Lexington, KY – Landscape architect Jon Carloftis has always considered himself a Kentuckian at heart, but much of his illustrious career has been highlighted by work he has conducted outside his home state. Having first made a name for himself as a rooftop garden designer in New York City in the ‘90s, Carloftis has since gone on to design and install gardens on a bevy of notable rooftops –– from Dudley’s on Short in Lexington and the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Google headquarters in Manhattan.
His green thumbprint can be found on lots of additional commercial and residential gardens as well, including Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate, the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion and L.V. Harkness. For the 2009 holidays, he was granted the honor of being invited to decorate the courtyard of the Blair House (the official state guest house for the President of the United States) by President and Mrs. Obama.
Needless to say, this small-town Kentuckian has elevated his brand –– Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens –– to a national stature, having had his work featured in more than 200 magazines. But Carloftis is always eager to highlight the influence his Kentucky roots have played on his career path.
“I grew up with nature, in a beautiful part of Kentucky,” Carloftis said, referring to his 50-acre family homestead in Rockcastle where he and his mother operate a public garden and shop called the Rockcastle River Trading Company. After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in business communication –– and no clear career path –– Carloftis went back to school to take some horticulture classes. It was then that he “fell in love” with the idea of working with plants for a living.
“I worked on a horse and tobacco farm in Georgetown (with the agriculture fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho) and I realized, ‘this is where my future is, with nature,’” he said. “I’m a design person, and so I knew it was going to be with design and with nature.”