This year’s entrants bring exciting, high-concept designs to our prestigious competition
Since 2009, the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition at RHS Tatton Park has given a foot in the door to the next generation of garden designers, some of whom have been creating gardens at other RHS shows in 2023.
The 2021 finalist Max Parker-Smith, brought the Hurtigruten: The Relation-Ship Show Garden to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. Alumni, Emma Tipping from 2022, recieved a Gold medal for her RHS Chelsea Flower Show Balcony Garden The St George ‘Alight Here’ in May, and the People’s Choice award winner Rachel Platt returns to RHS Tatton Park with her J Parker’s Chained to Tech Garden.
RHS Young Designers of 2023
Nathan Webster – Off the Grid
Off the Grid was awarded a Gold medal, Best Young Designer Garden and Best Construction (Young Designer Garden) in 2023.
“Even before I became a landscape architect, I had a passion for nature and the outdoors. From my experience in 2015 creating a Back to Back Garden, I have aspired to design my own garden and influence garden enthusiasts whilst showcasing my designs.
“Creating a garden is a natural progression. I’ve been working and designing gardens at RHS Tatton Park over the last 5-6 years in various formats and want to continue showcasing my designs at this amazing show.
“The main feature of the design is upcycling and reusing materials, something that can be implemented in any garden, and using an existing environment to its full potential, highlighting the benefits of adapted living.
Nathan added: “Throughout the years of the young designer competition being run, the standards have improved significantly.”
“To be a part of this category is a massive achievement and will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Camellia Hayes – Seeking Resilience
Seeking Resilience was awarded a Silver medal in 2023.
“Last year I took part in RHS Tatton’s Greener Border category, where I experienced the electric atmosphere at Tatton for the first time. Having my design vision realised in person was incredibly rewarding, so I was very keen to take part in the show again. Being new to garden design, this competition gives me the unique opportunity to design and build an entire space, which otherwise I would not have been able to do so early on in my career.
“Through Seeking Resilience, I hope to show people that you can incorporate wilder planting and ‘weeds’ into your garden in an attractive and managed way. I also want to celebrate plants’ resilience, and how many plants grow in conditions that are not specified on their plant label. If we work with, and not against, nature we can create dynamic and exciting spaces which benefit both ourselves and the planet.
“The young designer category has launched the careers of many well-known designers, including Ula Maria, who I have looked up to for years, so it’s a surreal feeling that I am in the 2023 final.”
Ollie Pike – Bible Society: Psalm 27 Garden
Bible Society: Psalm 27 Garden was awarded a Silver medal in 2023.
“The Bible Society: Psalm 27 Garden will aim to evoke important messages inspired by Psalm 27. Ideas of protection, reflection, guidance, and courage are fused with my own personal experiences of our local churchyards.
“I want people to take away a real sense of hope from the garden. The planting will ebb and flow and feature all stages in a plant’s life cycle to show the beauty in passing and new life. This will contrast against the evergreen of the Yew trees which are often a symbol of immortality and a common feature in UK churchyards. It was a local churchyard that got me through the pandemic as one of the only greenspaces I had access to. Churchyards are a place of refuge for people – acting as spaces to reflect lost ones and escape from our busy day-to-day lives.
“I wanted to exhibit a show garden at RHS Tatton Park as I strongly believe in the power that RHS shows can have in starting sustainable design trends or talking about difficult subjects, such as life’s big questions of life and death.
“Hopefully, this competition will inspire other younger people to take up creative careers in the garden and landscape industry.”
Ollie added: “Hopefully this competition will help promote the message of the garden, but also inspire other younger people to take up creative careers in the garden and landscape industry. This garden category has a great legacy and gives a good opportunity to young designers to show off their talents.”
Previous winning designers share their tips
Will Scholey – Working From Home Garden
“I absolutely loved the Young Designers Competition and it has dramatically helped promote my business. I entered quite late on – it was something I had always wanted to do and I had to push myself, because I knew how much of a big deal it was. Young designers who have done it have gone far, and I knew it would help promote me, my business and sustainable gardening which I want to make more mainstream.
“Having the award from the RHS makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing.”
“Winning was incredible, I was very surprised. I was happy with what I achieved regardless, but yes, I was chuffed to bits. The RHS is massive and having the award from them makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing. Now I’m designing and building domestic gardens and I’m pretty much booked up for the year.
“I’d like to do another show garden... to create habitats for native species around London so they have a positive effect, not only for the client, but for nature. That’s the focus, making sure that every garden I do is good environmentally.”
Will’s top tips for this year’s designers:
- You’ll need more plants than you think
- Stay calm
- Be adaptable
- Make sure your brief is bulletproof, but leave yourself room to manoeuvre
- Get a good team together. I had calm people around me, it was a nice environment, we had a wicked time
- Be mindful of your budget and try to have some reserve money
- Don’t stress about what other people are doing. Have a list of your work and stick to it
Will Scholey Garden Design
Rachel Platt – The Covid Recovery Garden
“I entered because it was a good way to put yourself out there and show people your skills. It’s rare for people to go into design immediately, it’s usually career changers, so when you’re young and setting up on you own, it’s important to show clients that you’re capable of producing something magical for them and it instils a lot of trust.
“You put a lot of time in and what you get out is trust and enquiries into your business.”
“I wanted to show people I could do it, but also it was a personal project. My dad has been taking me to these shows since I was six, I remember going home and drawing garden designs inspired by books I’d read. I wanted to do the show garden for a while, but I’d always get a bit of a creative block because the concept can be so open. I played around with a few ideas, then covid happened, and it occurred to me that no one has done this before.
“The garden won the People’s Choice award, and got a lot of media attention. It was about helping people strike up conversations around long covid and shining a light on sufferers.
“Since then I have been working on private landscapes, various hospital gardens including a wellbeing garden at Stoke Mandeville, and other RHS show gardens and installations. It’s generated a lot of business and you earn trust. I would do it again if I could. I’ve definitely got the show garden bug now!”
Rachel’s top tips for this year’s designers:
- Always ask for help
- Find a mentor you can reach out to
- Mentally prepare yourself that anything can happen, no matter how much you prepare
- Prepare for the weather – we had torrential rain and a heatwave
- Leave the planting until last – things change all the time
- Be in it to win it. I would love for young women to put themselves forward, we need a woman to win it! More diversity in the show generally would be great
Rachel Platt Garden design
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