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Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Information Sheet

The Commission’s Horticulture In the Beginning Even before the Imperial War Graves Commission was formally constituted in 1917 attempts were already being made by the Army Graves Registration and Enquiries, with assistance from the Red Cross, to make burial grounds along the Western Front less bleak by growing annual and perennial flowers, grass, shrubs and trees. In 1916 the Assistant Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew was asked to visit cemeteries in France and to make recommendations about the plants that should be grown, thus beginning an association that has lasted to the present day. As the pattern for the future maintenance of the cemeteries evolved in the immediate aftermath of the war, horticulture played an important part, and the architects worked together with horticulturists on the overall design of cemeteries. Some of the Commission’s principal architects, in particular Sir Edwin Lutyens, already had considerable experience of the sympathetic combination of structural and horticultural elements: the ideas of Lutyens’ horticultural mentor, Gertrude Jekyll, had a great influence in the cemeteries through the use of cottage-garden plants and roses in the headstone borders. The use of perennials shown overleaf at Couin British Cemetery demonstrates from the very early years how important these plants were to the first landscape designers.

Delhi War Cemetery


a different variety can be used as a ‘break’ between rows in the same plot. Flower borders are extended behind certain rows of headstones to add a further dimension to the plantings. Dwarf and low growing shrubs, herbaceous perennials, grasses and ground-covering plants are chosen to extend the floral display. Low shrubs, often clipped, are planted at the ends of the borders to give definition to the grass avenues between the plots. Lawns are used in cemeteries throughout the world where a sufficient water supply is sustainable. They provide the appropriate setting for the headstone borders, and the absence of paths contributes to the simplicity of design of the cemeteries as a whole. Other horticultural features, such as trees, shrubberies, hedges and sometimes pergolas contribute to the architectural layout of a cemetery,

Ancona War Cemetery, Italy

Beach Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey

Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium, with insert of Gertrude Jekyll

The concept was to create a sentimental association between the gardens of home and the foreign fields where the soldiers lie, and the Commission continues this tradition today by planting species native to its member countries in cemeteries wherever possible.

The Gardens

Aims of the Commission’s Horticulture Work The overall aim behind the horticultural design of a cemetery is to give the effect of a garden rather than the common concept of a cemetery; a place where the harmonious

combination of the various elements may help the visitor to achieve a sense of peace in a beautiful and serene setting. The manifest care with which the cemeteries are tended should also bear witness to the fact that the sacrifice of those who lie there is still remembered.

Horticulture in Commission Cemeteries Each headstone front border is between 45 and 60 cm wide and is planted with a mixture of herbaceous perennials and floribunda roses. The plants immediately in front of headstones are low growing so that the engraved personal inscription is not obscured, and they also prevent soil from splashing the headstones during rain. Those between the headstones are taller. Plants are selected which provide variety in texture, height and timing of floral display. A typical border planting scheme is made up of an association of some 20 plant species, which is repeated in phases down the row of headstones. The roses planted in a particular row and plot are of the same variety as each other but a rose of Couin British Cemetery, France, early 1920s

helping to give interest, form and coherence to the design, in addition to providing shelter, obscuring unwanted sights and defining boundaries. This form of horticultural treatment was applied in France and Flanders after the First World War and in many other places; but in some, such as Turkey and Thailand, the use of pedestal grave markers instead of headstones made a different kind of flower border necessary. Pedestal borders consist of bronze or stone plaques mounted on concrete

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand


a different variety can be used as a ‘break’ between rows in the same plot. Flower borders are extended behind certain rows of headstones to add a further dimension to the plantings. Dwarf and low growing shrubs, herbaceous perennials, grasses and ground-covering plants are chosen to extend the floral display. Low shrubs, often clipped, are planted at the ends of the borders to give definition to the grass avenues between the plots. Lawns are used in cemeteries throughout the world where a sufficient water supply is sustainable. They provide the appropriate setting for the headstone borders, and the absence of paths contributes to the simplicity of design of the cemeteries as a whole. Other horticultural features, such as trees, shrubberies, hedges and sometimes pergolas contribute to the architectural layout of a cemetery,

Ancona War Cemetery, Italy

Beach Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey

Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium, with insert of Gertrude Jekyll

The concept was to create a sentimental association between the gardens of home and the foreign fields where the soldiers lie, and the Commission continues this tradition today by planting species native to its member countries in cemeteries wherever possible.

The Gardens

Aims of the Commission’s Horticulture Work The overall aim behind the horticultural design of a cemetery is to give the effect of a garden rather than the common concept of a cemetery; a place where the harmonious

combination of the various elements may help the visitor to achieve a sense of peace in a beautiful and serene setting. The manifest care with which the cemeteries are tended should also bear witness to the fact that the sacrifice of those who lie there is still remembered.

Horticulture in Commission Cemeteries Each headstone front border is between 45 and 60 cm wide and is planted with a mixture of herbaceous perennials and floribunda roses. The plants immediately in front of headstones are low growing so that the engraved personal inscription is not obscured, and they also prevent soil from splashing the headstones during rain. Those between the headstones are taller. Plants are selected which provide variety in texture, height and timing of floral display. A typical border planting scheme is made up of an association of some 20 plant species, which is repeated in phases down the row of headstones. The roses planted in a particular row and plot are of the same variety as each other but a rose of Couin British Cemetery, France, early 1920s

helping to give interest, form and coherence to the design, in addition to providing shelter, obscuring unwanted sights and defining boundaries. This form of horticultural treatment was applied in France and Flanders after the First World War and in many other places; but in some, such as Turkey and Thailand, the use of pedestal grave markers instead of headstones made a different kind of flower border necessary. Pedestal borders consist of bronze or stone plaques mounted on concrete

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand


above: Rhodes War Cemetery, Greece

Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Belgium Aix Noulette Communal Cemetery and Extension, France

bases, in a border of flowering perennials. The plants chosen are dwarf in harmony with the low pedestals and are arranged in specific schemes, similar to those in headstone borders.

left: Delville Wood Cemetery, France

below: Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, United Kingdom

Irrigation Where natural rainfall is insufficient, in countries such as Italy and Greece, irrigation systems have been installed. Computer controlled systems enable water to be provided during the night to reduce evaporation and minimise wastage. In Gallipoli, the impracticality of providing irrigation because of limited water supplies and the hostile terrain meant another approach had to be taken. Grass is still used

Perth War Cemetery, Australia

El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt

and drought-tolerant seed mixtures are being selected to provide resilience during the long, dry summer months. Trials of trickle irrigation have commenced to provide water to pedestal border plants in the hope that hand watering can be reduced. Turf is also being watered in this way. There are cemeteries in certain locations, such as El Alamein in Egypt and Tobruk in Libya and many others, where the natural desert landscape invites a different approach to planting. In these situations there are no lawns and the plants are selected for their drought tolerance. In Rhodes War Cemetery, Greece, the proximity to the sea and the long, dry summers invited a slightly different solution. Pebbles are used instead of grass and the colourful borders are set in these producing quite a different, but satisfying result reflecting also the dry, local landscape. Wherever possible, however, the Commission continues to use lawns with herbaceous borders. The total ground area within the Commission’s control is about 710 hectares, of which over 450 hectares are under fine horticultural maintenance.


above: Rhodes War Cemetery, Greece

Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Belgium Aix Noulette Communal Cemetery and Extension, France

bases, in a border of flowering perennials. The plants chosen are dwarf in harmony with the low pedestals and are arranged in specific schemes, similar to those in headstone borders.

left: Delville Wood Cemetery, France

below: Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, United Kingdom

Irrigation Where natural rainfall is insufficient, in countries such as Italy and Greece, irrigation systems have been installed. Computer controlled systems enable water to be provided during the night to reduce evaporation and minimise wastage. In Gallipoli, the impracticality of providing irrigation because of limited water supplies and the hostile terrain meant another approach had to be taken. Grass is still used

Perth War Cemetery, Australia

El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt

and drought-tolerant seed mixtures are being selected to provide resilience during the long, dry summer months. Trials of trickle irrigation have commenced to provide water to pedestal border plants in the hope that hand watering can be reduced. Turf is also being watered in this way. There are cemeteries in certain locations, such as El Alamein in Egypt and Tobruk in Libya and many others, where the natural desert landscape invites a different approach to planting. In these situations there are no lawns and the plants are selected for their drought tolerance. In Rhodes War Cemetery, Greece, the proximity to the sea and the long, dry summers invited a slightly different solution. Pebbles are used instead of grass and the colourful borders are set in these producing quite a different, but satisfying result reflecting also the dry, local landscape. Wherever possible, however, the Commission continues to use lawns with herbaceous borders. The total ground area within the Commission’s control is about 710 hectares, of which over 450 hectares are under fine horticultural maintenance.


Maintenance

Thaba Tshwane (New) Military Cemetery, South Africa

Gardening is a labour-intensive business, especially when the aim is to achieve the standards the Commission aspires to, and although the number of gardeners employed has decreased in recent years as advantage has been taken of the possibilities afforded by new technology, the majority of the Commission’s staff around the world (some 900) are still

Nairobi War Cemetery, Kenya

gardeners. Some cemeteries are maintained under arrangements made with other Commonwealth countries, and war graves in civil cemeteries are often maintained under contract with the

Cassino War Cemetery, Italy

local authority or lanscape contractor, but the majority of Commonwealth war graves around the world are maintained by the Commission’s staff. The method of maintenance varies and depends upon a number of factors. Where there are many cemeteries within a limited geographic area, as is the case along the Western Front of the First World War, in northern Italy or on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, mobile teams of gardeners, operating from a local base, travel around in vans with their equipment. Elsewhere cemeteries are maintained by static staff, and a small cemetery might be looked after by a single gardener working part-time. In addition to mobile groups of gardeners, there are also specialist tree-teams in France, Belgium and Greece, trained and supplied with the full range of modern equipment and machinery. Elsewhere tree work is often put out to contract.

heading; when growth ceases the equally important winter tasks of cultivating and replanting the headstone and pedestal borders and relevelling and resowing turf take over. Hedges, shrubberies and trees are also planted during the dormant season in temperate regions. The pattern will differ in the tropics where constant maintenance is generally the norm, but the same careful attention to the craft of gardening is given the world over.

A mobile team

Mowing

turf, eliminating if at all possible the need to dispose of green waste. This practice is aided by the use of powerful compost shredders, screeners and turners. Ever since the Commission experimented with powered lawn mowers in the 1920s, the potential benefits of new technology have been appreciated in helping to lighten the gardener’s load; and for many years now items such as compact tractors

Scarifying

The Commission’s multinational workforce

Edging

Throughout the growing season there is a ceaseless round of mowing, hoeing, edging, scarification, pruning and dead-

and replanting of borders. This entails a systematic approach to replanting, which is organised around a five year cycle in northern Europe. This in turn has facilitated the ordering of new plants, some of which (for instance roses) are often contract-grown by specialist suppliers. Herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees are generally purchased from outside nurseries but many groups and static sites have local facilities to propagate border plants in situ and by natural division. The

Although the fundamentals of horticultural design and practice have not been altered over the years, the Commission is constantly evaluating new ideas and equipment that become available. Judicious use is made of residual herbicides for the control of weeds in headstone borders, with the selection and choice of pesticides carefully monitored to ensure minimal risk to operators and the environment. In order to operate successfully, however, a careful balance has to be struck between herbicide application

Relaying turf

complexities of planning plant and material supplies for a very large number of cemeteries can now be better controlled with the assistance of computers. Gardening on such a large scale inevitably leads to much plant waste, woody and herbaceous, as various operations are carried out. It is the Commission’s aim to recycle as much of this as possible by modern composting techniques and returning the finished product to the borders or

Cleaning headstones

and matched equipment, stump grinders, woodchippers, powered edge-trimmers, leaf-blowers and collectors, scarifiers, aerators, overseeders and rotovators have been added to the gardeners’ arsenal. Mechanical equipment is expensive and must be replaced before it needs major repairs. All machines have specific life expectancies based on the experience of use in the field. The aim of maintenance programs is to extract as long a life as possible before incurring higher costs of repair.


Maintenance

Thaba Tshwane (New) Military Cemetery, South Africa

Gardening is a labour-intensive business, especially when the aim is to achieve the standards the Commission aspires to, and although the number of gardeners employed has decreased in recent years as advantage has been taken of the possibilities afforded by new technology, the majority of the Commission’s staff around the world (some 900) are still

Nairobi War Cemetery, Kenya

gardeners. Some cemeteries are maintained under arrangements made with other Commonwealth countries, and war graves in civil cemeteries are often maintained under contract with the

Cassino War Cemetery, Italy

local authority or lanscape contractor, but the majority of Commonwealth war graves around the world are maintained by the Commission’s staff. The method of maintenance varies and depends upon a number of factors. Where there are many cemeteries within a limited geographic area, as is the case along the Western Front of the First World War, in northern Italy or on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, mobile teams of gardeners, operating from a local base, travel around in vans with their equipment. Elsewhere cemeteries are maintained by static staff, and a small cemetery might be looked after by a single gardener working part-time. In addition to mobile groups of gardeners, there are also specialist tree-teams in France, Belgium and Greece, trained and supplied with the full range of modern equipment and machinery. Elsewhere tree work is often put out to contract.

heading; when growth ceases the equally important winter tasks of cultivating and replanting the headstone and pedestal borders and relevelling and resowing turf take over. Hedges, shrubberies and trees are also planted during the dormant season in temperate regions. The pattern will differ in the tropics where constant maintenance is generally the norm, but the same careful attention to the craft of gardening is given the world over.

A mobile team

Mowing

turf, eliminating if at all possible the need to dispose of green waste. This practice is aided by the use of powerful compost shredders, screeners and turners. Ever since the Commission experimented with powered lawn mowers in the 1920s, the potential benefits of new technology have been appreciated in helping to lighten the gardener’s load; and for many years now items such as compact tractors

Scarifying

The Commission’s multinational workforce

Edging

Throughout the growing season there is a ceaseless round of mowing, hoeing, edging, scarification, pruning and dead-

and replanting of borders. This entails a systematic approach to replanting, which is organised around a five year cycle in northern Europe. This in turn has facilitated the ordering of new plants, some of which (for instance roses) are often contract-grown by specialist suppliers. Herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees are generally purchased from outside nurseries but many groups and static sites have local facilities to propagate border plants in situ and by natural division. The

Although the fundamentals of horticultural design and practice have not been altered over the years, the Commission is constantly evaluating new ideas and equipment that become available. Judicious use is made of residual herbicides for the control of weeds in headstone borders, with the selection and choice of pesticides carefully monitored to ensure minimal risk to operators and the environment. In order to operate successfully, however, a careful balance has to be struck between herbicide application

Relaying turf

complexities of planning plant and material supplies for a very large number of cemeteries can now be better controlled with the assistance of computers. Gardening on such a large scale inevitably leads to much plant waste, woody and herbaceous, as various operations are carried out. It is the Commission’s aim to recycle as much of this as possible by modern composting techniques and returning the finished product to the borders or

Cleaning headstones

and matched equipment, stump grinders, woodchippers, powered edge-trimmers, leaf-blowers and collectors, scarifiers, aerators, overseeders and rotovators have been added to the gardeners’ arsenal. Mechanical equipment is expensive and must be replaced before it needs major repairs. All machines have specific life expectancies based on the experience of use in the field. The aim of maintenance programs is to extract as long a life as possible before incurring higher costs of repair.


The Gardeners

The Commission is committed to the professional development of its gardening staff. Many garderers who are recruited in the United Kingdom have formal horticultural qualifications. For local staff who have no formal

Training in specialist skills such as tree surgery, chain saw usage, machinery maintenance, the safe use of pesticides and personal development is carried out by external trainers. The Commission’s gardening staff in northern Europe consists partly of Commonwealth expatriate gardeners and partly of gardeners recruited within the country, the latter now considerably outnumbering the former. In southern Europe, Africa and Asia all the gardening staff are nationals of the countries concerned. In many cases sons and grandsons of former gardeners are carrying on a family tradition by working for the Commission. Gardeners are supported by technical supervisory staff - Head Gardeners, Horticultural Supervisors and Managers and a

Spreading compost at Labuan War Cemetery, Malaysia

The

Commonwealth

War

Graves

Commission is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of those members of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars, for building and maintaining memorials to the dead whose graves are unknown and for providing records and registers of these burials and commemorations, totalling 1.7 million and found in most countries throughout the world.

Enquiries on location of individual burials or commemorations may be directed to the office below or through the Commission's Internet site at www.cwgc.org.

Forking over the borders at Delhi War Cemetery, India For further information contact: Commonwealth War Graves Commission 2 Marlow Road Maidenhead Berkshire SL6 7DX United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 1628 507200 +44 (0) 1628 507149 Fax: +44 (0) 1628 771208 E-mail: enquiries@cwgc.org

qualifications there is a system of modular training covering all aspects of horticultural work in a cemetery. Local staff can progress through the grading structure to a higher grade following the successful completion of a module. Management and supervisory staff, when on site, assist in this training process.

Director of Horticulture in the maintenance of more than 2,500 war cemeteries, plots and memorial grounds throughout the world.

Published by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX, United Kingdom

04/04

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