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May 05th, 2016

Q&A: Garden Designer Jennifer Jones on Journey Latin America's Inca Garden

We met with Garden Designer Jennifer Jones to ask her a few questions about gardening and the process of designing our Peruvian Inca Garden for the 2016 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

1) When did you first fall in love with gardening?

From as far back as I can remember I’ve always had a love of plants, gardens and generally being outdoors. I was lucky in that I grew up in rural Oxfordshire so from an early age I was always out in the garden or going for walks in the countryside with my family. My mother is also a keen gardener so I owe a lot to her. She still lets me grow things in her poly-tunnel to this day!

2) What sort of qualifications do you need to become a garden designer?

There are various routes to becoming a garden designer, from diploma courses to degrees. I chose to pursue a career in garden design after I had already gained a degree in Art History and was working at a design agency, so I chose to study part-time whilst still working and gained a diploma in garden design at the Pickard School of Garden Design.

3) How long have you been designing gardens?

I have been working as a garden designer in London for over two years now.

4) What sort of gardens do you usually design?

As a London-based garden designer, the majority of the gardens I design are for clients in the capital who want to refresh or completely redesign their outside space. Often the brief is to create a garden which can be a haven for them to relax in and escape the hubbub of the city, so this is what my design will strive to achieve. Outdoor space in London is also often limited, in which case my design will aim to maximise the sense of space. Or the client may have a demanding job or be away from home for extended periods of time, so I’ll make sure the plants I select are suitable and require little or no maintenance. I like to get a good understanding of my client’s tastes and also what kind of relationship they want to have with their garden before embarking on my design. My most recent project was to create a contemporary design for the rear garden of a client’s traditional Georgian townhouse in north London.

5) What’s the most memorable garden that you’ve designed?

The most exciting garden I have worked on would have to be Journey Latin America’s Inca Garden for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. A garden design inspired by the ancient Inca civilisation of Peru is obviously a very unique request, so I was delighted to accept the challenge and work on the project. The opportunity to work with lots of exotic South American plants has also been very interesting and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching and learning more about them as part of the design process. The garden should be a quite a sight for visitors, with an abundance of colour and a dramatic 3m tall terrace, so I’m really looking forward to getting on site for it to be built soon.

6) What was your inspiration for Journey Latin America’s Inca Garden?

I am fortunate enough to have visited Peru and its wonderful Inca ruins at Machu Picchu so I was able to draw on my experience and memories of the country as part of my design. I wanted the garden to capture the same sense of escapism and adventure that I felt when I first set eyes on the famous ‘lost’ city. Having read more about the Incas it was also enlightening to learn how skilled they were at horticulture, agriculture and botany, not to mention dry-stone walling, so I wanted the garden to be a sort of tribute to their pioneering efforts.

7) How long has the design process been?

By the time we get on site at Hampton Court Palace to begin building the garden, the design process will be almost a year in the making, from when Journey Latin America first approached me and I began my research. Designing a show garden is different to a conventional garden design in that the garden will obviously only stand for the duration of the show. It was important to me and to Journey Latin America that as many as possible of the plants and materials we use are returned or used elsewhere after the show has ended. This meant finding the right suppliers or establishing homes for everything to go to. It’s a considerable project but one which has been a real pleasure to be involved in.

8) What’s your favourite feature of the garden?

My favourite part of the garden has to be the terracing. The structure itself will be quite a feat of engineering and I can’t wait to plant the traditional Inca crops of corn, quinoa and potatoes along one of the terraces, just as the Incas would have done at Machu Picchu.

9) Can you grow any of the South American plants you’ve used in a typical UK garden?

Yes, many of the plants that are used in Journey Latin America’s Inca Garden can be grown successfully in your garden here in the UK, from Cannas to the altstroemerias and bamboo.

10) Would it be easy to recreate something similar in your own garden?

A lot of the plants in the garden are tropical, so they like lots of moisture and heat. When buying any of these types of plants it is always worthwhile asking how hardy they are, to see how much frost and cold they can tolerate, but yes you can absolutely create your own tropical garden at home with a little bit of research and by using the right plants.

Find out more about Jennifer and her work at Jennifer Jones Garden Design.

Win tickets to see our Inca Garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

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