By: KEITH MILLER (May, 2017) 

The extraordinarily demanding judges of the Chelsea Flower Show 2017 in London have awarded the Barbados Horticultural Society a Silver Gilt medal for their exhibit “Where We Live”. With beautiful painted facades of a chattel house, a plantation house and a luxurious seaside villa as backdrops to three spectacular and colourful tropical gardens, no doubt many of the 165,000 visitors to the show over the next 3 days will wish it was where they lived too.

The Barbados Horticultural Society first exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1984, when they won a very commendable Silver Medal. The team returned in 1988 and has competed at Chelsea every year since then. During that impressive unbroken spell of 30 consecutive years, Barbados has now achieved a spectacular record of 18 Gold Medals, 11 Silver-Gilt and 1 Silver – including their Silver Gilt for this year’s wonderful exhibit.

To fully appreciate that success story, it is essential to understand how very challenging it is to actually win any kind of medal at Chelsea, 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 and judging criteria.

It is against this background that we should evaluate the amazing record of the Barbados Horticultural Society and what it really takes to attain that level of consistent success. This year, in their efforts to recreate the exquisite beauty of the gardens of Barbados, the team took with them on the airplane about 50 large packing cases, full of a vast array of colourful blooms, featuring heliconias, anthuriums and gingers, with a variety of spectacular foliage. Then, after arriving in London on Thursday morning after the overnight flight, the team members went directly to the Chelsea showground to get to work for the 4 straight days of 12-hour shifts that it takes them to complete the exhibit.

What is even more remarkable is that while the majority of the cut flowers are provided by commercial growers in Barbados, some of the blooms and all of the foliage is grown, picked, donated and packed for shipping by a small army of BHS volunteers who work diligently behind the scenes.

Exhibiting at Chelsea is a very expensive undertaking and it must be underscored how totally dependent and extremely grateful they are for any sponsorship they are given via the private sector, the government and generous individuals.

The tremendous accomplishments of Barbados at the Chelsea Flower Show are undoubtedly the end result of a great collective effort, whereby many people willingly share their talents and resources. The unparalleled Barbados Horticultural Society success story is a classic example of how Barbadians can achieve truly world-class standards when they work together as a team.