Fern Fever


“Dr Sarah Whittingham is a historian who specialises in the social history, architecture and gardens of the nineteenth & early twentieth centuries”...Fern Fever
Cover of Fern Fever
Her latest sumptuous book, Fern Fever, catalogues a bizarre craze the Victorians developed for anything to do with ferns.
Fern frond

When Sarah challenged me to come up with a fern design, William Morris instantly sprang to mind. Surely Morris had used the fern in his work? But he never did, and Sarah tells me it was probably due to the motif being too old-fashioned and 'Victorian' by the time he came to prominance. For although he was a brilliant artist his designs were used commercially.

So, with a nod to Morris and the love of a plant that has existed for at least 360 million years, I sketched out an idea that would look very much Twenty-first century. 

Initial sketch on tracing paper 

I rejected this because it was too complicated

The single symmetrical plant I eventually came up with stood alone as a logo.

And when split in two as  

But I also wanted it to tesselate. When making a pattern dual problems arise. The repeated design has to fit with the negative space it creates, and also with the repeat of itself. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg exercise so it took me a while to settle on my arrangement.




This is just one colourway inspired by the ferns in my garden, but I imagine it would work in many colour ranges and even reversed out of a deep-coloured background.  

I'd like to thank Sarah for inspiring me in the first place, pteridomania is a fascinating and beautiful subject. Hopefully the end result looks both Victorian and contemporary.


  1. This are beautiful - and thanks for showing us how the design evolved.

  2. Thank you Jo, that's very kind of you. It's a fascinating subject.

  3. It does - and how odd that Morris didn't think of it . . . and how fortunate because to steal a march on Morris is quite a something.
    * * *
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  4. I'm an illustrator looking for fern references to save time on a pro bono project for my neighbourhood and found your lovely design. I'm contacting you by email about purchasing reproduction rights.