RHS Young Designers

Meet the three finalists who took part in the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition 2017

Our three Young Designer finalists each created their very first RHS Show Garden. The brief was to create a garden office – inspired by the idea of using gardens as a workspace, whether as a practical or quiet space, a place to hold meetings or a space within an urban setting. They produced three stunning designs, winning two Golds and a Silver-Gilt.

Interview with the RHS Young Designers at this year's show


The 2017 finalists


Ula MariaUla Maria, 24, won a Gold medal and Best RHS Young Designer with Studio Unwired, an outdoor take on contemporary hot-desking. Providing a tranquil and rustic environment, the garden was intended to transport workers out of their crowded and conventional offices into earthy, natural surroundings, inspired by Ula's childhood memories of picking wild blueberries in a pine forest by the sea.

This city office theme was also reflected in the distinct working spaces, which varied between desks and informal seating areas, interspersed between gnarled pine trees. Her garden was full of delightful details such as pine seedlings which lend authenticity, making the garden look incredibly real. 'It's important to show this in an urban environment: nature is not perfect, and it's not static,' said Ula. Clever planting combinations included an eye-catching mix of Kniphofia 'Tawny King' and Leymus arenarius: the red-hot poker's bronze-orange flowers contrasted beautifully with the steely grey-blue leaves of the grass.

Ula is a Landscape Architect, Illustrator and Designer. She attended the School of Fine Arts in Lithuania and completed Undergraduate and Masters degrees in Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University where she received the Landscape Institute’s John Knight Award both as an undergraduate and postgraduate student. Ula currently works as a Landscape Architect in Birmingham.

Studio Unwired

Anca Panait, 27, created a working environment connecting the standard office with the outdoors to provide a space for observation and for privacy. The woodland-style planting of Prospect & Refuge echoed this by offering enclosure and escape from the outside world, as height variations acted as a buffer from city noise, allowing for quiet, undisturbed work.

Anca started her journey as a Landscape Architect in Bucharest, Romania, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Landscape Design and Planning. She grew up with a passion for drawing and capturing the beauty of the natural environment in her representations.

She studied for a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh and in 2014 started working for AHR Architects Ltd, shortly after graduating.

In 2016 she designed a garden for Chaumont sur Loire International Garden Festival, which was inspired by the fragility of science and nature’s power to regenerate. Anca has been a mentor for the RHS Green Plan It Competition encouraging students to discover the world of horticulture and has helped design a community project for RHS Greening Grey Britain.

Prospect and Refuge


Jake Curley, 25, designed Business & Pleasure, inspired by New York's rooftops and the High Line. Designed as a functional office space in a natural setting, the garden aimed to enhance creativity and happiness throughout the working day. A long meeting table looked out over spectacular views, illustrating the juxtaposition of the space and its use.

Jake completed his degree in Garden & Landscape Design at Writtle College, graduating in 2015. Having lived in London all his life, Jake is inspired by the synergy between the hard urban landscape and biodiversity that cities can represent in nature and people.

Working at Clifton Nurseries after graduating has improved his plant knowledge, which has informed his designs for sustainable landscapes. The plants used in this garden were mainly chosen for their drought tolerance and suitability for pollinating insects: and it certainly was buzzing with bees and other pollinators - especially the globe thistle, Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue'. The design made clever use of the different shapes of many of these plants - pom-poms of globe thistles and Verbena bonariensis contrasted with soft grasses including Stipa tenuissima and Miscanthus 'Kleine Fontaine', which in turn set off the spires of Perovskia, Veronica and Panicum 'Northwind'.

Business and Pleasure

Expert mentorship

Guidance, advice and support was available throughout the process from established and award-winning garden designer, Paul Hervey-Brookes. Of the competition, he says:

“I am thrilled to be mentoring the RHS Young Designer competition – it is highly respected in the industry and has produced some amazing new young talent.”

Previous winners

See how previous winners have fared

Register your interest for 2018 competitions – email: [email protected]

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