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Garden Design 2019: Year Review

Garden Design 2019: Year Review

Zia Allaway takes a look back on the year in garden design

Student strikes, demonstrations on the streets of London and other cities around the world, and the impassioned appeals of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg at UN Climate Action Summit in New York made 2019 the year when climate change could no longer be ignored. To highlight the issue, Sarah Eberle FSGD created ‘The Resilience Garden’ for The Forestry Commission at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which focused on the role trees play in mitigating the effects of global warming. At the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, Tony Woods MSGD designed ‘The Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden’ to show gardeners how to reduce water use and prevent flooding. The Mayor of London also launched initiatives to transform the capital into the first National Park City, with aim of reducing pollution levels by creating more parks and green spaces. 

Sarah Eberle MSGD's gold-winning show garden at RHS Chelsea 2019

More scientific studies in 2019 provided evidence that gardens can positively affect both our physical and mental wellbeing, and many SGD Members are now using this research to inform their designs. Examples include Matt Keightley MSGD’s Health and Wellbeing Garden at RHS Garden Wisley, and Pre-Registered SGD Member Helen Taylor’s green roof for a public housing project in Nottingham.

Biosecurity was also tightened nationwide, with the aim of keeping Xylella and other plant diseases and pests from our shores. The RHS imposed a new three-month quarantine onplants coming from abroad to its shows, and no oaks were allowed onto the RHS Chelsea show ground, due to the presence of oak processionary moth at the Royal Hospital.


The annual SGD Awards at the Landmark Hotel in February brought together leading designers, contractors, suppliers and sponsors who filled the Ballroom for an exciting evening of prize-giving. The coveted 2019 Judge’s Grand Award and award for best Large Residential Garden was presented to Marian Boswall MSGD for her design of Reighton Wood.

Adolfo Harrison MSGD won the Garden Jewel and Judges’ Awards for a Spanish-inspired courtyard garden in London, its “quirky, risky and brave” design securing him the accolades. Bob Richmond-Watson and Michael Ekers were joint winners of the Student Design Commercial Award and Duncan Cargill picked up the Student Design Domestic Award. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to plantsman and designer Piet Oudolf.

The SGD spring conference in April, titled ‘Sex in the Garden’ highlighted how greater knowledge of the way plants grow and reproduce helps designers to create more successful schemes. The acclaimed speakers were Jim Buckland, Emma Desmier, Olivier Filippi, Noel Kingsbury, Michael Marriot and Henrik Sjöman, who offered advice on species selection for a changing climate and increased biodiversity, and ideas on how to extend flowering and fruiting seasons.

Olivier Filippi spoke about his planting ethos at the spring conference

‘The Source 2’, the SGD Autumn Conference in November set the agenda for the inspirational international cast of speakers – Matt Keightley MSGD and Cameron Wilson, Thomas Doxiadis, Haruko Seki, Jennifer Coe and Luciano Giubbilei – all of whom revealed how they go about sourcing ideas for their celebrated projects. See a full review of the day here and watch all the 2019 speaker presentations online here.


The big guns returned to Chelsea this year, scooping a fair share of the top awards. On Main Avenue, Andy Sturgeon FSGD wowed the judges with his M&G Garden, picking up a gold and Best Show Garden for a design that married lush foliage plants with sculptural charred oak screens. Sarah Eberle FSGD secured a gold and the Best Construction Award for ‘The Resilience Garden’. The Facebook: Beyond The Screen garden by Joe Perkins MSGD scooped Gold, the Best Space to Grow Garden and Best Construction Award in that category, while Chelsea newbie Jilayne Rickards MSGD was also among the gold medal winners in that category with her representation of a Zimbabwean school and garden in ‘The CAMFED Garden: Giving Girls In Africa a Space to Grow’. In the Artisan category, Pre-Registered SGD Member Sue Edwards was awarded gold for ‘The High Maintenance Garden’ for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Andy Sturgeon FSGD's RHS Chelsea show garden won Best Show Garden

Pre-Registered Members also triumphed at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, where Rae Wilkinson scooped gold and the Best Mindfulness Garden for her design, ‘Space Within’, while Neil Sutcliffe was awarded a gold for ‘Eutierria’ in the same category.

In July, at the renamed RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, golds were awarded to Tony Woods MSGD of Garden Club London for ‘The Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden’ in the Show Garden Category, and to student SGD member Dave Green for his serene ‘Stop and Pause Garden’, which also scooped Best Lifestyle and Global Impact Garden.

Later in the month, 27-year-old Kristian Reay was crowned RHS Young Designer of the Year at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park. He was awarded the title for his ‘The Phytosanctuary Garden’, which highlighted the risks posed by Xylella fastidiosa. Reay also picked up the only gold medal for a show or back-to-back garden.

Out of the UK, two SGD members were among the cast of designers, landscape architects and artists creating ‘Gardens of Paradise’ at the International Garden Festival at the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire in France.  Julia Fogg MSGD and Annie Evason created‘The Singing Garden’, a vision of the Persian Pairidaeza, described in the Koran as a place where there is harmony between humansand nature. Pre-Registered SGD Member Caroline Thomas designed a ‘Scent to Paradise’, which presented a visual interpretation of the German bestselling novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind.

Andrew Wilson FSGD and Gavin McWilliam MSGD worked together on a design exhibit titled ‘Drift’ for the 2019 International Horticultural Exhibition in Beijing, China, which opened in April. Also opening in April, the second edition of the Radicepura Garden Festival in Sicily included a garden by Andy Sturgeon FSGD and a workshop on designing hotel gardens by Sarah Eberle FSGD.

Missed something or looking for a particular feature from 2019? Check out our Features Review, listing all the people and places covered in the GDJ in 2019.

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