In maintaining their proud tradition of representing the best of Barbados at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London, widely considered to be the ‘greatest flower show on earth’, the chosen theme of this year’s Barbados Horticultural Society exhibit is ‘Where Rum Comes From’.

To recreate the island’s natural beauty with a floral representation of a rum still in action, the team travelled with over 70 large shipping boxes, carefully packed with a vast array of colourful blooms and foliage of all hues, shapes, sizes and textures. The magnificent collection includes classic Caribbean favourites such as Heliconias, Anthuriums, Torch Gingers, Bromeliads, Ornamental Pineapples, Banana Flowers and Orchids; fascinating varieties of indigenous Palms, Ferns, Succulents and Sugar Cane.

Having flown overnight last Wednesday, the team immediately set about creating their splendid exhibit on Thursday morning and continued working long hard hours, every day, right up to the deadline for completion on Sunday night, in time for judging during the early hours of Monday morning.

Pride of place amongst the display belongs to a new Tulip Torch Ginger, Etlingera hemispherica ‘Flower Forest’, named after the Flower Forest Botanical Gardens where it was propagated. Officially registered with the Heliconia Society International, it is a hybrid cross-pollination between two torch gingers, the mother being Etlingera hemispherica, the father undetermined. This was the first time that the new flower had ever been seen outside Barbados. Many observers were also intrigued by the rare ‘Wood Roses’ draped along a length of copper tubing, designed to represent the still.

To give authenticity to the exhibit, the team brought with them actual rum barrels, sacks of raw Bajan sugar and cane baskets. And, to add some extra flair, they included 3 giant cocktail glasses containing rum punch, pina colada and banana daiquiri, all of which fascinated the tens of thousands of people visiting the Barbados stand.

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 year’s Gold Medal success of the Barbados Horticultural Society team and its many willing supporters. Quite incredibly, this is the latest in a spectacularly successful record of a total of 19 Gold Medals, 11 Silver-Gilt and 1 Silver during a remarkable sequence of 31 consecutive years at the Chelsea Flower Show.

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 ‘Barbados – Where Rum Comes From’ 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 was represented by Sir Michael Stoute, a famed son of the soil who is renowned as one of the world’s most successful thoroughbred racehorse trainers. Other distinguished guests included Christopher Holder of the Maria Holder Memorial Trust and Cheryl Carter of the BTMI.

The working team at Chelsea this year comprises Jenny Weetch, Trevor Inniss, Wayne Ramsey, Jacqui Ferdinand, John Leach, Sally Miller, Julie Alleyne, Trevor Hunte and Peter Whitehouse, with Keith Miller giving support with PR and Media work. In addition, there is a small army of other volunteers, headed up by Shirley Anne Howell, 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. This most recent Chelsea Gold Medal is clear evidence that 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.