NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

Ellerslie international flower show, Hagley Park Christchurch

A show garden entered into the 2014 Ellerslie flower show. The theme for this abstract and thought-provoking garden is the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the First World War.

Portrayal of the garden to be built at Ellerslie in 2014

Excerpt from Epitaphs of War
by Rudyard Kipling (1914-1918)

If any question why we died,
 Tell them, because our fathers lied.

“It had been a perfect summer… the weather had been perfect…. The children had played for days on end. All was peace and beauty…. A quiet life full of simple pleasure.” 

(Englund Peter. The beauty and the sorrow. An intimate history of the First World War, p4)

Design ideas

Authors have suggested that Europe went to war unaware of the consequences, a result of the inability of politicians to reign in the generals. The summer was peaceful and the majority of the population was unaware of the implications of the colonial maneuverings, the military races and the ever-complex ‘ententes’ and alliances.

The false tranquility of the European summer is represented in the design through lush vegetation intermingled with decking and footpaths, a green and pleasant continent. The ‘gathering storm’ is symbolized in the ever-increasing mass of stark decks rising from the vegetation and collecting in a congested mass towards the ultimate point of declaration. There is an increasing detachment from the culture and society of the established hierarchies.

While the politicians sought collaboration; the armies expanded, the generals ensuring the politicians heeded the urgency to reach the field of battle first and best prepared. Both designs represent the growing arms race through striking timber vertical blocks gathering and congregating, joining in on the “great adventure.”

The outbreak of the war in August is represented in the design as the point where the horizontal is replaced by the vertical. The height of the garden is at its maximum at this point.

In the early part of the war there was genuine hope for an early victory. Realism was quick to strike as all armies ‘dug in’ and the stalemate commenced, along with the increasing casualties. The falling planes of stark white timber represent the increasing concept of ‘total war’ as civilians around the world became engulfed. Society, culture and lifestyle changed forever.

The hopes of the soldiers fell also and are represented by the poles, falling in to the stark timber depressions. The recesses represent the digging into the ground and the commencement of the stalemate.

The culmination of the journey features a garden of (growing but not flowering) soldier poppies at the lowest point of the garden. These are the focal point and the point of reflection for the design and homage to what was to occur in 1915.

The power of light and shade is expressed here and used to symbolize the passage of time. The striking forms and the reflective materials affords a play of light and glimpses into and out of the space from all directions allowing a longing for the past to be symbolized and a hope that the future will be brighter.

The design pays homage to the loss of innocence and the false hope of the great adventure. By 1915 the realities of war had changed the world forever and started a catalyst for change that is still shaping and reshaping the world today. This centenary is massive for so many reasons.

Too many to express in a single garden!

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Garden logo
This activity is being worked on from
February 2014
 to 
March 2014
Date added: 21 May 2013 | Last updated: 19 July 2014

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