20 May 2017

CWGC Centenary garden celebrates 100 years of gardening excellence

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is celebrating a century of gardening excellence with an Artisan Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.


Employing 850 gardeners in more than 150 countries makes the CWGC one of the largest horticultural organisations in the world, so it is fitting to showcase the CWGC’s work on this international stage in the Commission’s centenary year.

Funded by private donations and designed by horticulturist David Domoney in collaboration with CWGC Director of Horticulture David Richardson, the garden is a celebration of the continuing role of the CWGC and pays tribute to the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women commemorated by the organisation.

The garden is an intimate, calm and reflective space, which echoes the essential part horticulture plays in the CWGC’s commemoration of the war dead and showcases the traditional skills still employed by the CWGC’s staff around the globe.

CWGC Director General Victoria Wallace said: “It is a matter of great pride for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to be represented at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in this our centenary year.

“Through our horticultural efforts, we honour the fallen of two world wars across more than 150 countries, creating beautiful final resting places for servicemen and women from around the world.

“Our Artisan Garden celebrates the skills and workmanship of our international teams, and will provide a lasting focus of reflection and commemoration as it tours in our member states after the show.

“It is a great privilege to work with this fantastic team of gardeners and craftsmen, and a joy to see David Domoney and David Richardson’s collaborative design bring their work to a wider audience.”

Many of the garden’s features are symbolic of the Commission’s past, present and future. The garden uses plant species from sites in the CWGC global estate and elements and materials hand-crafted by the CWGC’s own artisans.

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.

The garden itself uses familiar plant species frequently seen in CWGC cemeteries in northern Europe, with pale flowers, lush foliage, herbaceous and alpine plants and a calming palette of colours.

Surrounded by a Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam) hedge, multi-stemmed Acer palmatum (Maples) create a canopy which provides an area for quiet contemplation. Trees have always been an essential part of any war cemetery, providing shade and intimate enclosure for visitors.

CWGC Director of Horticulture David Richardson said: “The garden has a real sense of enclosure and privacy, using a Carpinus hedge and Acer trees, typical of many CWGC cemeteries.”

He added: “In 2017, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is celebrating 100 years of great gardening. With a global gardening workforce of more than 850 men and women and a maintenance commitment of more than 700 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. We’re delighted to have the chance to work with David Domoney and showcase our work at Chelsea.”

Horticulturist and CWCG Centenary Garden designer David Domoney said:“I am extremely honoured and delighted to be designing a garden for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s centenary this year.

“It is a great and rewarding challenge to try to interpret and echo some of the marvellous horticulture and design work that is displayed at Commonwealth War Graves Commission sites around the world.

“My aim is to capture some of the spirit of the Commission’s tireless work, as they tend the graves and memorials of the 1.7 million who laid their lives down in the first and second world wars.”

Contained in the CWGC garden are the same plants and flowers that will be adorning Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 23 May for the CWGC’s special centenary Service of Thanksgiving.

For more information contact:

Peter Francis, CWGC Media and Marketing Manager: 07766 255884 or 01628 507163, media@cwgc.org  Sean O’Brien, AOB PR Ltd: 020 7267 4011 or 07771 892 952, sean@aobpr.co.uk

Also see the CWGC Chelsea blog online: www.blog.cwgc.org/chelsea 

Notes for editors:

1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is a not-for-profit intergovernmental organisation, founded by Fabian Ware and constituted through Royal Charter in 1917. The key aim of the organisation is to honour the 1,700,000 men and women of the forces of the Commonwealth who died in the two world wars and ensure that their memory is never forgotten.

The Commission operates in more than 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.

2. Get to know the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Visit our website at www.cwgc.org

Follow us on twitter via @CWGC

Like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/commonwealthwargravescommission

Watch us on Youtube or download the CWGC app

3. Photo and other credits

Please ensure that all supplied photos, videos and other materials are credited:

“Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission” or “Courtesy of the CWGC

4. Royal connections to the CWGC

As the head of the British armed forces, the Queen has unveiled many CWGC memorials during her reign, including the 1939-45 Memorial to the Missing at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, in 1958. Her grandfather, King George V, was the first monarch to visit the newly-completed cemeteries on the Western Front, and in 1922 made the famous remark: “In the course of my pilgrimage, I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war”.

5. Centenary Garden features

The imposing entrance arch was constructed at the CWGC artisan workshop in Ieper, Belgium. It is based upon a bronze wreath to be found at the largest CWGC war cemetery in the world – Tyne Cot, in Belgium.

The railings were hand-forged by the Commission’s blacksmiths, in the CWGC workshop at Beaurains, France, creating a series of pleached trees from the lazer-cut steel. Hanging from the trees are 154 hand-beaten and lacquered steel leaves – one for each country and territory the CWGC operates in – and each numbered and individually stamped (eg 1/154).

Two statues standing guard have been recycled from the CWGC Portsmouth Naval Memorial. Originally sculpted by Charles Wheeler, the weather-beaten statues were replaced 15 years ago after more than 50 years sentry duty on the south coast.

The handmade red bricks used between the entrance steps and forming the garden border have been taken from stock that was used in 2016 to restore the largest CWGC war memorial in the world – at Thiepval on the Somme.

The Portland stone steps were made from reclaimed First World War headstones, from France, Belgium and the UK, and were cut by the Commission’s British stonemasons.

The central seat, placed on Vratza stone, was topped with 100-year-old oak and in the centre is a stone circle inscribed with the distinctive Commission badge – a torch burning with an eternal flame.

6. CWGC Centenary logo

The laurel wreath is based on a bronze wreath fixed to a surviving WW1 German pill Box within Tyne Cot Cemetery, the CWGC’s largest war cemetery in the world with almost 12,000 burials. The cemetery will be the focal point for the UK Government’s commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Third Battle of Ypres – better known as Passchendaele – in July.

7. Centenary Garden on tour

Elements of the CWGC Centenary Garden will tour parts of the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth. The intention is to showcase the CWGC’s craftsmanship to the public in places like New Zealand and Australia.

8. CWGC artisans

Two brothers are responsible for creating the Artisan Garden’s prominent entrance arch. Yves and Danny Delplace work in the CWGC artisan workshop in Ieper, Belgium, where they forged the metal frame for the arch before moulding and sculpting the polystyrene and glass fibre wreath and crown. Yves Delplace, 53, said: “I am proud to work for the CWGC, as it allows me to express my artistic skills by participating in projects like Chelsea Flower Show. I’m really proud to be involved in this unique project.”

9. Garden Designer – David Domoney C. Hort, FCI Hort.

David Domoney is a seasoned gardening television presenter and currently presents for ITV’s ‘Love your Garden’ and is also the resident gardening presenter for ITV’s ‘This Morning’. David writes a gardening column for The Sunday Mirror and for Grow Your Own magazine. He is the winner of 29 RHS Medals with two Best In Show category trophies, he sits on the RHS commercial board, and is a Governor at the London Colleges of Horticulture. David’s national campaign ‘Cultivation Street’ is now in its fifth year supporting hundreds of community gardening projects and school gardens up and down the country, and he is the Gardening Ambassador for the charity THRIVE. You can follow David on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest, where he has a combined audience of more than a quarter of a million followers.

Latest News

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is helping those who cannot make the annual pilgrimage to Normandy to pay tribute to the Second World War dead. Every year veterans and relatives return to CWGC’s cemeteries in France to remember those killed on D-Day and the pivotal battles of 1944. In today’s unique circumstances tributes will instead be laid by our gardeners on behalf of those who cannot travel.

Travel advisory and other information surrounding Covid-19 and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Last updated 15 May 2020.

An appeal for relatives is a search to locate the next of kin for soldiers who fell in war. Could you be connected to any of these individuals?