Chelsea Flower Show: Commonwealth War Graves Commission build Artisan Garden

When the commission was set up in 1917 its aim was to avoid gloomy cemeteries and instead use “the restfulness of grass and the brightness of flowers” to “strike the proper note of brightness and life”. 

Today it looks after 1.7million Commonwealth graves and memorials in 150 countries and territories and among its 1,300 workforce are more than 850 gardeners. 

So it is fitting that the CWGC Centenary Garden has been built by the commission’s gardeners with the CWGC’s director of horticulture, David Richardson, heading up the team. 

Brothers Danny and Yves Delplace, a painter and sign maker at the CWGC’s Belgian office, have worked on the commemorative arch at the entrance to the garden and blacksmith Christian Cousin, who restores ironwork in war cemeteries across Europe, has made the railings and leaves within them by hand.

Stonemasons Simon Leach, Steve Sargeant and Ian Brown, responsible for the maintenance of memorials in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia, have prepared the stone statues that stand guard over the garden. 

David Domoney, whose grandfather was injured in the First World War, describes the garden as “a great and rewarding challenge” adding: “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.” 

There are several anniversaries being celebrated at RHS Chelsea this year, including 500 Years of Covent Garden by Lee Bestall, in the show gardens section, and Fibrex Nurseries’ tribute to the 30th anniversary of the Pelargonium National Plant Collection, in the Great Pavilion. 

BUT still in the Artisan Gardens section, Viking Cruises is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a garden inspired by Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudi and his famously organic art nouveau architecture.

“He was truly inspired by the forms you find in nature and he used these within his structures for his buildings and parks,” says designer Sarah Eberle, who is performing her double act of creating a garden for Viking Cruises and another for Hillier Nurseries. 

The garden will include copies of his colourful ceramic tile benches and the date palms that figure so strongly in Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, which is his interpretation of an English garden. 

In all there are nine Artisan Gardens this year, with the return of Japanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara and his much anticipated Gosho No Niwa (No Wall, No War) garden is sure to be a highlight. 

Inspired by the gardens of Kyoto Palace, once the home of Japanese emperors, visitors can expect his trademark use of water, Japanese maple trees and lots of moss.

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