The final judging process at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, widely considered to be the ‘greatest flower show on earth’, takes place throughout Monday and into evening, with the certificates being placed on each exhibit in total secrecy during the dead of night when the showground is completely empty.

That is why, while Barbados was still sleeping in the early hours of Tuesday morning, at around 8:00 am London time, members of the Barbados Horticultural Society team were already standing impatiently outside the gates of the showground, waiting for them to open, so that they could rush in and find out what the extraordinarily demanding judges had awarded their 2016 display ‘This Place Barbados’.

The team’s mixed emotions of nervous excitement and fearful apprehension were instantly exploded into joyful elation, glowing satisfaction, and a deep-seated sense of relief, the instant they spotted that distinctive looking glorious Gold Medal Certificate proudly perched in a prominent position on the stand.

And to add some more icing to an already delightful cake, the Barbados Association of Flower Arrangers, ably represented by Rev. Dr. Wayne Ramsey and Jacqui Ferdinand, had also enjoyed remarkable success by winning a Silver Medal in the Sculpture in the Garden section of the show with their beautiful entry entitled ‘Under the Waves’.

It is difficult for anybody who has never been to the Chelsea Flower Show to fully appreciate just how significant it is to actually win any kind of medal, not just a Gold. This is a competition that attracts the absolute best of the best in the horticultural world and has established the very highest set of standards. To put matters in perspective, if any British company wins a medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, any medal at all, then that achievement is recognised on their company letterheads, business cards and any form of promotional material. In short, winning a medal at Chelsea is regarded as the ultimate accolade.

It is against that background that we should now consider this latest Gold Medal success of the Barbados Horticultural Society team and its many willing supporters. Quite incredibly, this is the third Gold in a row for Barbados, the latest in a spectacularly successful record of a total of 18 Golds, 9 Silver-Gilt and 1 Silver in a highly commendable 28 consecutive years at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The theme for the 2016 exhibit, ‘This Place Barbados’, in a year when we celebrate 50 Years as an Independent Nation, vividly depicts the shape and topography of the island, complete with the country’s 11 Parishes, each one represented by different flowers and foliage, surrounded by several quintessential natural features and attractions. From the vibrant colours of Bridgetown Market and the Oistins fishing village in the south, to the swaying sugar cane and golden rum of St. Lucy in the north, visitors to the exhibit can enjoy a visual trip around Barbados that also magically reveals the magnificent underground splendour of Harrisons Cave and the lush botanical gardens found within the fertile tropical interior, including Orchid World, Andromeda, Flower Forest and Hunte’s Gardens.

Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Photo by Derek St. Romaine
Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Photo by Derek St. Romaine

To recreate the exquisite beauty of their homeland, the team took with them 72 large packing cases containing a vast array of colourful blooms and foliage of all hues, shapes, sizes and textures. The magnificent, exotic display includes a number of classic Caribbean favourites such as Heliconias, Anthuriums, Torch Gingers, Pineapple Gingers, Bromeliads, Orchids, Ferns and Succulents, plus especially noteworthy features like Sugar Cane, Saccharum officinarum, Coco thinax Barbadensis and Cardboard Palms, Zamia furfuracea and Lantania palm seeds. Other special items include a rum barrel, fish pots and market trays laden with sweet potatoes, eddoes, turmeric, ginger and pumpkin.

It is worthy of mention that the judges at Chelsea pay special attention to the condition and quality of the individual blooms and foliage, not just what the display looks like. So the Barbados Horticultural Society team deserves further high commendation for successfully growing and acquiring such magnificent floral material at a time when Barbados was suffering drought conditions. Great credit should be given for their capacity to use grey water to nurture the plants during the extended dry periods. A particularly fine example of this was one member who used recycled washing machine water to grow and provide 150 superb Davallia fern fronds.

One of the significant secondary roles of the BHS exhibit at Chelsea is to promote the importance of tourism to the economy and lifestyle of Barbados, as well as to portray how the amazing beauty of our natural environment is an integral factor in making our island such an attractive place to live or visit. With that goal in mind, the BHS, well supported by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Virgin Atlantic and other corporate and individual sponsors, has undoubtedly done an outstanding job of spotlighting Barbados to a massive British and international audience.

The beautiful and striking ‘This Place Barbados’ display has generated tremendous interest and inspired numerous compliments from the many thousands of people who have visited the stand so far, and the approximately 165,000 who will continue to do so throughout the week. This was particularly evident during Monday’s special Celebrity and Media Day, when Barbados featured prominently in the UK publicity spotlight. The Barbados Guest Celebrity, Ainsley Harriott, a long-term friend of the country, charmed and entertained a steady stream of representatives of the press and media for over two hours. Also in attendance were several distinguished Barbadians, including Mr. Guy Hewitt, the Barbados High Commissioner to London, and Cheryl Carter of the BTMI; as well as Sir Martyn Arbib and Lady Sally Arbib, loyal supporters of the BHS at Chelsea.

The working team at Chelsea this year comprises Jenny Weetch, Trevor Inniss, Wayne Ramsey, Alexia Rudder, Etwyn Humphrey, Jessica Cadogan, John Leach, BHS President Orson Daisley, Jacqui Ferdinand, Sally Miller and Trevor Hunte, with Keith Miller giving support with PR and Media work. In addition, there is also a small army of other volunteers who do diligent work behind the scenes throughout the year. The tremendous ongoing success of Barbados at the Chelsea Flower Show is very much the result of a great collective effort, whereby many people willingly share their skills and resources.

The tremendous BHS success story at the Chelsea Flower Show is a classic example of how Barbadians can achieve truly world-class standards when they work together as a team.

About the Author

Keith Miller
Keith Miller - Publisher, Business Barbados

Keith Miller was born in Liverpool, England, but has been a permanent resident of Barbados since 1978 and proudly claims to be a Bajan by invitation and adoption. Educated at the Liverpool Blue Coat School; the John Moores University; the Sorbonne, University of Paris, France; and the University of Valencia, Spain, his first venture into commercial life was in a management capacity with the retail giants, Marks and Spencer. Having decided that he needed to broaden his horizons with a more demanding and exciting challenge, Keith relocated to Barbados by accepting a position as a teacher and housemaster at Mapps College, St. Philip, where he remained for 14 years, including the last 6 as Headmaster.In 1983, Keith and his wife Sally established Miller Publishing Company and launched the Ins & Outs of Barbados tourist guide. Today Miller Publishing publishes the Ins & Outs of Barbados, the Ins & Outs of Trinidad & Tobago, the Ins & Outs of St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Barbados in a Nutshell, Visit Barbados and a wide range of high quality coffee-table books. Over the course of the years, Keith and Sally have been jointly awarded with The Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year for Tourism in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean; the Minister of Tourism's Special Award for Contribution to the Development of Tourism in Barbados and the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to Miller Publishing and the Caribbean Business Publications projects of Business Barbados, BusinessBarbados.com, the Business Barbados E-Book and Business Trinidad & Tobago, Keith has also worked with a Canadian film production company to produce Barbados Style, a very high quality HD TV Film which promoted Barbados to a global audience. Keith also works as a professional writer and he has been shortlisted for the British Sports Book of the Year New Writer Award, for his title Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Me, which is based on the Academy System in Premier League Football in the UK. In between working, Keith enjoys travelling, keeping fit, good food and wine, playing golf, following all sports, relaxing at the beach and mentoring young people and would-be entrepreneurs. For over 10 years he was a Member and Chairman of the Board of St. Gabriel's School; he is a Founder Member of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation, and he is the Project Leader of the $20 Challenge, an entrepreneurship competition for secondary school students.