Fine Gardening with Jon Carloftis

Categories: Alltech Symposium
May 22
Fine Gardening with Jon Carloftis Jon Carloftis Fine Garden

Jon Carloftis, the renowned horticulturist, spoke Monday morning at the Alltech Symposium about his business, his rise in the world of gardening, and his dedication to natural solutions.

As a native Kentuckian, Jon spent his childhood played outside, enjoying the beauty of the nature around him. He studied business communications at the University of Kentucky, but his love of nature never went away. After graduation, Jon moved to New York and offered his services as a rooftop gardener to top-floor tenants, despite never having been on a roof. Within a few weeks, Barbara and Eugene Schwartz hired him to transform their rooftop. It was a huge success - as Jon explained, “I didn’t know roofs, but I did know gardens”. The rest is history. Since then, Jon has designed gardens for celebrities, major corporations, and even Alltech’s own Dr. and Mrs. Lyons.

Jon’s business has several unusual characteristics. Firstly, it has been entirely word-of-mouth for 23 years. He doesn’t advertize, but he claims his success comes from his single-minded dedication to perfecting each job, and his creative designs. “My gardens are all about style, but a very different aspect of it than most other designers’, Jon explained.

Jon CarloftisJon feels that because he never received formal training, he didn’t have the preconceptions that hinder many designers. For example, he didn’t know that vegetables were never used in rooftop gardens so he ended up taking risks that others wouldn’t and inadvertently found an unfilled niche in the market: rooftop vegetable gardens were a major hit.

Also, most of his clients don’t use any chemicals. His first job for the Schwartzes was unusual at the time, as they didn’t want to use chemicals. All-natural gardens are common today, but in the late 80's, there were few if any gardening supplies available on the market without chemical treatments. However, Jon’s experience growing up in Kentucky gave him greater knowledge of natural solutions than many of his contemporaries.

Throughout all of his fame and success, Jon has never lost touch with his Kentucky roots. His unique style is heavily influenced by the low-key, natural beauty of the rolling, green Kentucky countryside where he grew up. His gardens are lush yet simple, with modern and traditional aspects merging in a cohesive design. Jon credits his success to the strong work ethic and love of nature instilled in him by his Kentucky childhood. Concerning his long-term goals, Jon explained simply, “I’m trying to make the world beautiful.”

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