New Garden Designers – the freshest talent in horticulture

We showcase the upcoming individuals making their name in the world of garden design and highlight some of their game-changing projects

Garden designers 2020
(Image credit: Natalia Odescalchi)

Up-and-coming garden designers in 2020 are hot on everyone's lips. And it's no surprise thanks to our insatiable desire to have beautiful gardens. What's more the RHS and Society of Garden Designers are making sure-fire efforts to encourage and promote the young set of horticultural talent at their show gardens and awards. We headed to the green world of gardening to interview five garden designers you need to know...

1. Joe Perkins 

While studying English Literature 20 years ago, Joe Perkins worked in garden maintenance to make ends meet, and discovered he wanted a career creating gardens. After many years in landscape construction in London, Madrid and France, and working at firms like Hillier Landscapes and The Outdoor Room, he studied Residential Design at Oxford College of Garden Design before receiving his Masters in Landscape Architecture at Greenwich University. Having set up his own practice as a garden designer, his major highlight has been winning a Gold medal as well as the Best in Category and Best Construction Awards for his RHS Chelsea Facebook show garden in 2019.

'This garden, around a beautiful 17th-century farmhouse, was uninviting and exposed,' says Joe. 'To make it romantic and intimate, I created a series of rectangular beds filled with colorful flowers through the year, to create a pause between the terraces and the lawn. The challenge was to make a garden which didn’t fight with the character of the house, and had enough visual interest to add something to the property.'

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2. Sam Wescott 

Garden designers 2020

(Image credit: Jason Ingram)

Sam Westcott is a garden designer now based in Devon, but she spent a large part of her previous life as a squadron leader in the RAF constantly moving around. Making gardens was a hobby at first, but when she began to get enquiries about creating spaces for other people, Sam decided to start fresh and train with Robin Templar Williams at the Garden Design School in Bristol in 2012. Since then, she has enjoyed great success, including winning the Fresh Designer category at the Society of Garden Designers Awards in 2019 for this jaw-dropping garden on the River Test.

'The clients are a professional couple,' says Sam, 'who wanted to make their steep terraced plot a useable space that maximised the views. To make it work we had to remove 350 tonnes of spoil from this almost inaccessible site, and use new walls to make the main central garden with water table and pergola. They describe it as their Zen Garden, somewhere they escape to.'

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3. Jane Ashley

Garden designers 2020

Jane Ashley studied economics and worked at the BBC before deciding to change career. Always an avid gardener, she took the plunge and left her job to study garden design at KLC and horticulture at Capel Manor College, earning the top awards in both her diplomas. Now she runs her own design practice in West London, where she works on a variety of projects from tiny urban courtyards to large country gardens. She was recently shortlisted for the SGD Fresh Designer Award 2020 for this clever garden design which disguises an awkward shape with a trick of perspective and smart planting.

'The clients wanted a garden with an oriental flavour, with a verdant view from inside and a sense of enclosure,' says Jane. 'The space was an odd triangular shape, ending in a point, so I designed the seating area at an angle, down a curved path, so the garden feels bigger and you can’t see straight down it. I also used a green planting palette, making it possible to achieve a lot in a small garden design.'

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4. Kate and Savill and Tamara Bridge

Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge met as fellow finalists in the RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year competition in 2015, where they both won Gold, and Tamara was announced as the overall winner. They went on to join forces to work on different projects, combining Kate’s background in fine art and Tamara’s training as an arborist and horticulturist. The pair’s collective style is naturalistic and feminine with atmospheric planting, and their collaborative projects include The Jo Whiley Scent Garden and The Warner Edwards Garden at RHS Chelsea. They were recently crowned the winners in Channel 5’s Great Gardening Challenge.

This border was designed by Tamara for a private client in North Norfolk. 'The brief was to create a traditional herbaceous border, but with the freedom to do so in my own style, using a joyous display of blues and yellows,' she says. 'I wanted to create a pretty and feminine border that had drama. The orange dotted through the border creates a bit of a ‘marmite’ twist that stops it from being too predictable.'

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5. Max Harriman

Young gun Max Harriman earned a first-class honours degree in Plant Biology and worked in hospitality management for three years, before deciding to combine his love of plants and people by retraining at the London College of Garden Design. He joined landscape practice Bowles and Wyer, and was selected as one of ProLandscaper magazine’s 30 under 30, but it was being chosen as a finalist in the RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year competition at RHS Tatton Flower Show in 2018 that was the real game changer for him. Max now works at the studio of eminent designer Tom Stuart-Smith.

'The Calm in Chaos garden was my entry to the Young Designer competition,' he says. 'It’s a therapeutic garden with a meandering path, oak posts and green planting, designed around elements of the natural environment proven to improve mental health. The garden was relocated to a hospital in Cambridge, and was been shortlisted for the 2020 SGD Awards. I really enjoy the thought of it brightening people’s day.'

Discover more @max_harriman

6. Caroline Butler

Caroline Butler runs Hawkmoth Garden Design in Bristol. She worked as a producer in graphic design, and co-founded a web agency, before leaving in 2015 to turn her lifelong passion for gardening and ecology into a new career as a garden designer. Having retrained at Garden Design School, she was shortlisted for the SGD Student Design Awards in 2016. Her big break came in 2017, when a friend in Hackney asked her to transform his small garden into this contemporary courtyard. The project was shortlisted for the 2020 SGD Fresh Designer Award.

'The client wanted a garden for relaxation, meditation and occasional entertaining, styled to reflect the contemporary renovation of his house,' explains Caroline. 'Challenges included a tree protection order which precluded any digging; having to create year-round sensory interest in an area of deep shade; and ensuring future wheelchair access. I like the duality: it packs a lot in, yet still feels peaceful, spacious and uplifting.'

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With over 30 years of working in journalism on women's home and lifestyle media brands, Rhoda is an Editorial Director, Homes Content, at Future. Over time, Rhoda has worked on the entire homes and gardens portfolio including Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Livingetc, Ideal Home, Style at Home, Woman & Home, 25 Beautiful Homes, Amateur Gardening and Easy Gardens. She was also editor of Country Homes & Interiors for 14 years, leading it across print and creating the blog Country Days. She has also worked at Woman’s Weekly, Family Circle and Practical Parenting.