English gardens today are, in the main, thought of almost entirely in terms of flowers; any garden bursting with flowers is one to be admired.
The flower of remembrance, poppies, are a symbol of eternal sleep. Their rich red colour represents all those left on a battlefield in wartime.
Red is also the colour of the dress coats worn by some 300 retired soldiers from the British Army known as Chelsea Pensioners. They live at the The Royal Hospital at Chelsea in London, where the iconic Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show founded in 1913 is held annually.
The show at Chelsea attracts people from all around the world to view the flowers generally raised in English gardens. This year it will take place 24 – 28 May.
For the Chelsea Flower Show 2016, some 50,000 contributors around the world have crocheted over 300,000 red poppies , so that they can adorn a vista from the showground to the Royal hospital.
They will provide a poignant poppy testimonial, sending a message of respect and remembrance, arranged in conjunction with the 5000 Poppies Project, which was founded by Australian friends and hand craft professionals Margaret Knight and Lynn Berry. It started because they wanted to remember their own fathers in a simple but personal way.
Now going international, the display of crocheted or knitted poppies at Chelsea is being designed and co-ordinated by acclaimed Australian landscape designer Phillip Johnson.
He won the Gold Medal and Best Show Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in London in 2013 with his Trailfinders Australian garden, winning friends and influencing many people all around the globe.
His spectacular show of 100,000 + poppies on the steps of Melbourne’s Federation Square and on the Princes Bridge over the River Yarra in 2015, provided a memorable backdrop for the Centenary of the Anzac Commemorations in Victoria.
During the last year or so grand fields of red poppies have made a grand statement in many places.
Who can forget the sight of all those red ceramic poppies planted in the empty moat surrounding The White Tower in London.
The image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II standing among them looking completely overwhelmed was shown around the world.
It must have engaged the Queen’s memories.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae immortalized those who died near Ypres, France in May 1915 with his deeply sad poem ‘In Flanders Fields.
As a youthful princess 18 years of age Queen Elizabeth persuaded her father the King to allow her to don overalls, to be trained as a mechanic and military truck driver and to join the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.
Each year since the end of that dreadful conflict, the Queen can be seen at the Chelsea Flower Show in London.
The show has become over the last half century, an iconic traditional event bringing much joy and beauty to London in Springtime.
This year while the show will be tinged with a sadness with this moving reflection on so many lives lost, an objective of the 5000 Poppies Project is to provide an uplifting experience of beauty.
It is after all, one of the images that remained infused in all those who went to war’s minds, as they sought for hope, love and beauty among the carnage.
Qantas will be shipping the precious cargo to London so that it will be able tell a tale about how in times of terrible conflict the human spirit arises from the ashes to send a message of eternal hope to all who strive to achieve a better world.
It must be hard for younger people today who have not ever experienced such serious loss and deprivation of liberty to even begin to understand the depths of despair people here at home in Australia felt during wartime with their loved ones so far away.
It is a message sadly we need to regularly keep bringing to the fore, lest we forget the supreme sacrifice made by so many, enabling generations of Australians to live a free life.
History does have a way of repeating itself, when as times fade, it’s only goodness we remember.
It can lull us all into a sense of false security in a world that can often seem as if it is imploding on itself.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
All the veterans of WWI are now gone and the numbers of those who lived through World War II are thinning fast.
There is no way they would ever forget the sadness and horrors endured during that time.
So many families devastated, so many lives lost and so many left wondering where do we go from here.
The show in London at Chelsea will be taking place on April 25 while in Australia and New Zealand we are honouring the many fallen ANZACS (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps).
The ANZACS bore all without complaint, displaying a strength of right and purpose that was emboldening to all those around them; conspicuous gallantry, devotion to duty, having the courage of your convictions, caring for others and believing in a cause that is way beyond self.
They have now come to represent, after years of marches to commemorate their courage, a spirit internally we all strive to obtain, one that never gives in to fear, to violence or to man’s inhumanity to man?
In many ways now ANZAC Day has become Australia’s most important national occasion, more than any other day.
It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War (1914-1918).
It is an event about the past that speaks strongly to the present and, in a very powerful way.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016