Once again the highly selective and notoriously hard to please judges at the Chelsea Flower Show have bestowed a Gold Medal on the ever creative and industrious team of the Barbados Horticultural Society (BHS). And, quite incredibly, this was Gold Medal number 17 for Barbados in 28 consecutive and highly commendable appearances at the show. When added to all the other medals won, 10 Silver-Gilt and 1 Silver, this all equates to a truly incredible achievement and a truly phenomenonal record of continued success. A Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show is the most prestigious accolade in the horticultural world and the Barbados team worked extremely hard to get this one!
When the BHS chose ‘Gully Adventure’ as their theme for this year’s 2015 Chelsea Flower Show it was a bold and adventurous decision. It is a very challenging task to recreate a Barbadian gully in the middle of London, especially when you have to take all of the plants with you on journey in excess of 4,000 miles. Yet that is precisely what the BHS team and its band of intrepid volunteers have achieved this week. When the team flew out of Barbados last Wednesday they were accompanied by 62 very large boxes, all carefully packed with a vast array of foliage and blooms that had been painstakingly grown during the previous year by members and other supporters throughout the island.
To portray the dramatic magnificence of a Barbadian gully, the team members first erected large wooden panels down two sides of the 20ft x 20ft display stand, faced with fabric covered with beautiful photo images of an actual gully, thus allowing the authentic scenery to be viewed from both the exterior and the interior of the exhibit. The splendid display of plants and flowers was then arranged within these ‘gully walls’, complete with a 5ft-wide curving path covered with an assortment of dry leaves, tree bark, dry branches and mahogany pods, to enable visitors to enjoy the experience of walking through a gully – just as they would in Barbados. To add even more drama and realism, the recorded sounds of whistling frogs and crickets can be heard in the background.
In an innovative move away from the traditional emphasis on magnificent tropical flowers, this year’s display mainly comprises the wide variety of plants and vines that can be found in a gully, including: Bearded Fig Tree vines, Golden Pothus vines, Dracaenas, Schefflera, Philodendrums, Alocasia, Aralias, Monstera, Strelitzia, Crotons, Bromeliads, Anthurium leaves, several species of Ferns and a number of tall Palms. To add a splash of vivid colour to the amazing gully scene, a stunning selection of Orchids, Ginger Lilies, Heliconias, Anthuriums and Ornamental Bananas have been arranged in key locations.
It is worthy of note that the members of the Barbados Horticultural Society Team are all unpaid volunteers. They take great pride in the fact that they grow, pick and pack their own blooms and foliage, all collected from private gardens and nurseries around the island, and ship them from Barbados to Chelsea. The working team at Chelsea this year includes leader Jenny Weetch, BHS President Orson Daisley, Wayne Ramsay, John Leach and Etwyn Humphrey-Blackett, ably assisted by Sally Miller, Jacqueline Ferdinand and Trevor Hunte. 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. Being entirely dependent upon financial backing from the Barbados Tourism Authority, corporate Barbados and generous individuals, as well as the donation of flowers from C.O.Williams and a list of other people too long to mention here, the BHS is extremely grateful for all the support it has been given this year.
As the Chelsea Flower Show continues for the rest of this week, more than 150,000 attendees will view the Barbados exhibit each day and enjoy a small but wonderfully enticing glimpse of what our beautiful island has to offer. Winning a Gold Medal is undoubtedly a monumental success for the Barbados Horticultural Society Team, but perhaps their greatest achievement is the exemplary way in which they represent their country with such dignity and excellence at the highest level on the global stage.