23 May 2017

Silver medal for CWGC's Chelsea garden

The CWGC has been awarded silver for its Artisan Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – during the Commission’s centenary of commemorating of the war dead.

The award caps a momentous week for the CWGC, which is today (Tuesday) marking its centenary with a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey and launched a Centenary Exhibition at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey at the weekend.

For 100 years, the CWGC has used horticulture as an essential element in the commemoration of the war dead at its cemeteries and memorials around the world.

Designed by horticulturist David Domoney in collaboration with CWGC Director of Horticulture, David Richardson, the CWGC Artisan Garden showcases the skills of the Commission’s gardeners and artisans and includes elements crafted by blacksmiths, carpenters and stonemasons.

The garden is also a reflection of the CWGC’s status as one of the world’s largest horticultural organisations, employing 850 gardeners in more than 150 countries, and uses flowers commonly planted at sites in the Commission’s global estate.

CWGC Director General Victoria Wallace said: “We are thrilled to have won a silver medal in this our centenary week. We are hugely grateful to the RHS, who have supported our horticultural efforts since 1917, and delighted by David Domoney's charming showcase for the skills of the CWGC team around the world, ably supported by David Richardson, our Director of Horticulture.”

Marking 100 years of the CWGC, many of the artisan garden’s features are symbolic of the Commission’s past, present and future.

The beautiful entrance arch was created at the CWGC’s workshop in Ieper, Belgium, topped with a silver crown referencing the Commission’s historical links with empire. Meanwhile, the delicate steelwork – the railings, steel trees and leaves – was hand-forged by CWGC blacksmiths at the workshop in Beaurains, France.

The Portland stone steps and coping stones are made from reclaimed First World War headstones, the two statues standing guard have been recycled from the CWGC Portsmouth Naval Memorial and the hand-made red bricks are from stock used to repair the iconic CWGC Thiepval Memorial, on the Somme, last year. A central seat is, fittingly, topped with 100-year-old oak and contains the Commission’s badge carved in stone.

CWGC Director of Horticulture David Richardson, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded silver for our Artisan Garden, which showcases the talent and craftsmanship of CWGC gardeners and artisans.

“This award is for those staff in the CWGC who dedicate their working lives to the Commission’s unending vigil to those Commonwealth forces who fell in two world wars.

“Using noble, hand-crafted materials and plants typical of many CWGC cemeteries, we have created a space for quiet contemplation and reflection, which is also our mission around the world.”

Horticulturist and CWCG Centenary Garden designer David Domoney said: “It’s been a great honour to work with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of their artisan craftsmen and horticulturalists from all over northern Europe –  the carpenters in their workshops, the metalworkers in their forge in France, the artists in Belgium who helped create the wreath entrance gateway, to name a few. It has been an absolute pleasure to see the hard work that goes into maintaining the war memorial sites, and to meet some of the gardening staff who show such dedication. 

“Creating this garden was also a huge amount of fun. Pulling together the many different elements of this design, from the history to the craftsmanship and finally to the planting, has been a fantastic journey.

“I encourage anyone who has yet to visit a war grave memorial to do so. You will experience not only the scale of the sacrifice, but also the care for the fallen, who now rest in these beautiful and tranquil settings. I wish the CWGC all the success for the rest of their centenary year and beyond.”

Contained in the CWGC garden are the same plants and flowers that will be adorning Westminster Abbey today for the CWGC’s special centenary Service of Thanksgiving.

For more about CWGC's Artisan Garden, click here.

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