Calgary artist crafts planter for historic oak headed to Vimy Ridge

A Calgary porcelain artist has crafted a planter that will help repopulate a Vimy Ridge forest devastated in the First World War.

Vimy Ridge forest destroyed in war to be restored with 'Canadian cousin' oak trees

Six cachepots painted by Canadian artists will be presented to dignitaries during the centennial celebration of the capture of Vimy Ridge in 2017. 1:09

A Calgary artist has crafted a commemorative planter for a 'Canadian cousin' of the mighty European oak tree, which will help to repopulate a Vimy Ridge forest devastated in the First World War.

Glenda Lenz says the cachepot — a decorative container for a potted plant — will be presented to dignitaries in an upcoming ceremony to honour the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers.

"It is a presentation pot for [a sapling from] a tree that was grafted in Ontario and is going to be repatriated to France to the Vimy Ridge memorial site," Lenz says.

Glenda Lenz was 1 of 6 Canadian artists to create planters that will house repatriated trees for a ceremony at Vimy Ridge next year. (CBC)

The tree has quite a history.

"These trees were planted from acorns in France that a soldier back in the First World War brought home to his family farm," Lenz said.

"He planted them in the ground and eventually they grew and now they are in the middle of Scarborough, Ontario, in the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church parking lot."

Glenda Lenz's cachepot will hold an oak sapling that will be presented to dignitaries during a ceremony in Vimy Ridge next year. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Six trees will be presented to dignitaries to honour the 100th anniversary of the battle at Vimy Ridge next year.

A total of 100 trees will be planted to begin the reforestation of Vimy Ridge with the original oak species that was destroyed during the First World War.

The $5-million plan also includes an education centre for Canada "so that people that go there will see what Canadians did, how they fought the war and of course the great sacrifice they made at Vimy Ridge," the porcelain artist said.

The planter pays tribute to the Vimy oak acorn, which fell from a European Oak during the Battle of Vimy Ridge and was subsequently planted in Ontario by a returning Canadian soldier. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Lenz says there are five other artists across Canada that will create planters for the project and she was cautiously thrilled to be chosen from Calgary.

"I felt a little bit excited and maybe a little bit worried... could I do justice to this? It is a big subject, a very big subject," she said.

In her 42-year-long career, Lenz said this has been the most gruelling piece she's had to create. Because she was painting on such a small surface area, she had to fire the porcelain every night — a total of 36 times at temperatures as high as 760 C — to prevent the colours from smudging.

"But I felt honoured, very honoured, to be chosen."

Lenz's piece will be presented at the Crossfield Legion in Airdrie on March 19. From there, it will travel to Montreal and join the other five artists' creations at a major porcelain conference in May.

Glenda Lenz said she was honoured and a bit worried after being chosen to create the cachepot. (CBC)

With files from Evelyne Asselin


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