The inspiration H&M’S range isn’t the only treat for fans of Morris – explore his work and gardens, too
Curly leaves and spry flowers are synonymous with William Morris’s iconic patterns. This month, explore his relationship with the land
Textile designer William Morris believed that rather than creating a natural wilderness at home, one’s garden should be fenced, ‘orderly and rich’. This month, an exhibition opens at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, east London, for which curators have cherrypicked 90 sumptuous depictions of British gardens. And just as enticing is the splendid Georgian villa, buttressed by two softly curved brick turrets, in which they’re displayed, the Morris family home from 1848 to 1856. The show, ‘The Enchanted Garden’ (20 October–27 January 2019; wmgallery.co.uk), celebrates the affection in which 20th-century artists held the domestic garden. From Monet to Beatrix Potter’s illustrations of the Flopsy Bunnies in the lettuce patch and Bloomsbury Group member Duncan Grant’s 1929 painting of the view out to the garden from Charleston House, it’s a blend of charmingly rural styles.
To put yourself in Morris’s gardening shoes, do check out the gallery’s own plot. And, after admiring the painting by his daughter, May Morris, of the view of Kelmscott Manor featured in the exhibition, why not head off to explore the subject itself? The family’s 16th-century summer home in the picturesque Cotswolds, surrounded by a dovecote, meadow, stream and lawns, has recently been lovingly restored. The enchanting site, in a village that Morris once described as ‘ heaven on earth’, is open to the public on Wednesdays and Sundays until 29 October ( kelmscott.org.uk).
There’s more Morris-related gardenalia in Kent, at the Red House – the Tudor Gothicinspired home built for the Morris clan in 1860, which is open to visitors all year round. Morris created its compartmentalised medieval-style garden ‘to clothe the house’, and it, in turn, influenced his first wallpaper design, ‘Trellis’, in 1862. The grounds are currently being restored to their former glory by head gardener Robert Smith and team (nationaltrust.org).
Finally, if you’d like to create an Arts & Crafts patch in your own back yard, what to grow? For a mini orchard inspired by the Red House, go for honeysuckle, fruit trees and lavender; or for an ode to Kelmscott and the patterns its horticulture inspired, plant strawberries, willow, hollyhocks and English roses, such as the ‘Sir Edward Elgar’ – all available from the Royal Horticultural Society (rhsplants.co.uk).