Budding design talent will be celebrated at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show on 18-22 July when the RHS Young Designer Competition celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Over the past decade, the contest has thrown a spotlight on emerging talent, and firmly established RHS Tatton as a platform for young designers to break into the industry.
For this year’s show, each of the five finalist designers must create a garden highlighting the benefits that plants and gardening have on health and wellbeing. They’ll receive a grant of £11,500 from the RHS to bring their designs to life at Tatton Park – but there is no set budget, so they can seek additional sponsorship if required.
The young talent will be mentored by internationally-acclaimed landscape designer Paul Hervey-Brookes. While Paul trained at Pershore College of Horticulture, studied at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and then restored a Renaissance garden in Italy, Tatton Park’s young designer competition takes him back to his roots.
Paul first dabbled with creating a show garden at the Malvern Autumn Show in 2008. It proved such a success that he went on to build gardens at RHS Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court – as well as at events in Japan, New Zealand and America. Now, he’s keen to nurture the next generation of talent at Tatton.
"After being mentor at Tatton Park for five years, there is still such a buzz being involved with this outstanding category."
Paul said: "After being mentor at Tatton Park for five years, there is still such a buzz being involved with this outstanding category.
I hope to offer a supportive hand, guiding the young designers to create their first show garden at an RHS event, and to offer them links to nurseries and people within the industry who are at the top of their game and can also provide guidance.
“The RHS Young Designer Competition has successfully launched the careers of a number of designers who have gone on to create amazing gardens for private clients and at other RHS Shows, so it’s a scheme which has enormous value,” Paul added.
The contest, which is open to designers aged 28 and under, has launched the careers of up-and-coming stars of garden design, including Hugo Bugg, Sam Ovens, Tamara Bridge and Caitlin McLaughlin.
For example, 2015 RHS Young Designer finalist Kate Savill and winner Tamara Bridge designed the Jo Whiley Scent Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2017. Winner in 2016, Caitlin McLaughlin, worked with renowned landscape designer Sarah Eberle on the 2017 gold medal-winning Hillier exhibit in RHS Chelsea’s Great Pavilion.
And Tony Woods, who won the competition in 2013, created London’s first Floating Pocket Park, a 730-square metre ‘floating green public space’ at Merchant Square in Paddington.
What do the five finalist young designers have in store for RHS Tatton Park visitors?
Twenty-four-year-old Jimmy McAdam from Nottinghamshire will stage a beehive as the central focal point of his Born to Bee Wild garden, which is due to feature wildflowers and plants from the RHS’s Plants for Pollinators scheme. Key bee-friendly plants include Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote,’ Leucanthemum vulgare and Armeria maritima. Jimmy says: “The garden will create a relaxing and friendly atmosphere by combining attractive planting, water and the bustle of wildlife.”
Eds Higgins, 28, is from Norfolk but based in Nottingham. He is the brains behind the Finding (urban) Nature garden for RHS Tatton Park 2018. His design will celebrate the hidden charm of wasteland and help visitors to regard such areas as “important urban spaces for wildlife”. Key plants include Buddleja davidii, Prunus serrula multi-stemmed and Erigeron karvinskianus, as well as vegetable plants and wasteland natives. It will even feature a community allotment. Eds says: “Gardening and nature are fundamentally important for mental health and wellbeing.” He adds: “Social isolation is tackled in the garden by creating places for people to socialise in an informal environment.”
Nicola Oakey, also 28, has based her garden called Raised by Rivers around childhood memories of growing up in Devon – “many happy hours with my feet in wellies and hands plunged into the cold current of water”. The aspiring designer, now from Lincolnshire, says: “I found research highlighting the importance of ‘blue spaces’ on our health. Studies have shown that people who live near, or spent time outdoors near the coast, rivers, lakes or even urban water features were more active and felt it had a positive effect on their mental health.” Nicola’s planting will include grasses and reed beds, “emphasising the rich palette of green found along rivers”.
At just 22, Will Williams from London is the youngest of this year’s crop of budding designers. His garden, called At One, aims to show how we can live alongside wildlife practically and comfortably. Will wants to demonstrate how his “classic contemporary space” can be as appealing to bees, butterflies and wildlife as it is to humans. Will, who is creating “modern, bespoke insect hotels” for the garden, says: “I feel that gardening is a great way to disconnect from everyday life. I can see why it could help with mental health and wellbeing.”
Twenty-six-year-old Max Harriman from London is on a mission to create a space to “escape the stresses associated with urban living” with his Calm in Chaos garden. Planting will reflect the style of a naturalistic woodland with coppiced hazel, hornbeam hedging and shade-loving plants adding to the sense of tranquillity. Max says: “Modern life, particularly in urban environments, is increasingly deprived of green space. The connection between horticulture or being in a green space and improvements to mental wellbeing has long been documented in scientific literature. Gardening reconnects us to nature, keeps us active and takes us outside.”