Crafted, and Planted
William Morris was inspired by the beauty of native flora and fauna for the fabrics and wallcoverings he produced for Morris & Co. in the 19th century. Now, the inspiration is flowing the other way, as a garden at the 2022 RHS Chelsea uses his original designs to create a contemporary outdoor space, which has won a gold medal for Morris & Co. and designer Ruth Willmott.
Willmott starting point was two well-loved and enduring designs, ‘Willow Boughs’ and ‘Trellis’. The former has been used to create laser-cut screens featuring the pattern, which are also inlaid into a series of water channels that flow through the garden, while the latter has helped dictate the layout, which has a quadrant design with a series on interconnecting pathways. The project makes a deeper point about Morris & Co.’s connection to British craftsmanship, with several talented makers involved, including metalworker James Booth of Outdoor Design, who made the laser-cut panels, to Kent-made clay tiles by Adam Spicer and handwoven willow panels by Peter Dibble.
The naturalistic planting is presented in a tapestry of colours, with earthy red, apricot, white, blue and green. Plants include hawthorn, cotoneaster, verbascum, roses – and of course, a statuesque willow tree.
After the show, elements of the garden will be relocated to three community gardens in Islington, close to where Morris’ prints were first produced over 160 years ago. It is hoped that there they will be able to inspire a new generation of gardeners.
Find the original fabric and wallcovering designs in the Morris & Co. showroom – or seek out Ben Pentreath’s latest Cornubia collection, which puts a new spin on these classics with updated colourways: read about it here.