Picture: Ian West
You can always rely on Kent designer Jo Thompson to create an extraordinarily eye-catching garden at RHS Chelsea.
Recognition of her talents has soared and show sponsor M&G has announced Jo will create its Main Avenue garden for RHS Chelsea 2015.
The Retreat will be quintessentially British with a large natural swimming pond framed by masses of soul-stirring planting.
Jo will be the first woman in five years to create the show sponsor’s garden, following in the recent gold-winning footsteps of Cleve West, Andy Sturgeon and Roger Platts.
Kent has influenced the garden in many ways, says Jo. She said: “The Retreat will have a two-storey building that echoes the writing rooms of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson at Sissinghurst Castle.
“It will be place of relaxation and restoration of the soul – a place to unwind; a private, timeless space, partially hidden by trees and lush planting. I want it to be ‘a timeless hang out’ to think, read, snooze or star-gaze.”
River birch, acers and acacias will bring shade and elegance to the watery haven while soft planting will move from cool woodland to fresh, water-loving plants to edge the natural swimming pond.
“There will be a traditional feel and an abundance of planting,” said Jo. “I want the garden to look really established with gorgeous, romantic tumbling roses and peonies in a palette of British garden colour; soft pinks, lavender blues and creams with the occasional splash of deep wine colours.
“Familiar plants will be complemented by a few unusual ones and to bring ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ from the visitors.
“I want to make the visitor think about seeing plants in a new way – perhaps a smattering of the pinkiest orange against more traditional combinations.”
Local materials will be used for the hard landscaping such as oak for The Retreat and a beautifully carved curving bench plus mellow Purbeck stone for the paths and seating at the water’s edge.
How Green Nursery, in Hever, and Roger Platts’ Edenbridge nursery will be among the plant suppliers to make The Retreat not only the best of British but the best of Kent.
Roger Platts said he is delighted that Jo has been chosen to design the M&G Garden. He said: "She is a dedicated and experienced designer with a good Chelsea track record in recent years.
"She is not afraid to take on a challenge so we can expect an exciting creation from her. I am also thrilled to be providing the plants and timber structures for what promises to be a very special garden and I am looking forward to working with her.
"I know from my own experience of working with M&G that she will receive great support from them as sponsors."
Jo’s neighbour at Chelsea will be Prince Harry’s charity Sentebale, created by The Prince of Wales and designed by Matthew Keightley.
Bring it on!
Tickets for RHS Chelsea available from December 1 from the RHS website