Vimy Ridge

To read about The Vimy Foundation, please visit their official website.

By Gloria Chambers Cowan, Past President, 2014-2016

In May of 2016 I completed a two-year term as president of the Porcelain Artists of Canada. During my term as President, I was busy with organizing and planning several initiatives designed to strengthen our image and improve communications with our members across Canada and with associations of porcelain artists in other parts of the world. One such initiative was to improve and update our web site. It was through our web site that the Vimy Oaks project was started and, for me, this project has become a treasured memory of my time as President.

The project really began when the fighting ended on Vimy Ridge. A young soldier, Leslie Miller, gathered acorns from the shattered oak trees on the battlefield and brought them home to his parents’ farm in Scarborough Ontario. Leslie survived the war and the acorns flourished and now stand as beautiful century old oaks in the urban landscape of Scarborough. The historical significance of the oaks is known and appreciated and a committee has been established to repatriate the oaks by starting seedlings from these trees and planting them on Vimy Ridge to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle in 2017.

I was contacted by the president of the Vimy Oaks committee through our web-site and asked to assist with choosing porcelain containers and the Canadian artists to paint these containers for the Vimy Oaks seedlings. The plan was to present these seedlings in beautiful hand-painted porcelain containers to various dignitaries including the President of France and Queen Elizabeth at the 100th anniversary celebrations in France.

Cache pots produced by Limoges of France were selected as containers for the seedlings and porcelain artists from across Canada were selected and invited to contribute their talents to this project. To use such beautiful French porcelain seemed to be a most appropriate choice as we remember the sombre aspects of this project which took place in France and the memories we wish to honour. The selection of Canadian artists allowed us to acknowledge that the Canadian soldiers who served in France came from across the entire country.

Our artists responded to my invitation to participate with enthusiasm and humility and I was able to select artists from the west coast, the prairies, central Canada and the east coast.  A total of six cache pots were painted. Themes were suggested but individual artistic interpretations were encouraged. The wonderful results were on full display at our biennial convention held in Montreal in May 2016. Additional displays were at the Gardiner Museum, Toronto, and later at the town hall in Givenchy en Gohelle, France, March to April 2017. Individual examples of the finished cache pots may be seen on the web sites of two of our artists. Please visit these sites at and at

Veterans Affairs, Canada have been placed in charge of presentations in France and plan a presentation ceremony in May 2017 along with many other Canadians.  As this project concludes I am pleased to have had the opportunity to assist and to help feature the artistic talents of our painters. I am also left with a sense of admiration for the young soldier who salvaged the acorns from the shattered trees of Vimy and brought them to life in Canada. Now we as Canadians can complete this cycle as we restore these oaks to Vimy Ridge.

(Updated Feb 2019)


Mosterman Plants Inc. (Chilliwack, BC) is proud to supply the root stock for the Vimy Ridge Oak project which is being led by Connon Nurseries – NVK Holdings Inc. (Waterdown, ON).  Grafting of the original Vimy Ridge Oaks onto Agassiz seedling brings this project full circle.

These English Oak (Quercus robur) seedlings were grown from seed collected at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, BC.  The parent tree is one of the original trees planted shortly after the research station opened in 1888.  It is an outstanding specimen tree today and contributes its excellent heritage and traits to the project.

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