A Plantsman's Response to World War I

2017 marks 100 years since the gardens were turned over for fruit and vegetable production in World War I. By late summer, borders and beds will be filled with produce and a gourd tunnel created in our Australasian garden to mirror the 1917 war effort.

Food was in short supply during the First World War and by 1917 Britain was running out of produce. Growing vegetables was actively encouraged; even the flowerbeds at Buckingham Palace were given over to food production.

Dig for victory

Volunteer Andrew Smith planting out the cabbage, one of the varieties grown at Dyffryn for the 1917 scheme
Volunteer Andrew Smith planting out the cabbage, one of the varieties grown at Dyffryn for the 1917 scheme

At Dyffryn, the Cory family sent their gardeners out to share their horticultural knowledge with village communities around the estate. They also began growing on a vast scale. Every inch of available ground, including the garden’s annual flower and dahlia beds, was used to raise 100,000 young vegetable plants from seed, all despatched in early May and June to villagers to grow on in their own gardens.

" Did you know... 6 acres of potatoes were planted at Dyffryn to help the war effort"
- Ceridwen Davies, Walled Garden Supervisor

Our walled garden supervisor, Ceridwen Davies, has delved into the archives to create a display in our pot store which tells the story of the ‘vegetable plants for villagers’ scheme. From details of the crops grown to the two women gardeners who worked alongside the 6 remaining men of the original 40 strong workforce, most had signed up at the outbreak of war.

Re-creation of the First World War planting scheme
Re-creation of the First World War planting scheme

Reginald and Florence Cory, working with their Head Gardener, Arthur Cobb, continued to maintain the gardens to a high standard and used the land, where there was an opportunity, to support the war effort.

Throughout 2017, come to see the transformation of Dyffryn as we fill borders and beds with fruit and veg and our gourd tunnel grows into a spectacle over autumn.