William Morris Wildflower Parterre


At the end of June the exhibition The Arts & Crafts House: Then & Now opened at Compton Verney in Warwickshire. As well as featuring archive and contemporary photographs of Folly Farm, the Lutyens and Jekyll property where Dan has been working for the past 6 years, Dan was also asked to create a site specific garden installation in the grounds inspired by the designs of William Morris.

Having grown up in a house papered throughout with Morris designs Dan chose the famous Trellis design - Morris' first wallpaper - to use as the basis for a wildflower parterre on the West Lawn of the house.

Last autumn the entire West Lawn was scarified and rotavated and sown with a bespoke wildflower seed mix from Emorsgate Seeds. The mix includes yellow rattle, a parasitic plant that lives on the roots of grasses, weakening them, and thus allowing flowering species to gain the upper hand, producing a more diverse meadow.

We then took the key elements of Morris' design - the trellis itself, the rose branches and the roses - and worked them into a semi abstract design that was laid over the West Lawn. This was painstakingly marked out on site by Head Gardener, Gary Webb, who then had the uneviable task of mowing the design into the slowly emerging meadow. The 'roses' within the design were scarified again early in the growing season and sown with a pink Pictorial Meadows annual seed mix, containing Shirley poppies, cosmos and Ammi majus, to create the pink roses of Morris' design.

In late May a drone was sent up to film the West Lawn from above, and it shows how successfully the drawn design was transferred to the ground by Gary and his team.

When Dan arrived at the gallery on June 26th for the official preview opening he was delighted to see that the meadow parterre was looking remarkably like the visual we first prepared to illustrate his intention (top image). The combination of a rectlinear grid bisected by sinuous paths was proving very attractive to many of the invited guests who left the gallery to explore.