hundreds of pickets round with a red tip stands in the undergrowth in the terrain bashed by the bombings that have devastated the small village of Craonne (Aisne) during the offensive of general Nivelle in April 1917. In surveying the dips and bumps of this necropolis new year’s eve, already numb by the freshness of golden November, it looks like matchsticks ready to ignite, to revive the memory of 592 Italian soldiers fallen here, on the front line of the Chemin des Dames. As a contrast to life on the omnipresent death. Soon the winter rains will fill such big tears three old shell-holes before that in the spring a myriad of plants-flowering bulbs (crocus, tulips, muscaris…) does not illuminate the poignant Garden of peace, designed by three architects of italy: Lorenza Bartolazzi, Luca Catalano and Claudia Clementi.

“Our goal was to create, a hundred years after the Armistice, on the main sites of Hauts-de-France devastated by the absolute madness of the First world War, spaces of contemplation, reflection, rest, entrusting their realization to landscape architects from twenty countries engaged in the conflict”, explains Gilbert Fillinger, director of the association of Art & Gardens, to the origin, with Joseph Zimet, Mission director of the centenary of the First world War, the creation of these Gardens of peace.

“The ifs, the charcoals and the dogwoods will gradually invade the place, as the peace which ends up by erasing the scars of war”.

Gilbert Fillinger, director of the association of Art & Gardens-Hauts de France

What’s better, in fact, a garden, a space of well-being and wholeness, a place, dreamed and built by man in co-production with nature, to celebrate the memory while projecting to the future and the renaissance of these lands permanently bruised?

Twelve Gardens of peace were inaugurated this week, including three on the ruins of the “old” Craonne, where, between two bushes, signs, photos, archive support, the location of the rectory, the town hall, old street… Here, the destruction was such that a new village has been built 1 mile below.

“the Cultivation of the memory” the garden of The Hesperides: a piece of land of Africa on the site as a martyr of the “old” Craonne (Aisne). Yann Monel

Near the Italian garden, the German landscape architect Thilo Folkerts has installed one of its three great circles bordered by a ring of metal where the visitors are invited to “cultivate the memory” by planting, in these shell holes “inverted” thousands of bulbs to blooms staggered in the spring until the fall.

Always on this site, the martyr, the garden of the Hesperides, the moroccan Karim el Achak and the belgian Bernard Depoorter, with its ocher sand and its magnificent platform in tails, and multicolored, is like a piece of this land of Africa who paid for it, too, a heavy price in the massacres of the Chemin des Dames. At the center, a sink, a shiny metal, filled with water, symbol of life, reflects the surrounding trees.

“It is in the Hauts-de-France that the conflict has been the deadliest and most internationalized, with a front line that ran through the five departments of the region including large portions of the territory were occupied by the Germans during almost the entire duration of the conflict” , ” continues Gilbert Fillinger which the project has received the support, including financial, in the region Hauts-de-France.

Wound still vivid in the minds, this front line has been beautifully restored by two architects in scotland, Anne Rhodes and Melissa Orr. Their garden, located in the immediate vicinity of the british cemetery Faubourg d’amiens in Arras (Pas-de-Calais), is a tribute to 2 500 pipers, parties in the front line to support the morale of their comrades. The visitor walks along a ridge line dotted with rock representing the trenches while scabieuses black, thistles blue and colchiques white evoke the harshness of the moorland of scotland.

Heaps of chalk and flint in The scotch garden of Arras. YANN MONEL

Another village wiped off the map during the battle of the Somme, where 442 000 soldiers died during the summer and autumn of 1916, Thiepval now hosts an impressive memorial near where two Gardens of peace come to be settled. The first consists of a long bench winding wood accoya and oak which meanders through the forest, along flower beds, and on which the welsh Dan Bowyer and the English Andrew Fisher Tomlin has engraved the names of soldiers who died in combat.

next door, the garden Pax Dryads, English Helen and James Basson, recently winning at the Chelsea Flower Show, casts a harsh light on the universe of the trenches. Small heaps of white chalk and flint are shell holes reversed, as positive. Two walkways winding wood-fringed studs chestnut and cables contained in the wire, leading to a rotunda delimited by superb weirs, that retain the earth of the lavish flower beds and shrubs. “The ifs, the charcoals and the dogwoods just planted will gradually invade the place, as the peace which ends up by erasing the scars of war, emphasizes Gilbert Fillinger. These gardens will grow and bloom with time, as new-born babies.”

Thirty gardens in 2022, the “garden of The third train in the forest of Rethondes near the wagon, where was signed the armistice, a hundred years ago. YANN MONEL

At Quesnoy (North), it is more a victory that is celebrated. On November 4, 1918, in effect, a week before the armistice, the new Zealand release of the city by climbing the ramparts of the fortress of red brick built two hundred and fifty years earlier by Vauban. It is this assault that the belgian Thomas Van Eeckhout and Mathieu Allain propose to revive in transposing the horizontal section of the imposing wall, through shrubs and flowers, a place of rest and meditation. Further, at the foot of the wall, the landscape of new zealand, Xanthe White, and his team have transformed a former wasteland into a sumptuous garden, maori, richly planted, the “rangimarie”, synonymous with peace, in which soar the spirits of the dead. As in all Gardens of the peace, benches are available to take the time to sit down and collect.

In the forest of Rethondes, near Compiègne (Oise), where the Armistice was signed, it is a bench seat in wood of several tens of meters long, symbolizing a “third rail”, the one of peace (after those of délégations German and French), which was installed in the middle of “pockets gardened” on the trail of access to the museum, by the German landscape architect Marc Blume, the French artist Gilles Brusset, and the architect Italian Francesca Liggieri.

With those of Péronne (Somme), Vimy and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (Pas-de-Calais), “new circuit of remembrance” , as they are called Xavier Bertrand, the president of the region Hauts-de-France, will be expanded next year to four gardens additional before or after thirty in 2022.

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