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Horticultural heroes of 2023

Gardening and horticulture is constantly evolving as science widens our knowledge, design pushes our ambitions and education deepens our skills and understanding. In a year of science and shows, growing and gardens, we remember key moments and pick a few of the standout people who have played a role in changing the gardening landscape over the past 12 months

Where research discovers the effect that climate change is having on our natural world, designers and growers take those lessons and apply them to cutting-edge creations at RHS shows to share and inspire. Broadcasters, writers and influencers play their part in engaging, encouraging and enabling everyone to have access to the knowledge, desire and ability to make our gardens, and indeed world, a better place.

As the year draws to a close, we look back at some of those people driving positive changes, and remember moments from 2023.

Tom Massey, Garden designer

For most designers, a Silver Gilt garden at RHS Chelsea would be the pinnacle of the year; but for Tom Massey his Royal Entomological Society Garden was just the start. Tom went on to RHS Hampton Court to create the RHS Resilient Garden, the living embodiment of his book of the same name, which has become the definitive resource for creating a climate-proof garden. In a changing climate, Tom is leading the movement in garden design of adapting to the effects of climate change while creating sustainable and beautiful spaces. He takes this expertise through to the 2024 Show season with the WaterAid Garden at RHS Chelsea and mentoring the Resilient Planting Pockets category at RHS Hampton Court.

Read more about Tom Massey and resilient design

Prof Alistair Griffiths, RHS Director of Science, says:

“By putting the RHS sustainability plan and planet-friendly gardening into his practice, Tom is leading the way in environmental horticulture and garden design.”

Best show gardens of 2023

Horatio’s Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
America’s Wild at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival
Constructing Minds at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

Dr Raghavendra Prasad, Scientist

Since starting his post-doctoral fellowship with the RHS in October 2022, entitled “Transition to Peat-Free”, Dr Prasad has established close research links with commercial nurseries to create a report identifying challenges in the horticultural industry’s transition to peat-free. Along with the wider RHS team, his work has created an ever-growing list of peat-free businesses and produced workshops and educational resources for industry, as well as further studies, trials and research into the field.

Read more about Dr Raghavendra Prasad

Dr Mark Gush, Head of Environmental Horticulture at the RHS, says:

“Dr Raghavendra Prasad is fundamentally changing the horticultural industry’​s approach to the use of peat.”

Moments from the RHS Gardens

Rare harvest mice thriving at RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Wisteria in flower for first time after round-the-clock watch

Endangered ‘living fossil’ trees given new homes at two RHS Gardens

Zoe Claymore, Garden designer

Around one in three households in England are rented homes, a fact often overlooked in the world of horticulture. The Wildlife Trusts: Renters Retreat in the Get Started Gardens category was a huge success at RHS Hampton Court, receiving a Gold medal, Best in Category and People’s Choice Award. Not only a technical and popular favourite, Zoe’s garden encapsulated the future of garden design, offering practical solutions to creating sustainable, wildlife-friendly urban spaces.

Read more about Zoe Claymore and designing for renters

Natalie Gearing, Show Manager for RHS Hampton Court, says:

“Zoe Claymore really made the most of her opportunity and brought the rental garden message to the show brilliantly.”

Art Editor Mark Timothy’s pick of The Garden covers

January - A bee for every month of the year. Illustrations by Chris Shields

August - Kids edition, covers designed by Wren Tapley, age 7, Millie Friels, 7 and Reina Kukeli &
Fariba Razavizadeh, 8

October - Celebrating the Crab apple, photo by Jason Ingram

Jason Williams, Garden influencer

Aka Cloud Gardener, Jason started posting videos of his balcony garden in Manchester during lockdown. He quickly amassed thousands of followers, inspired by his growing in the smallest of spaces. In 2022 he designed a Balcony garden at RHS Chelsea, but in 2023 he was asked to help create a Feature garden at RHS Tatton Park, back on his home turf in the North West. The RHS and MEN Ginnel Garden, saw Jason working with a local community in Moss Side where the garden was relocated after the show. Jason continues to mentor the community to ensure that they, and their garden, keep growing.

See the RHS MEN Ginnel Garden

Melissa Mabbitt, Executive Editor, The Garden, says:

“Jason is authentic and keeps it real when it comes to showing us the joys and the challenges of gardening in tiny spaces. His MEN Ginnel Garden and the work he’s doing with the community in Moss Side is really inspirational.”

Horticulture in the news

RHS supports new mint coins

Women in Horticulture celebrated

Coronation of King Charles III

Caley Bros, Growers

The popularity and interest in mushrooms has been developing over the past few years. Books such as Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life have shone a light on the previously murky underworld of fungus. Family growers the Caley Bros have been at the forefront of this renaissance, with their easy to grow at home mushroom kits enabling everyone to harvest exotic types of mushrooms. Their Gold medal-winning exhibit at RHS Chelsea this year showed off many wonderful shapes, sizes and colours of fungi. By rebranding mushrooms as easy, fun and not just the domain of mycologists and foragers, Caley Bros are spreading fungi fever throughout the country.

Read more about the Caley Bros

Winners of 2023

Britain in Bloom winners announced

RHS Artist in Residence competition

Plant of the Year

Nathan Webster, Young Designer of the Year

RHS Tatton Park’s Young Designer of the Year saw inspiring contributions from Camellia Hayes and Ollie Pike. The title was taken by Nathan Webster, whose Off the Grid garden also claimed Best Construction and People’s Choice Awards.

The garden recreated a woodland scene with breathtaking accuracy, creating an oasis of cool calm in the middle of the showground. The 2024 show season promises more forest planting designs – possibly inspired by Nathan’s garden, but few will be able to meet the bar set by this young talent in his debut. Meanwhile, Nathan will be turning his hand to an indoor urban forest for the RHS Urban Show in Manchester in April.

Read more about the Young Designers of the Year

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.