Listed by House and Garden and Country Life magazines as one of the country’s top ten garden designers and plantswomen, Jo has been the recipient of four Gold and five Silver Gilt medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and in 2017 she won the People’s Choice award at the first RHS Chatsworth Flower Show.
She is a member of the RHS Gardens Committee and Garden Advisor for RHS Rosemoor, an RHS judge, as well as being a member of the RHS Show Gardens Selection Panel.
She lectures both nationally and internationally and is a visiting tutor at the London College of Garden Design.
Influences and inspiration
Architecture and art
“Everyone I work with knows how important and instrumental are the architecture and art of Italy to how I approach a landscape: form and functionality, human-centric, everything looking ‘just so’. Introducing harmonies of colour, harmony of architecture, there is instruction and inspiration wherever you look. These combinations often inform our work as a landscape and garden architecture and design practice, creating spaces all over the world that truly sit happily in their space, looking as if they absolutely should be there. I never want to ‘impose’ a garden upon a place – it has to deserve its creation or restoration.
Much of my childhood was spent in Italy, firstly in Rome, then as a student in Venice, followed by long summers at our Arceno home nestled in the Sienese hills. The atmosphere of Siena, the sound of drums through the year, the contrast with the rivalries and passions, never fails to make my heart soar whenever I return.
Colour and light
My first degree was in Italian and French, and I spent a lot of time in Venice and Rome, where my family still live. The colour and light in Venice are constant sources of wonder, as is the stunning architecture; so too are more contemporary spaces. As a student I could dream away hours in the Olivetti Showroom on the northern edge of Piazza San Marco. Designed and completed between 1957-8, it is very much a space designed to showcase products, as well as Carlo Scarpa’s talents as an architect. Monochrome shadows and hints of perfect colour mesmerise the onlooker, whether standing inside or peering in from under the dark arcade. His attention to detail in restoration work around Venice, and his skill at always maintaining a balance of new and old elements, are concepts I constantly strive for in our spatial design.
The Arts and Crafts
This classic Italian influence on garden and landscape design can of course be seen in many of the great British gardens. A place I find myself drawn to again and again is Iford Manor on the edge of the Cotswolds, where Harold Peto lived between 1899 and 1933. As a trained architect who discovered a great passion for plants, his work greatly influenced the Arts and Crafts movement; his skill and sensitivity in striking the perfect balance between formal and informal, horticultural and architectural, sit at the heart of how I approach a garden. A gentle intervention, lightly passing over the land.
The natural world
We have a commitment to our planet, encouraging the most sustainable approach, with the existing and improved biodiversity of a space as the very essence of every planting design. We encourage the use of natural and local materials, again ensuring that the eventual landscape truly deserves its existence. I’m thinking about plants and planting constantly – a healthy obsession…
People and culture
Possibly the greatest English garden designer of the 20th century, Russell Page, once wrote “we live under an accumulation of periods and styles and cultures” – inspiration for every project we are commissioned to create as we study the landscape, the architecture, the people, the natural world, and all that’s around them.
I have a brilliant team who enjoy every step of the way: landscape architects, garden designers, architects, who are all horticultural experts, all bringing their skills and commitment to every project. They take a real pleasure in every stage – it’s a small and happy studio, bursting with creativity and expertise. I honestly believe that the gardens arising out of this constant collaboration and sharing of ideas, carry with them an essence of the passion and happiness invested in them.”
Jo Thompson, Sussex, 2021