Discover a real life Gold Award-winning garden

This week London has been abuzz as green fingered enthusiasts and professional landscapers from all over the globe descend upon the capital to take part, celebrate and commemorate one of the world’s most famous horticultural events which for almost one hundred years has called on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea its home.

Over a five day period every May entrants to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show descend upon West London with ambitions to plant, preen, clip and sculpt their way to success. The result, a vast kaleidoscope of plant life of all shapes, sizes, colours, varieties and origins; often with several new species unveiled to the delight of an anticipant crowd of over 150,000 people.

This year international winners of the coveted Gold Awards included Tourism Malaysia in the show garden category with a display inspired by the rich jungles and sleek architecture of the Malaysian archipelago. The Horticultural Society of Barbados also swept to Gold in the Great Pavillion Awards with their collection of tropical flowers and foliage and the Caribbean had further success when Grenada was also awarded a Great Pavillion gold. Asia was also further represented with the Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens of Thailand charging to Gold for their ‘Reflections of Asia’ display and the irrepressible South African’s also picked up Gold thanks to the South African National Biodiversity Institute,  Kirstenbosch scooping a magnificent 31st Gold medal for their dramatic ‘Botanical Landscapes’ entry.

With such a catalogue of magnificent exhibitions the event will no doubt inspire a new wave of nature lovers to discover these microcosmic ecosystems for real, naturally established in their indigenous environments.

Tourism Malaysia’s fantastic interpretation of rugged jungle beauty is a testament to the incredible geography and fertility of the South East Asian country. To rediscover this seamless fusion of remote and unspoiled nature and innovative architecture travellers to Malaysia can visit one of the many secluded islands that scatter across the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea. Tioman Island’s Japa Mala is sure to rekindle the same sensations of peace and tranquillity or perhaps the privately owned island of Pangkor Laut particularly with its garden and hill villas. Malaysia offers a diverse and rich landscape, a spectacular spectrum of deep green foliage juxtaposed against turquoise blue waters which will humble even the most experienced of travellers.

The Barbados Horticultural Society has been entering into the show for over 20 years and has no doubt won countless admirers for the popular Caribbean island. Despite being a relatively large single island nation, Barbados only stretches to an area of around 170km² making the community quite easily navigable. Geologically composed of coral as opposed to volcanic rock what it lacks in grand topography it certainly makes up for with an unrivalled collection of beautiful flowers, plants and trees. The interior of the island gently rises to a central plateau with the peak of Mt. Hillaby offering superb views out across the vivid green landscape. The Horticultural Society itself is located in the parish of Balls near to the south coast and every January hosts a fantastic annual garden and flower show.

Team Grenada’s aim for the 2011 competition was, ‘to promote the Caribbean island of Grenada through its participation in The Chelsea Flower Show’, and they certainly seem to have achieved this brief. The display called, ‘Castaway’, features a Robinson Crusoe-esque bamboo shack as well as an array of vibrant plants and flowers. Grenada is of course primarily known for growing nutmeg and other spices, hence its nickname of, ‘The Spice Island’, but as can be evidenced from this year’s entry there is certainly much more to Grenada’s nature than that. Coupled with its stunning beaches and gently lapping waters, the interior rainforests of the island expose a lush paradise exploding with colour and an array of endemic species.  For an even more secluded and intimate stay you could escape to the smaller neighboring islands of Carriacou or Petite Martinique which make up the Grenadian archipelago.

Tourists journeying to Thailand understandably arrive into the country with a certain set of preconceptions; for decades the country has cultivated (get it?) an international reputation as a haven of nature; a place which despite relative industrial development still retains a sense of wilderness and mystery. The, ‘Reflections of Asia’, feature takes a panoramic look at the tropical plants and flowers of Thailand. Whether exploring the remote jungles of Chiang Mai or the coastal woodlands of its numerous islands visitors to the country are greeted with a marvelous blanket of vibrant and dense foliage. The Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens, the institute behind the success at Chelsea is itself located in the Sattahip district, South East of Bangkok and near to the popular resort of Pattya. It offers tourists a superb collection of ornamented and wild landscapes including a rock garden, orchid garden, manmade lake and a tribute to Stonehenge.

South Africa is of course renowned for its diverse geography, from the shifting sands of the Kalahari to the bountiful Cape Winelands; the rugged East coast to the domineering Drakensburg Mountains. The SANBI Kirstenbosch entry for this year certainly embraces this notion of variety with a display that explores the floral range of the Cape region married with the unique biodiversity of the arid Karoo district. South Africa is a land perhaps best known for its mobile attractions, the iconic animals and birds that can be observed across both land and sea, but this is a country that has just as much to offer from its terrestrial nature. From the grand Baobab trees to the symbol of South Africa, the king protea; the bizarre half men plants of the Northern Cape to the stunning carpet of Namaqualand daisies, South Africa is alive with plant life.

James Bell is a Director of Turquoise Holidays.

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