"Garden Images" has been quietly making millions for the past 25 years.

By Meghan Overdeep
January 10, 2020
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Garden Images Wallpaper
Credit: Amazon/York Wallcoverings

While school field trips and family vacations certainly go a long way towards funding Colonial Williamsburg, tourism isn’t the only source of revenue keeping the beloved living-history museum afloat.

Behind the tri-corner hats and muskets is the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a private non-profit foundation initially endowed by the Rockefeller family. The foundation’s little-known product development arm has been quietly helping support the museum through licensing since the 1930s. And, with a whole lot of help from one perennially popular floral pattern, it’s been doing a spectacular job.

The WILLIAMSBURG brand’s “Garden Images” print has made millions in revenue, which a representative told Southern Living has been “a huge deal” for the non-profit.

Garden Images Magnolia
Credit: Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Garden Images is a montage of flowers drawn by some of the best botanical illustrators of the 18th century. The now-ubiquitous pattern was originally proposed 25 years ago for bedsheets, but when the royalty checks started rolling in, the foundation expanded its offerings to include everything from wallpaper to comforter sets to dishware, Architectural Digest reports. A quarter century later, it’s raked in a staggering nine-figure sum.

"While we don’t normally release dollar figures, this is an order of magnitude that is really unusual for any design,” Liza Gusler, the associate director of licensing for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, told. “We can clearly say that there's nothing like it—it's an amazing thing."

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Paintings of magnolia and dogwood blooms by Georg Dionysius Ehret, the preeminent botanical illustrator of the mid-18th century, are prominent florals in Garden Images. Gusler speculates that the pattern’s success is due to its emphasis on signature plants of the South, where Williamsburg is located. We also suspect that it’s pretty popular with hotel chains…

Regardless, given the rise of the new “Grandmillennial” trend, we expect Garden Images to keep on making millions for Colonial Williamsburg for the foreseeable future.