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Australia’s 5000 Poppies hits the International Stage

Today in London, Graham Ross witnessed the roll out of hundreds of thousands handmade poppies.

They have arrived at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in tribute to those who have served in war.


Graham within the incredible 5000 Poppies Project display at Chelsea


Almost 300,000 individually crocheted poppies, covering nearly 2,000sq m, are on display in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea (RHC) linking the hospital to the Chelsea Flower Show Marquee.


Chelsea Pensioner piper Michael Shanahan. Photo - Yui Mok Pa


Chelsea Pensioners were given a preview of the show which will be open to the public from Tuesday, with 160,000 visitors expected to come through the gates during the week.


All the poppies are different. It’s an amazing visual spectacle!


Volunteers have been busy putting the finishing touches to the 5000 Poppies exhibit; with Chelsea visitors able to admire the installation from the RHC showground.


Designer Phillip Johnson (here with Co-Founder, Lynn Berry) has been involved since day 1.


Designer Phillip Johnson, who won Best Show Garden in 2013, is the creator behind the poignant flower exhibit. The design stems from a stunning installation featuring thousands of poppies at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Anzac Day 2015.

“The poppies have been beautifully handmade as a tribute to those who served in all wars, creating a thread of connection to servicemen and women in the armed forces,” explains the Royal Horticultural Society.

“Each of the hand-knitted and crocheted flowers was individually crafted by people from a range of cultures, and communities and ages, from two to 102 years old.”


The poppies cover nearly 2,000sq m in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Photo - Yui Mok Pa


Between 2014 and 2018 Australia will commemorate the Anzac Centenary, marking 100 years since Australia’s involvement in the First World War.

Why Poppies? From its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, the poppy has become a symbol of both great loss in war and hope for those left behind.


Co-Founder Lynn Berry applying attention to detail.


The 5000 Poppies project was created by Australians Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight, who, in a Melbourne lounge room, initially set out to crochet 126 poppies to honour their fathers who both fought in World War II.

Following a successful online campaign, they ended up receiving 5,000 individual handmade poppies to be displayed at Federation Square. This grew and grew. They were then displayed at Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, then Melbourne Parliament House now Chelsea. They have grown to excess of quarter of a million poppies from an estimated 50,000 contributors from across the globe.

“It captured the hearts and imaginations of people from all over the world, and inspired Phillip to present the collection at Chelsea this year,” organisers added.

An additional 26,000 stemmed poppies have been created specifically for the show, including 1,200 stems contributed by women from the UK community knitting group “Knitting for Victory”.


The Aussie Contingent


But sending the project overseas requires a significant investment.

The Victorian Government has contributed $200,000 towards transporting the 35 cubic metres of flowers. Australian airline Qantas will transport the precious cargo to London. “It’s a travelling show, now, everyone wants a piece of this," says John Eren, Victorian Government Minister for Veterans Affairs, who farewelled the handcrafted poppies from Victoria's parliament house. Where will the poppies go next? Ted Bailleau needs only $50,000 more and the red carpets will be sent to the Western Front. The adventure continures...

"It looks wonderful as you can see, it is very vibrant with lots of colour in and it is also a way to remember those who sacrificed so much."

The Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 24-28, 2016. Come with us Gardens of England 2017