Kent garden designer Jo Thompson is delighted with the news today of a silver-gilt flora award for her first show garden at RHS Chelsea. May 22, 2012
The weather proved to be the biggest challenge of the project from start to finish. Growing conditions over the winter and spring meant that 30% of the plants Jo wanted to use had to be substituted at the last minute. And rain, mud and cold made the three week May build before the event opened to the public today (Tuesday 22 May) tricky.
Help from a willing band of volunteers, recruited from twitter, and the arrival of her team from Japan who worked with on her gardening world cup show garden last October were welcome additions to the build crew.
Thompson’s 10m x 10m ‘Celebration of Caravanning’ garden is packed full of a new take on ‘The Best of British’. Thompson used her experiences of caravanning last year in the Isle of Wight to inform her design which pivots around Doris, a British 1950’s two berth caravan. The garden is a first for The Caravan Club and it is no coincidence that it is also the first time a caravan appears as the focal point of a Chelsea show garden.
In describing what the win means, Jo says:
“Everything to do with Chelsea is about being the best and meeting very exacting standards. Professionally you never get a chance like this to work alongside the world’s best designers. Gardens by Cleve West, Sarah Price, Arne Maynard and Joe Swift are literally feet away.
“For a gold medal you need a score of at least 75 points out of 100. Scoring is divided into five sections covering how well you’ve stuck to the brief you submitted to the judges eight months ago, their overall impression of the garden, the design and quality of construction and the planting.
“I am very pleased with this result. Most importantly it has got everyone talking about caravans and it’s been a pull for celebrities who visited yesterday on press day.”
Preview day visitors to Thompson’s garden included John Hurt, Martin Clunes, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter and Geraldine Somerville, Hugh Dennis and Alan Titchmarsh.
Jo’s signature-like naturalistic planting provides a contemporary twist on cottage style planting. Her use of five Chinese birches for structure, Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination’, is a departure from the usual multi-stemmed look favoured by her peers. Single stemmed trees are also more challenging to place.
A palette of pink and cream planting, incorporating irises, roses and peonies, Wealden sandstone paths, timber walkways crossed by a steel rill, running with cooling water for feet and bottles, convey the delights of a touring holiday at home. Patriotic touches like the feminised flag patchwork hammock and picnic bench seat cushions are a direct reference to this year’s Jubilee celebrations.
Jo’s garden will be featured in Thursday night’s BBC coverage of RHS Chelsea.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, a celebration of the highest quality of horticulture and design, is one of the most famous gardening shows in the world. Held every May and open to the public for five days it has become an important place for observing trends.
Recently tipped as the ‘designer of the moment’, Jo was awarded a gold medal and ‘Best Urban Garden in Show’ at Chelsea in 2010, the year before she received a silver-gilt medal for her first ever small Chelsea garden. This year she is building her largest garden yet at Chelsea for The Caravan Club. In October 2011 she gained a silver medal at the Gardening World Cup Japan, and her design for a beachside garden in Sussex was recently awarded The Best Rural Garden Award (New Homes and Gardens Awards 2011).
For more information and images contact:
Emma Dewhurst 07964 686682; or designer Jo Thompson 07834 196193
About Jo: After a 10 year career in teaching Jo started her second career in garden design in 2005. She was soon recognised for her unique planting design skills and namedas one of the 10 rising stars in garden design by House and Garden magazine. She is also a visiting tutor at the London College of Garden Design. Based in Kent, Jo designs a wide range of gardens from tiny rooftop spaces to residential gardens, public spaces and country estates, both in theUKand overseas. Her work draws inspiration from the Italian landscapes where she spent her childhood summers: the gardens she creates tend to be structured within strong classical lines, softened by abundant and natural planting.