Ghost Orchid show plans scuppered

Rare Cayman Islands orchids slated for the Chelsea Flower Show in London have been impounded in the Netherlands.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with Minister Clifford. Photo: Submitted

The Ghost Orchid and Wild Banana Orchid were to be an important part of the show, but were prevented from being exhibited and auctioned because of strict European regulations.

It is understood the rare flowers were impounded in the Netherlands by customs officials because of European regulations restricting the trade of rare and endangered species of plants.

Spokesperson for the CIDoT Kathy Jackson noted that although it is unfortunate the orchids have not made it to the show, this has become a side story, and one that is getting huge coverage for the Cayman Islands in the UK.

The Cayman Islands Heritage Garden at the flower show was one of the first exhibits visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II this week.

Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford was greeted warmly by the Queen Monday afternoon as she admired the only garden in the exhibition to bear her name, said a press release from the Department of Tourism.

‘She recalled with pleasure her visit to the Cayman Islands in 1994 when she officially opened the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park – in those days just a woodland trail.

‘As the Minister presented her with a book about the Botanic Park bearing a picture of her at the opening ceremony, she also recalled that her arm was in cast having been broken in a fall from a horse shortly before the trip. She was also given a small sculpture designed by local artisan Horatio Esteban, of a Caymanite catboat, which was modelled after another key feature of the garden.’

The DoT noted that the garden has been featured on the BBC and on Tuesday appeared in almost every national newspaper.

In The Independent newspaper the heritage garden was included in its Pick of the Bunch as one of six gardens at the show.

An article in The Times online notes, ‘It would have been the first time that the ghost orchid was displayed at Chelsea and it is believed it would also have been its first showing in Britain. Ben de Lisi, one of Britain’s leading fashion designers, has created a dress for the show, inspired by the flower.’

The Times noted that the orchids were intercepted in the Netherlands where they are now impounded.

‘Organisers of the Cayman Islands’ Heritage Garden had sought special permission to take specimens for the ghost and banana orchids out of the country. . . An export licence was granted by the Cayman authorities but the rare plants now require an import licence under European rules.

‘Dutch Customs officials ordered the plants be impounded in the absence of suitable paperwork and the orchids are now expected to end up in a botanic garden in the Netherlands,’ said the article.

At press time the CIDoT was working on getting further information from those involved in the show in London on what was happening with the orchids.

The auction for the orchids, which were to remain in London, will now be for two permanent plaques in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in acknowledgement of the highest bidder’s charitable contribution, and the chance to visit the Cayman Islands in person to see not only the remarkable native flora, but also the Blue Iguanas, which will be one of the two beneficiaries. The other charity to benefit is the Make-a Wish-Foundation, which helps children in the UK fighting life-threatening illnesses, said the DoT release.

The Queen was not the only member of the Royal Family to visit the Cayman Islands’ Heritage Garden. Prince Edward and Sophie of Wessex stopped by the garden as part of their walkabout, as did Princess Michael of Kent. All three spent time chatting with the Minister who was also accompanied by Gloria McField-Nixon, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Tourism, Andrew Guthrie from the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, and representatives from the Department of Tourism in Europe.

The Chelsea Flower Show is open to the public to the end of the week.