Designer Jo Thompson returns to RHS Chelsea with a modern rose garden design, says Emma Reuss
Jo Thompson MSGD calls her 2016 Chelsea Show Garden design “a rose garden reimagined for the 21st century”, and it nods to the huge redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks, situated across the road from the Royal Hospital grounds.
She was inspired by the architecture of the new development, which translates into strong boundary verticals in the garden, but it was the plans to include five acres of public green spaces into the site which provided the starting point for her design and prompted the use of an elliptical lawn as a focal point.
The idea for the rose garden comes from a stained-glass rose window which is a feature of the only building to survive the bulldozers: the Garrison Chapel, which remains to serve as a reminder of the site’s original purpose. Continuing the theme, Jo has commissioned a bronze sculpture which honours the Barracks’ former residents.
Although roses will be a main feature of the garden, the inclusion of an intermingling of perennials should support the contemporaneity of the planting design. “I’m taking a traditional theme and breathing new life into it for today’s audience,” says Jo.
When it comes to show gardens (and this is her eighth at Chelsea), Jo has always researched her subject fastidiously. She discovered that the ‘lost’ River Westbourne flowed past the Barracks site before it was driven underground in the early 19th century and has represented this absent waterway with a sculpted stone tidal rill that runs throughout. Jo, who was supposed to take a break from the show this year (again), found the lure of the brief to be irresistible. “I couldn’t turn down the challenge of creating a space that is so different from anything I’d done in previous years.”
Jo’s Chelsea show garden team:
SPONSOR: Qatari Diar
CONTRACTOR: Landform Consultants www.landformconsultants.co.uk
SEATING: Gareth Neal www.garethneal.co.uk
BRONZE SCULPTURE: Barbara Myers www.barbaramyers.net
PLANTS: Hortus Loci www.hortusloci.co.uk;
Peter Beales Roses www.classicroses.co.uk;
How Green Nursery www.howgreennursery.co.uk;
Majestic Trees www.majestictrees.co.uk