Garden memorials

As World War Two drew to a close, The Gardeners' Chronicle made a plea for peace memorials from educational facilities set among trees and flowers to rest gardens or rose gardens to remember those never to return.

Consideration is already being given to memorials to those whose lives have been sacrificed in the cause of freedom and democracy. The war will have taken severe toll of our vigorous manhood ere the church bells ring out joyously and tell us that "the strife is o'er, the battle won".

What forms will these memorials take? We remember the captured tanks that littered many a space after the previous war - horrors, always reminding us of war - and we hope such hideous reminders will not recur when the present struggle is over. There are architectural memorials to those who fell during 1914-18 and as most of these occupy prominent positions it will be difficult to find equally good sites for monumental work in future.

Doubtless, stained-glass windows will be set up in chapel, church and cathedral, in memory of the crusaders who did not return. We do not condemn nor decry such memorials, but suggest there may be more excellent ways.

When "grim-visaged war has smooth'd his wrinkled front" we shall celebrate the return of peace, so why not peace memorials rather than war memorials?

Homes for the broken, the infirm and the aged, where, amid kindly surroundings, they may pass their remaining years in peace and quietude; educational facilities set among trees and flowers; a beautiful garden around the centre of civic life; playing fields that add beauty to sport; open-air swimming pools or lidos, their asperities softened by a surrounding belt of flowering trees and shrubs; a stately avenue "with branches of honour and grace"; children's playgrounds, made bright and cheerful by the gardener's art; a rest garden, rose garden, alpine garden, formal garden or water garden within a spacious park; or a new park or open space where one is badly needed. All these - and there are others - seem more desirable than monuments.

We enter a plea for peace memorials. Those we have loved and lost did not want a war; they desired peace so greatly that they fought and died to secure it for us. Surely they would not wish for war memorials. Our fallen heroes "shall not grow old as we who are left grow old; age shall not wear them nor the years condemn", so let their names be inscribed in neat tablets on the sites consecrated to their memory and the peace they helped to win.

Moreover, they also served who toiled in workshop and factory, who sweated and laboured long hours to provide food for the fighting services and the nation at large, and without whose magnificent help all other things would have been of no avail.

None of these would be commemorated by a war memorial, but a peace memorial would embrace all - however humbly and quietly they worked - who contributed to the tremendous effort to establish peace on earth and goodwill among men.

The British people have a great genius for gardening and following generations will not thank us if we fail to give it full play in connection with memorials. Ours is "the art that doth mend nature, make it rather, but the art itself is nature" and "the course of nature is the art of God".

Dr Salisbury has shown how quickly nature strives peacefully to heal the war scars of London. There is, and will be, much mending and healing to be done, and the art of gardening could do much more than unassisted nature.

For at least another decade there will remain far too many terrible devastations - mental, physical and material - to remind us of the bestiality of war, therefore let us have peace memorials, living and beautiful, wherewith to celebrate the dawn of a golden age.

Letter to the editor

22 July 1944

I was deeply interested in your article on memorials. Might I suggest that small gardens be consecrated to this purpose formed from old disused graveyards in the centre of our towns? In London there are bombed Wren's churches that would form ideal islands of peace in the centre of the city. The walls and pillars could be maintained, clothed in creepers and inset with sheltered seats. The centre would be open to the sky, with a small formal pool, and the east end could form a "holy of holies" to record the fallen, but should be arranged with a succession of flowering plants in pots throughout the year, an arrangement being made for a glass covering in the winter.

Another form of war memorial might be the use of stately homes and their gardens for wounded ex-servicemen. Some able gardeners, although only slightly wounded men, could be used to instruct the other men in horticulture - something on the same lines as a horticultural college.

Different men could specialise in separate branches, such as the propagation of alpines and the making of Japanese gardens for the Christmas market in London stores. The propagating of hardy plants and shrubs could be undertaken, particularly those that used to be imported from Holland. This is skilled work, but under the instruction of an expert, our wounded could be taught to raise these plants. I should be interested to learn whether other people have made similar suggestions.

M Paynter, Kingston

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