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Exteriors, Lifestyle

William Morris’s Creativity Brought to Life in Garden Setting


Inspired by a visit to Kelmscott Manor, Ruth Willmott was awarded Gold at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show for her Morris & Co show garden.

The garden was created as a tribute to the father of the Arts & Crafts Movement, William Morris who lived at Kelmscott Manor near Lechlade for 25 years. Built around 1600, of local Cotswold stone, Morris first viewed the property in 1871 and was immediately attracted to its unpretentious architecture, the local history and landscape surrounding the property. Kelmscott Manor fulfilled all his passions: history, nature, archaeology and romantic medievalism. The house provided Morris with enduring creative inspiration and was fundamental in formulating his views on his craft-based work, conservation, social democracy, and environmental issues.

For designer Ruth Willmott, who had previously designed show gardens for RHS Chelsea, the Morris & Co garden was her most challenging to date; not only did the garden have to recognise Morris’ simple yet effective designs but Ruth also wanted to use inspiring modern-day artisanship of which William Morris himself would have approved. “This garden took three years to design and plan. It took around 18 months from my initial concept, collaborating with a structural engineer and then the metal worker to work up detailed construction drawings. The central pavilion, featuring posts and screens depicting Morris’s ‘Willow Boughs’ pattern, inspired by the willows growing around Kelmscott was an engineering challenge with its structural design and how it would be constructed using the minimum of fixings and maximising the panels of patterns. Designing a Chelsea garden which features water can also be challenging – it is always harder in practice to create within a garden constructed in such a short space of time. As water was a huge part of William Morris’s life with all his homes being near the River Thames and River Wandle, it was an essential element in this design. The three water channels featured represented the rivers that were a part of his life.”

Other aspects of the design demonstrated more traditional arts and crafts methods, and these included the hand-made clay tiles and riven buff Yorkstone paving. A series of interconnecting pathways reflecting the design Morris used in his first wallpaper design ‘Trellis’ took people through the garden to the central pavilion.

Ruth and her design team were part of an overall build team of nearly 60 people, including structural engineers, landscapers, metal workers, stone masons, willow weavers, specialist plant and tree nurseries and lots of volunteers. The lesser complicated element of the overall design, with Ruth’s naturalistic style of planting, was choosing the plants themselves. “Selecting plants for the Morris & Co design was relatively easy and inspirational. Morris took many of his designs from the English countryside, hedgerows and garden plants. He was also an environmentalist, and he chose plants to encourage bees, birds and wildlife; this is something I favour, too. I chose plants based on the colourways of Morris’s ‘Strawberry Thief’ which has a palette of earthy reds, apricot tones accented with whites, blues and restful greens. I also incorporated trees used in his designs, namely willow and hawthorn. The trees and hedging were selected to provide habitat for birds whilst referencing the recurring bird motif in both ‘Trellis’ and ‘Strawberry Thief’ with single flowering shrubs and herbaceous planting for bees. I mixed cottage garden plants such as Roses, Iris, Peonies, Dianthus, Geranium, Foxgloves along with shrubs such as Cotoneaster, Berberis and Viburnum.”

As part of the original design planning, Ruth and her team had to factor in where the garden would go after the show. “We wanted to recycle as many elements of the Morris & Co show garden as possible. I worked closely with my Sustainability Director Joey Tabone who found locations with a historical connection to William Morris where there were teams of willing volunteers to care for it long-term. Elements of the garden went to three community gardens in Islington’s Packington Estate regeneration project, in collaboration with the Arc Centre Gardening Collective. This newly redeveloped estate was chosen as it is located around the corner from the site where Morris’s prints were first produced by Jeffrey and Co over 160 years ago.”

If you were not able to visit RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022 and see the Morris & Co garden in situ, Kelmscott Manor is open to visitors until the end of October.


New build houses
Thu 18 Jul 2024

Congratulations! Buying a new home is such an exciting moment. Whether it is your very first home or you are upgrading your current property for something a bit nicer, there is no feeling like it. New build homes are such a great investment. Not only are they brand new for your family but you can feel confident that they have been designed with the future in mind. Many properties come with eco-friendly features which are great for safeguarding your family. Financing a new home can be a bit of a minefield. Let’s take a look at how you could buy your new home as well as some things to look out for along the way. Mortgage Mortgages are the most common financing option when buying a home. Buyers of new builds can benefit from mortgages designed for the intricacies of the new build process. Lenders may be a lot more critical when looking at your application as there is less security for them with a new build. As construction timelines can be subject to delays and issues, be sure to keep in touch with your lender and see if you can extend your mortgage in principal agreement. You may be able to get some help with buying a new build home. If you are a first-time buyer, look into whether you are eligible for a discount under the First Homes Scheme. Incentives from builders It is in the best interest of building developers to sell their new homes, so some may offer you incentives. You may be offered cash towards your deposit which will be transferred to your solicitor on completion. If you do take advantage of this, remember to inform your mortgage lender. For people who have already purchased a home, developers may be able to help you sell your old house. A developer-assisted sale is one where they will aid you with independent valuations, appropriate deals or the actual sale. This is often free, and they may pay for your estate agency fees. Hidden costs Buying a house can come with hidden costs such as stamp duty and moving costs. Delays in the construction of your new build can often be costly too. When thinking about your moving budget, it is wise to incorporate a buffer zone for additional expenses. Advice The home-buying process is not a straightforward one, so seeking help from professionals is prudent. A lot of the process includes legal intricacies which will be beyond your capabilities. Mortgage brokers, for example, will be invaluable when it comes to getting you a mortgage in principle that works for your situation. Not only will you be able to get the best deal and save money, but a broker will save you so much time. Instructing a firm of solicitors will also be worth the expense. They can do land searches, deed transfers and keep everything above board for you going forward.

Endellion Lycett Green - you drifted by
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This summer the Laura Lopes Gallery presents works by botanical artist Endellion Lycett Green in the Tithe Barn at Thyme. Through her art, Lycett Green pays testament to the inspiration she finds in the natural world.

Lydia Millen
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For anyone who hasn’t come across Lydia Millen, she is an influencer-turned-writer who has embraced a life of bucolic bliss. Her debut book, Evergreen: Discover the Joy in Every Season, came out last autumn and encourage readers to be inspired and soothed by connecting with the natural world.

Urban winner   Danny Kidby Hunter
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Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has opened its annual nature photography competition for 2024 with new categories and prizes.