only in britain

What a country!  In the US, we  commission artists to create memorials of concrete, marble and stone for our war dead.  Leave it to the Brits, to find a way to incorporate horticulture and volunteers into their memorial.  Blood Swept Lands and Seas Of Red is an installation at the Tower London marking one hundred years since the first full day of World War One.  The work was created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper.  888,246 ceramic poppies will eventually fill the Tower’s moat over the summer and will be planted by volunteers (go to if you wish to volunteer). Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war.  The installation will be taken down on November 11, 2014, the last day of the war and the poppies will be sold.  Proceeds go to British charities (go to  if you wish to purchase).

I’ve spent some time in the UK, surrounded by people involved in horticulture.  When working in National Trust gardens, I realized that visitors to these gardens, often know as much about the plants as the people who work there and sometimes more.  I have no idea why the Brits have a tremendous reverence for horticulture,gardening and the natural world.  The  news is blanketed with death and destruction throughout the world.  Maybe if we had more monuments, like Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, we might think about the preciousness of each individual life.

The title of installation comes from anonymous poem written by World War One solider.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

The blood swept lands and seas of red,

Where angels dare to tread.

As I put my hand to reach,

As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,

Again and again.

As the tears of mine fell to the ground

To sleep with the flowers of red

As any be dead

My children see and work through fields of my

Own with corn and wheat,

Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting

Fields so far from my love.

It be time to put my hand up and end this pain

Of living hell. To see the people around me

Fall someone angel as the mist falls around

And the rain so thick with black thunder I hear

Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss

The flower of my people gone before time

To sleep and cry no more

I put my hand up and see the land of red,

This is my time to go over,

I may not come back

So sleep, kiss the boys for me.

August 5 – November 11


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