspruit.

Mr Kluge lives in Loop Street during the working week and escapes to his beach cottage in Britannia Bay at the weekends.

The Chelsea Flower Show has been held annually in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, London, since 1912.

“We’re anticipating a mix of modern contemporary and classical designs at this year’s Chelsea show,” said South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) board chairperson, Beryl Ferguson.

“Chelsea always produces a vast array of exciting new garden designs each year – it’s ever evolving and never the same – that’s the magic about gardening.”

The Kirstenbosch design team works with SANBI’s horticulturalists and a team of volunteers.

“We hope to once again bring home gold for SANBI and Kirstenbosch,” said Mr Kluge.

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