Armistice Day launch of Commonwealth War Graves Commission Chelsea garden

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) will mark its 100th year with an Artisan Garden at RHS Chelsea next year.

Bedford House Cemetery in Belgium is one of 23,000 locations cared for by the CWGC. Image: CWGC
Bedford House Cemetery in Belgium is one of 23,000 locations cared for by the CWGC. Image: CWGC

The design is by  ITV's Love Your Garden presenter David Domoney in collaboration with CWGC’s director or horticulture David Richardson and will give an opportunity to more widely-share the commission’s high-quality horticulture principals and skills to a worldwide audience. Arun Landscapes will build the design.

Richardson said: "In 2017 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will celebrate one hundred years of great gardening. With a global gardening workforce of more than 850 men and women and a maintenance commitment of more than 710 hectares, we’re proud to be one of the world’s largest horticultural organisations.

"Our horticulture has always been an essential part of our commemoration of the war dead – ensuring the cemeteries and memorials are places of beauty and quiet remembrance for the hundreds of thousands who visit them each year."

Richardson said the CWGC was delighted to work Domoney and showcase its work at Chelsea.

Domoney said: "It was a big challenge to work within the scale of an Artisan garden and still to capture something of the emotions felt when visiting a memorial site. When the garden is built, I hope that the visitors will be able to connect with the garden and appreciate the values that inspired it."

His design for The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Centenary Garden is an intimate reflective space, which has echoes of the architecture and craftsmanship found in the CWGC cemeteries and memorials worldwide. 

Commission artisans will work on many of the built elements in the garden, which will incorporate materials used at many CWGC sites, including Portland stone and bricks hand-made in Belgium.

The planting will use species from sites in the CWGC global estate to create a calm, contemplative and reflective space for visitors to enjoy. The garden will be accessed through a circular arch, by Portland stone steps which lead to a raised platform which provides a place from which to view the garden.

Multi-stemmed trees are planned for the front and globe-headed flowers in silver, mauve and blue hues aim to remind visitors of fallen soldiers. Inside the garden people will be able to see their reflection along the garden walls.

The CWGC operates in more than 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries to commemorate the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive. Next year it will hold a series of events to mark its establishment by Royal Charter during World War One in 1917, which include hosting the ceramic poppy sculpture, Poppy Wave, by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, at the CWGC Plymouth Naval Memorial.

The only events which have stopped RHS Chelsea from being held every year since 1913 have been the two World Wars. In 2017 it will be held from 23 to 27 May.

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