The historical garden trend that's set to be big at the Chelsea Flower Show

The new Morris & Co garden will show visitors at the Chelsea Flower Show why the Arts & Crafts movement is just as relevant today

wooden gate at Red House Bexley Heath
(Image credit: National Trust/Chris Davies.)

When it comes to garden trends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show leads the way every year, showcasing the best new ideas around. But there's one surprising historical garden trend that is really making waves this year. 

The new Morris & Co show garden for 2022 is inspired by the visionary work of Arts & Crafts favorite William Morris, and particularly the much-loved 'Willow Boughs' design. The garden's designer Ruth Willmott (opens in new tab) took her inspiration from iconic wallpaper designs that date back to the Victorian era. 

The idea of valuing nature, craft and utility is very right for now too. Recognising that craft lay at the heart of Morris’s beliefs, the garden is a collaboration between Ruth and a team of talented stonemasons, metal workers, tilemakers and basket weavers who helped create the many artistic elements that characterise the design. 

Morris & Co garden Chelsea Flower Show 2022

At the heart of the garden, a striking metal pavilion featured posts and screens laser-cut with Morris’s iconic 'Willow Boughs' pattern by metal worker James Booth (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Ruth Willmott Associates)

Classic designs in the Morris & Co show garden

'I think that the patterns and motifs in Morris & Co wallpapers and fabrics are as fresh and inspiring today as they have always been,' says Ruth. 

'While the natural, bucolic scenes the designs conjure up have a restful quality that makes them easy to live with, the detailed designs and compositions are energetic and demand a second look.'

The color palette is joyfully medieval, and features earthy reds and apricot tones accented with whites, blues and restful greens. 

The Morris & Co garden designed by Ruth Willmott RHS Chelsea 2022

The plan for the Morris & Co show garden designed by Ruth Willmott at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022

(Image credit: Morris & Co)

Historically inspired outdoor spaces are one of the top garden trends right now, whether that's Arts & Crafts gardens like this one, Bridgerton-inspired Regency styles or flamboyant botanical print themes on garden accessories.

'I think there's a growing move to return our gardens to nature as the beneficial qualities of being surrounded by plants is realised,' says Ruth. 'It's about thinking more in terms of generously sharing our outside space with nature, as Morris himself advocated.'

Morris & Co garden designer Ruth Willmott at Chelsea

Morris & Co garden designer Ruth Willmott at Chelsea

(Image credit: Ruth Willmott)

Recreating this classic style

So how can you achieve an Arts & Crafts garden in your own space? Keep it simple and naturalistic and ensure there's a seamless transition from the house into the garden. 

'Prioritise soft planting over hard landscaping and include generous flower beds, trees and hedging,' explains Ruth. 'Above all, create a garden that celebrates the sheer joy of flowers, trees and foliage, much like Morris himself did.

'Repetition, symmetry and structure are symbolic of Arts & Crafts gardens as are the inclusion of local materials, craftsmanship and a love and respect for nature. Include plants bearing fruits and berries to create a habitat you can share with wildlife.'

Rose Claire Austin Red House Garden Snug

Roses, another of Morris’s favorite plants, can be seen in many forms in the garden. Where possible Ruth chose single flowering roses as they are a better choice for bees 

(Image credit: National Trust/Chris Davies)

The Morris & Co show garden also includes Morris’s favorite hawthorn, as well as cotoneaster, berberis and malus. Roses, another Morris favorite, can be seen in many forms in the garden.

Elsewhere, plants that feature in other Morris wallpaper designs are used including acanthus, meadowsweet, wild strawberries and jasmine, as well as wild honeysuckle woven through the hawthorn hedging. 

Trellis wallpaper design by William Morris

'Trellis' wallpaper design by William Morris

(Image credit: Morris & Co)

The garden is laid out in a quadrant design using a series of simple, inter-connecting pathways to observe the evocative planting close up.

The layout reflects Morris's first wallpaper design 'Trellis', a pattern influenced by the rose trellis in the garden of his home Red House (opens in new tab) in Kent, which is open to visitors if you're thinking of trying this trend and want more inspiration. 

This is the garden trend that you're about to see everywhere – you heard it here first. 

Gardens at the William Morris Red House in Kent, UK

The gardens at the William Morris Red House in Kent

(Image credit: Laurence Mackman/Alamy Stock Photo)
Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.