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Mountain kingdom reigns at Chelsea

by Sunday Express
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TWENTY percent of Sentenbale Hope in Vulnerability Garden was filled with plants indigenous to Lesotho.Johannesburg

LESOTHO’S Hope in Vulnerability garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show was created to promote the Sentabale charity founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006.

The charity provides health care and education to HIV and Aids victims in the mountain kingdom. Lesotho has the second-highest HIV and Aids prevalence in the world, after Swaziland.

The Lesotho garden was inspired by the Sentabale charity’s Mamohato Children’s Centre, currently under construction, which will provide cabins for 96 children affected by HIV and Aids to take part in residential camps.

Matt Keightley, the garden’s designer, travelled to Lesotho to gain inspiration, and took impressions of some of the children’s footprints while he was there, which were then sandblasted into the paving stones in the garden. “Lesotho, known as the forgotten kingdom, has been brought to life through the Hope in Vulnerability garden with a design that evokes the native landscape and celebrates the work of Sentebale,” says Keightley.

Twenty percent of the garden was filled with plants indigenous to Lesotho and an indigenous Lesotho poppy (Papaver aculeatum) was propagated and placed on display at Chelsea for the first time. “This is our way of trying to bring a little bit of Lesotho to Chelsea,” says Prince Harry.

The location of Lesotho and its status as an independent country was lost in translation as references to Prince Harry’s South African charity slipped into many international media reports. Despite dodgy details that emerged in the media frenzy, the Basotho Women’s Choir that performed in the garden on press day was a triumph for the kingdom.

Prince Harry was clearly interested in family approval as he popped into the Chelsea Flower Show to do a recce of his garden four hours before his dad and grandmother arrived.

Followed by an unprecedented pack of international media, the royal family arrived in one of the largest gatherings seen at Chelsea for decades. Watched by an international audience of millions, they all visited Prince Harry’s Lesotho garden.

The entourage included the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke of York, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, The Princess Royal, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, The Duke of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Princess Alexandra and Zara Phillips. There was no sign of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, who were probably busy with the arrival of their new baby.

“The royal family members were interested in knowing how many of the plants are native to Lesotho and the Queen really liked the colour and vibrancy of the space,” said Keightley.

“The Queen was hugely complimentary about the planting and knowledgeable about the charity and what it is trying to achieve,” says Philip Green, chairman of Sentebale.

“I would say that Harry was even more nervous about his father’s reaction,” says Green. “The Prince of Wales is a very keen and talented gardener himself. Prince Harry was genuinely thrilled – and not a little relieved – at his reaction.”

The value of the international exposure bestowed on Lesotho, Southern African flora and ecotourism in the region was priceless. While the Sentabale garden, like the Kirstenbosch – South Africa exhibit, was awarded a silver-gilt medal, the media publicity for southern Africa far outweighed the significance of judging.

The BBC announced that the Lesotho Sentebale garden had won the People’s Choice Show Garden award. The award is calculated from the millions of through-clicks that UK TV television viewers make on their TV handsets when viewing the daily two-hour BBC2 coverage of the show.

Naturalistic planting

Naturalistic or “shabby chic” wildflower gardening is seen as fashionably sustainable. Over half of the gardens at this year’s show included elements of wildflower gardens, many of which were water-wise or rustic Mediterranean-style cottage gardens under the shade of a wild olive. A wildflower garden even won the coveted Best on Show trophy. Designed by Dan Pearson, the garden recreated a corner of the grand gardens at Champagne House, Chatsworth.

Water in every garden

Water was included in virtually every garden. Earthy swimming pools, formal ponds, naturalistic streams and highly stylised water features in chrome and steel were all on show. Glorious birdbaths, bubbling stones, at least four big rills and three-tier ponds proved that water in the garden is a must.

International influences

Chelsea attracts gardens from across the world. Aside from Lesotho, teams from Australia, Canada, Japan, Thailand and Tobago took part. A perfume garden from France, a tropical garden from Singapore and an Islamic garden from the UAE dominated the large gardens. –Saturday Star

 

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