January 31st saw this year’s winners announced at the Society of Garden Designers eighth annual award ceremony where 19 Awards were presented. The most prestigious award of the night – The Grand Award – was presented to John Davies for a contemporary roof garden in London which the judges described as ‘hugely creative’. Adolfo Harrison MSGD won the coveted Judges’ Award for the second consecutive year and renowned garden designer, plantswoman and author Penelope Hobhouse was presented with the SGD Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Grand Award-winning roof garden designed by John Davies’ was also named best Public or Commercial Outdoor Space. The judges said the roof garden had been ‘brilliantly executed demonstrating environmental responsibilities that we should all be embracing’. They remarked on the ‘interesting and unusual mix of plants and textures that offer structure and all-round interest and a wonderful link to various landscapes within the building’ and said the hard landscape arrangement was ‘fresh and original’. They also admired the balance of scale and the good spatial awareness throughout saying that overall it was a ‘really lovely scheme’.
There was a unanimous decision to award the Judges’ Award to Adolfo Harrison MSGD for the ‘Bamboo & Mirror’ garden. The small, triangular plot was designed using living walls, mirrors and sedum roofs to distort and enlarge the space and to disguise playhouses and sheds. The judges said the garden was ‘inventive and playful’ and an ‘accomplished and clever solution to an awkward plot’. The garden also won the Garden Jewel Award – the second year running that Adolfo Harrison has won both awards.
Society Fellow Andy Sturgeon FSGD was given the International Award for a garden in Bermuda that the judges called ‘contemporary design at its finest’. Built around a house that had been carved out of coral rock, the garden incorporates a pool garden, a cliff garden and a cave bar. The judges said the garden demonstrated ‘meticulous finesse and attention to detail, stunning stonework and a fabulous plant selection in its associations to form, architecture and year-round interest’.
The People’s Choice Award – the only award to be determined by public vote – went to Debbie Roberts MSGD of Acres Wild for a residential garden in West Sussex. The garden was also named best Medium Residential Garden, with the judges saying it was a ‘relaxed and timeless design that incorporates the landscape beautifully. They admired the ‘colour palette that harmonises with the local vernacular and spaces that flow, creating wonderful journeys throughout the garden’.
This year’s first Beth Chatto Award was won by Sue Townsend MSGD for a coastal garden in Suffolk. David Ward, the Garden and Nursery Director at The Beth Chatto Gardens, who assisted in the judging, said the garden was a ‘a worthy winner of the inaugural Beth Chatto Award and certainly a garden that would have met with Beth’s approval’. The judges also remarked on the ‘considered use of locally sourced materials’ and the ‘well-chosen palette of drought-tolerant plants and contrasting foliage that was thoughtfully laid out’. Sue Townsend MSGD was also the outright winner of the Big Ideas, Small Budget Award.
SGD Awards newcomer Butter Wakefield also picked up two awards on the night in the Small Residential Garden and Hardscape categories. The winning garden was created in a long, narrow plot alongside a London town house and uses intricate sets of interlinking paving circles joined with a ribbon band of cobbles. The judges called the garden ‘inventive, ingenious and soulful’ and said that it had been ‘executed beautifully in difficult circumstances’. They remarked on the thoughtfully selected plants and materials that they felt had created ‘a wonderfully engaging atmosphere full of glorious colour, texture and interest’.
After her success in the 2019 awards, Helen Elks-Smith MSGD returned to the podium to collect the Large Residential Award for a modern, multi-level garden in Lymington that the judges said was ‘an extremely high-quality design and build. Also triumphing for a second year, Landscape Company Bowles & Wyer, led by John Wyer FSGD, won the Healing, Learning or Community Award for a community garden at Addenbrookes Hospital originally designed as a show garden at the RHS Tatton Flower Show and relocated to mark the seventieth anniversary of the NHS in 2018.
Elsewhere, Caitlin McLaughlin was named the winner in the Fresh Designer category for an ‘accomplished design’ that the judges thought ‘showed thought, self-confidence and a mature restraint that one would not necessarily expect to see so early in a designer’s career’.
The Planting Award was won by Stuart Craine MSGD for a scheme described by the judges as ‘sustainable floristry’ They remarked on the ‘beautifully restrained planting palette’ that was ‘perfectly suited to the size of garden and demonstrated a good understanding of the competition between plants’.
Other awards on the night included the Paper Landscapes category which was won by a trio of designers consisting of Gavin McWilliam MSGD, Andrew Wilson FSGD and Grand Award winner, John Davies.
SGD Chair, Sarah Morgan said: “We are very proud to have among our membership some of the most talented garden designers in the world. The SGD Awards are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate these designers and to showcase some of their inspirational work. Each and every one of these awards is thoroughly deserved and I congratulate everyone on their achievements this year. I would also urge anyone who has not entered the SGD Awards before to consider entering a project this year. We know there is some exceptional work being done by members in the industry and we would love to share and reward these projects.”
The SGD Student Awards
This year three students received awards in the student design categories. Luke Arend was the overall winner in the Student Design – Commercial category, while Tabitha Rigden and Joana Rzepa were announced as joint winner in the Student Design – Domestic category. All three winners studied at the London College of Garden Design.
The SGD Lifetime Achievement Award
Other special awards given on the night included the SGD Lifetime Achievement Award – an award granted to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the landscape and garden design profession. The Award, which is gifted by the Council of the Society of Garden Designers, was given to the garden designer, plantswoman and prolific author Penelope Hobhouse.
As part of the presentation of the Award, SGD Chair, Sarah Morgan said: “Penelope Hobhouse has influenced and inspired garden design for decades through her plantsmanship, design and writing. Self-trained in practical horticulture and design she nevertheless forged a hugely successful career, thanks to her love and knowledge of plants and instinctive design talent.”