I finally ordered my needlepoint kit from Beth Russell, so I thought I'd do a little more research on the design so I could share it with you all!
Inspired by the trellises at Red House, Trellis is widely regarded as William Morris' first wallpaper design. Pictured on the left is his original pencil and watercolour sketch of the design, composed in 1862 (image courtesy of Beth Russell Needlepoint ).
According to the Victoria and Albert Museum's website, trellis' pattern "is said to have been inspired by the gardens at Red House, which were organised on a medieval plan with square flowerbeds enclosed by wattle trellises for roses." The image of the roses weaving their way through the man-made trellis speaks very clearly to the interaction between nature and culture. The rose is "a domesticated plant that is still very much part of the natural world of display and defence, desire and threat"(24).
Moreover, the coupling of the lovely climbing roses and their prominent thorns convey the theme--found in many of Morris' poetic works, including The Defence of Guenevere--of the close relationship between beauty and danger (23). Likewise, if you look closely, you can also see the mayflies Morris has included in the picture (one is visible in the first coloured block from the top), symbolizing the delicacy and transitory nature of life, while the birds give the design energy and vitality(23-24). Again, as in Morris' poems, this design "implies that no easy distinctions can be made among wild, domesticated, and human nature, house, garden, and beyond"(24). Everything is as interwoven as the image itself.
While many of William Morris' later wallpaper designs eclipsed trellis in complexity, it remained a favourite of Morris throughout his life. Trellis was Morris' choice as the wallpaper for his own bedroom at Kelmscott house.
Bentley, D.M.R."Discontinuities: Arthur's Tomb, Modern Painters, and Morris's Early Wallpaper Designs." Writing on the Image: Reading William Morris. Ed. David Latham. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. 17-30.