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Cedric Morris

Above my bed is a large fine art print of  Sir Cedric Morris’s “Several Inventions”, a rather mundane title for an exuberant painting of mainly bearded irises. The blooms are lined in a row: blue, purple, pink and white with the rich green fields of Dedham Vale for their backdrop.

Morris is equally well known in the art and horticultural fields. A long term resident of the areas bordering what we fondly call Constable Country, artists flocked to the East Anglian School of  Art and Drawing which he founded with his life partner Arthur Lett-Haines in Hadleigh, Suffolk. The “Bloombury-esque“ community of painters and sculptors, included present day feted artist Maggi Hambling lived in the peace and tranquillity of the Suffolk landscape and his garden at Benton End whilst learning at the feet of the master. 

Horticulturalists and gardeners know Morris for the prodigious number of cultivars that bear his name or that of Benton End, and for his lasting on  friend and fellow plants-person, Beth Chatto. His passion was for irises but there are also geraniums, sweet peas and poppies bearing his name. Beth Chatto’s gardens are currently propagating a selection of nearly 2 dozen known Morris iris cultivars, all starting with the name Benton. My own personal favourite is the dramatically coloured Benton Caramel with its maroon falls and strawberry standards. The bright burnt orange signals give the plant its name. Less dramatic is the subtle Benton Opal, the palest shade of lilac with delicate rust veining at the throat and sunshine yellow beard. Other cultivars have names such a Lorna, Nigel, and Daphne – lucky the souls who had the honour of being memorialised thus! Perhaps more sinister is another variety called Menace. What story lurks behind that name I wonder!

For more information on Beth Chatto’s plants go to the visit: Cedric Morris

For an interesting YouTube video on Cedric Morris’s painting, watch Phillip Mould’s “Art in Isolation”.


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