TALK: ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’ with Jinny Blom


Jinny Blom Artist’s Talk — 1st November 2017

‘That night I had a vivid dream. I was in a crowded football stadium filled with screaming fans. Beside me a small child I didn’t know was trying to get my attention. He was insistent and inaudible. Eventually I bellowed out into the stadium: ‘Will you all please be quiet — the child wants to say something’. Silence. I bent down and he whispered: ‘Please may I be a gardener?’ It might sound daft but that was that’.

— Jinny Blom, ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’, 2017.

Jinny Blom began her career as a landscaper in 2002. She had previously worked as a Jungian psychologist for twenty years, a role centred around the care and treatment of mentally ill patients. The two professions of psychologist and designer, although seemingly disparate at first, arguably stem from the same source of conscientiousness: with the pastime of gardening concerned with deriving pleasure — and ultimately health — from our surrounding environment. Nature is, of course, the greatest nurturer.

Jinny’s first job started six months into her ‘overnight’ career change, with a commission for the Manor at Temple Guiting. Here the inspiration for her garden design came from a profound appreciation of history and geography. Jinny used plants, trees and flowers to filter and construct the land around the views her clients did and didn’t want to see, resulting in a remarkable manipulation of spaces. Combing ‘simple planning’ and an elegant colour scheme, Jinny was able to achieve a kind of botanical equilibrium, creating a garden which proves easy to maintain and almost looks after itself. Jinny’s adage ‘to develop or not to develop’ denotes the play between the natural world and her taming of it; pitting crumbling, ruinous outhouses against the kitsch topiary of box-plants, styled into pigs.

She went on to describe other exhibitions and commissions, all of which are elaborated on in her wonderful book ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’, available from our bookshop. A particularly humorous narrative was concerned with an exhibition in the Jardins des Tuileries, Paris. Used to the military precision and organisation demanded of the Chelsea Flower Show, Jinny was surprised at the relaxed atmosphere of the French, one that almost reached a level of nonchalance, as they were happy to sit around smoking and chatting, before commencing with the installation.

Another career-defining project was commissioned by the Spring restaurant at Somerset House. Reverse-casting huge gunnera leaves into liquified marble dust, Jinny’s finished ‘interior-garden’ was reminiscent of many of the plant exhibits at the Natural History Museum. ‘The tactile quality of the walls I made for Skye Gyngell’s restaurant was the product of my desire to make things with originality and Skye’s love of truthful ingredients. We won a prestigious landscaping award for the atrium’ she said of the project.

We were then treated to a ‘tour of Kenya’, with Jinny speaking about the vulnerable earth of Laikipia, the ground of a landscape unsuited to human vulnerability. This terribly fragile and eroded area is the location for a rhino conversation project, one which encourages landowners to join their estates into migration corridors, as well as developing lodge-schemes for the protection of this endangered animal. It is obvious Jinny is passionate about this cause: ‘If you get to a point where we’re cutting the tusks of rhinos and elephants to protect them you know we’ve gone wrong somewhere as a species…I’m not too fond of the human race’.

Jinny has participated in two Chelsea Flower Shows — experiences she says, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that she could have done without. Her second show at this prestigious occasion was in collaboration with Prince Harry in honour of the AIDs charity he supports. This project was given the green light three days before the deadline for submissions closed. Her high-tech evocation of the landscape of Lesotho, a country where the charity Sentebale works. Jinny described her awkward exchange with a rather bored Queen, an anecdote that everyone laughed at. With every new slide there came an ‘ooh’ or an ‘ahh’ from the audience, proving Johnathan Messum’s introductory analogy accurate: Jinny’s dream of a ‘stadium filled with screaming fans’ had materialised in the form of a sold-out talk, here in Messums’ Long Gallery.

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