3rd March 2014
On Friday I flew over to Europe for just one more time in search of my final trees and shrubs for the No Man’s Land garden at Chelsea Flower Show. Two weeks had gone by since my really awful experience flying back from Hamburg and the two aborted landings. This time all was fine. I had a lightening visit with Smits to five nurseries in two countries in less than two hours and I can safely say that all the trees are now sorted! All we need to do now is get the trees over to the UK, prepare them for Spring and get them over to the Royal Hospital in May. No easy task with root balls of 1.5m in diameter!
The main objective over the past two weeks has been the firming up of the construction details of the garden. Brian Herbert of Outdoor Options, whose team is building the garden, had their first full meeting with all his landscapers to discuss schedules and look at the plans. Brian and I met this week to discuss the water basin, the metal wall, the composite concrete wall which represents the main constructed feature of the garden and the setts for the Lost Gardens area of the garden. We have had some problems finding reclaimed the French limestone setts I want to use but I think we have finally got what we want. If not, we were simply going to jump in a van and go to France and find some ourselves.
One interesting point is that Gray Concrete, the company making the long wall down one side of the garden, is also working on a major feature of the new World War One galleries at the soon-to-be-reopened Imperial War Museum. A bit of a synchronicity there! We are buying some extra trees to put behind the boundary walls of our garden as we are next to a large white hospitality tent and I am keen for the impact and resonance of this wall not be diminished. We have been working with the RHS to gain permission to do this and it looks like we have been successful.
We also got together with Light IQ, the lighting designers with whom I work on a number of projects. They came over to discuss how we can best light the garden for the evening parties which Bechtel, ABF and Coutts will be holding during the show. We have a long and successful business relationship with Rebecca Weir and her team and have won some awards for our garden lighting over the years. So it is important that the No Man’s Land garden is carefully and subtly lit.
Poetry and prose
We are starting to plan some wonderful events on the garden on the preview day and throughout the week. We are keen to stage a series of readings of World War One poets and writers.
As most people are aware, World War One inspired some of the richest prose and poetry ever produced in the English language. Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Robert Graves to name but a few served in the War and many, including Edward Thomas, Rupert Brook, Isaac Rosenberg never came home.
On Saturday night I went to a Royal Society of Literature discussion on The Voices of the Great War and Michael Longley, one of the speakers read the following short poem by Edward Thomas.
In Memorium Easter 1915
The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.
Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917) Killed at the Battle of Arras