Richard Sneesby, head of the Society of Garden Designers judging panel had this to say. ‘With well over 100 entries this year, we judged some of the best gardens we have seen. We were especially encouraged to see many entries in the smaller garden categories which showcased exquisite detailing and beautiful planting.  ‘We also were able to judge gardens which celebrate the importance of setting rigorous and challenging environmental goals and the critical role that outdoor places have in providing social and community benefits. In this, of all years, we were really delighted to see so many gardens making a real difference to people’s health and well-being. Long may it continue.’ This year also saw the return of the newest garden ideas category: The Design for the Environment Award, which was open to anyone, not just garden designers. The design had to be focussed on environmental contribution and sustainability, in a residential, commercial or public setting, either in the UK or abroad.  Shortlisted designers include Charlotte Rowe who is famed for her contemporary landscapes. Chelsea gold medalist Ann Marie Powell is also amongst the shortlist and newcomer Alice Ferguson of Artisan Landscapes. The categories cover: International residential landscapes and gardens; Large Residential; Medium Residential; Small Residential; Garden Jewel; and Public, Commercial or Communal garden. These six categories are all eligible for the SGD’s People’s Choice Award (opens in new tab). The voting is open now, until 31 July. Check the SGD website for the full list of The SGD 2021 Awards Categories (opens in new tab). 

The House in the Wild, designed by Chloe Humphries

Designed by Chloe Humphries, this stunning design is in Naretoi, Masaii Mara, Kenya. The client wanted Chloe to provide a concept for a Landscape Design that marries the requirements of a wild bush home and a sustainable and responsible design, both in the carbon footprint of the project and the impact on the local habit.  Chloe says: ‘On a hill close to site we found a local sandstone. Being local and hand quarried our impact on the wider environment was minimal whilst the local community benefited from our use of the stone. Above all else it resulted in a beautiful and ethically viable solution.’

Christchurch Gardens, designed by Edward Freeman

The public garden site dates back to the 13th Century when a chapel first stood on the site and for centuries it formed part of the burial ground of St Margaret’s Westminster, the church next to Westminster Abbey.  Since becoming a public park in the 1950s it has suffered from anti social behaviour, poor light conditions and failing planting. Enter Edward Freeman who has transformed the space into a sociable space for the public.  Edward says: ‘A key objective was to provide a greatly improved habitat to encourage biodiversity which focused on selecting plants from the RHS Plants for Pollinators list. The planting design introduced 79 new species, over 50% of species were ‘Plants for Pollinators’, totalling over 3,700 new plants.’

Sopwell House Cottonmill Spa Garden, by Ann Marie Powell

The client’s vision for the Spa at Cottonmill was for ‘unprecedented, internationally-informed excellence’. The new spa gardens blend seamlessly with the new spa and are connected by an indoor-out hydropool designed for relaxation of mind and body. So views from the spa building were important.  Ann Marie Powell’s design encompassed all aspects of the garden including bespoke furniture, zoned lighting and irrigation, water features and a new boundary.  ‘Materials were carefully selected to work well with the spa interior whilst also zoning areas within the garden,’ says Ann Marie.

Oxfordshire Garden, designed by Charlotte Rowe Garden Design

This garden was designed alongside a new contemporary house build. The brief by the client and architect was to create large courtyard like space on North Eastside of the main house. To act as the main daily outdoor space.  The site was sloping so designer Charlotte Rowe incorporated stepped zones with three large areas of water designed to provide seating and dining spaces. These were broken up with large planting beds and eight new trees.  ‘Hard standing throughout in polished concrete to complement the internal floor surfaces of the hew house,’ Charlotte explains.

Longwood, designed by Gavin McWilliam and Andrew Wilson

Working in tandem with Jane Duncan Architects, the property retained its original mid-century modern style. To which the garden, designed by Gavin McWilliam and and Andrew Wilson, refers in its ground plan and materiality.  The planting is more naturalistic in style articulated with key architectural statements. Gavin says, ‘The planting needed to be subtle and relaxed, including areas of meadow. It was not the intention to significantly expand the maintenance need. There was however to be a productive garden area and a new green house for propagation.’

Cholmeley Crescent, designed by Sara Jane Rothwell 

The existing garden layout was very unwelcoming, with a lot of overgrown shrubs and dense foliage that resembled a long dark tunnel. The garden sloped 7m from the house patio to the rear fence, making the current lawn unusable.  Designer Sara Jane Rothwell tells us: ‘The clients really wanted the space to work more practically for them as a family, and to encourage the children to venture and explore outdoors.’  ‘We were asked to design and incorporate a discreet outdoor gym and studio within the scheme, and to create a flat lawn for the client and his son to kick a ball around. These elements we managed to incorporate in the top third of the space, allowing plenty of remaining space to create a meandering journey, through layers of cascading plants, with places to stop and pause.’

The Gatehouse, designed by Stefano Marinaz

For designer Stefano Marinaz, one of the aims from the client was to improve the environmental value of the garden. He achieved this by removing the lawn and the impermeable paved area and increasing plants diversity. The existing lawn was changed for wildflower meadow and the car park area for perennial planting beds.  Stefano tells Homes & Gardens, ‘as summer approaches it explodes with flowers and draws in bees and butterflies that animate the space, bringing it to life.’  In addition to the meadow, he has also edged the property with a wildlife-friendly hornbeam hedge and added a pleached crab apple screen.

Shepherd’s Cottage, designed by Ann Marie Powell

Ann Marie Powell’s brief was to make the most of a stunning panoramic view of the South Downs. ‘We redesigned this steeply sloping, ‘pie-shaped’ garden to create a heightened English Landscape for colorful interest and wildlife throughout the year’.  The beds around the existing driveway were transformed to make the most of the existing mature trees. Additional trees and woodland shrubs were added to the beds to create a woodland ‘Spring’ garden underplanted with grasses, bulbs, hellebores and ferns that would continue to look good all year of the existing mature trees.  Additional trees and woodland shrubs were added to the beds to create a woodland ‘Spring’ garden underplanted with grasses, bulbs, hellebores and ferns that would continue to look good all year.

Bell House, designed by Cassandra Crouch

The brief for designer Cassandra Crouch was to create a contemporary courtyard garden to lead from a new architectural extension, and connect the levels between interior and exterior spaces.  ‘Rectilinear design uses strong form to create dining & seating areas offset by large format planting borders both centrally and to the boundaries. The purpose is to cocoon the user and provide a dynamic outlook,’ Cassandra explains. 

Borough City Sanctuary, designed by The Garden Club London

‘Our brief was to devise a design that would make the most of the sunniest parts of the garden for sunbathing during summer, yet be adaptable for evening entertaining and relaxing after a busy day,’ says designer Tony Woods.   ‘We have kept a number of existing trees including a cherry tree, some multi-stem Prunus serrula and a London plane. The old roses along the garden wall are carefully pruned and retained to reflect the garden’s history. The existing wisteria and fig on the step balustrades are also kept to retain seasonal interest and foliage.’  The U shape seating area has been carefully designed to provide versatile seating for lounging or dining.

Barnes Garden, designed by Charlotte Rowe Garden Design

This small east-facing London garden was created to compliment the client’s newly designed glass extension. Charlotte Rowe tells us, ’the clients didn’t need a lawn so the green elements needed to be achieved using extensive planting.’  The main dining terrace was put at the end of the garden to catch the evening sun with a seating terrace in the midst of the planting. English limestone paving and Dorset gravel were used as hard surfaces with stone close to the house. 

North London Garden, designed by Stefano Marinaz

The clients of this North London garden wanted to improve the environmental value of the garden by removing the lawn and increasing plants diversity. Stefano intended to retain as much privacy as possible from the surrounding trees planted in the neighbouring properties.  The shady site has plants to provide textures and scent through out the year. With Camellias on two sides and Trachelospermum jasminoides on one side of the garden). Plants for winter interest include Callicarpa, Hamamelis, Helleborus and Sarcococca confusa for scent.

Freemantle, designed by Alice Ferguson and Jamie Innes

The idea for this garden was to create a lush and inviting space to look out on, transition through and be in. Designer Alice Ferguson took ‘inspiration from terrariums and Japanese temple gardens’.  The space is 60 meters square in size, and Jamie Innes says the ‘sunken house and garden creates feeling of a secret garden, a world in itself, like a large terrarium.’ Plants include Melica, veratrum, diosporum, ferns and even a Rosa sericea.

Harley Mews, designed by Alice Ferguson and Jamie Innes

This compact space, just 33 meters squared in fact, needed to maximise the space and light available as much as possible. Alice and Jamie’s plan was to create a garden which is not only an inviting transitionary space, but a calming garden to enjoy and relax in. The team’s aims were to soften and make sense of the current hard and awkward feeling of the space. Rationalize the levels and create a level threshold from inside the studio to outside. Use warm, soft materials and bring in more lush planting. It has become a space where you can step away from the world and escape.

Sedlescombe Primary School Sensory Garden, designed by Kristina Clode

A true story of a community effort. The garden at Sedlescombe Primary School was built almost entirely by volunteers, only handyman Simon Lawrence was paid a nominal fee to erect the shade-sail posts and make the sleeper benches. Each school child planted a plant and placed a stone.  Designer Kristina Clode did the design work, sourced & ordered materials, recruited volunteers, organised, directed & worked on all the work days, plus still maintains the garden. Many environmental considerations have also been made. According to Kristina they have increased biodiversity using a wide range of wildlife friendly plants.  Winter habitat is provided by cutting back perennials and grasses in spring. She has used drought tolerant plants that require no watering and gravel mulch to reduce water evaporation from the soil. 

Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville, designed by Joe Swift

The National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital is one of the largest in the world with inpatient capacity for 109 adult and 9 paediatric patients.  The idea was to transform the space into a contemporary garden bringing nature and beauty close to the spinal centre, providing patients and their relatives an oasis of calm in the clinical environment. The team wanted an elegant space for the patients to spend recovery time in and meet family, friends and consultants.  The planting has been chosen for its scented and tactile properties and the curves of the site are there to provide easy movement for all users.

The Meadow Garden, designed by Sheila Jack

The garden needed to echo the contemporary design of the client’s new interiors with curves to balance the very angular extension and contemporary materials such as concrete. The effusive and seductive but low maintenance planting incorporates existing mature Cercis. ‘The shade tolerant “meadow” of grasses, ferns, perennials and spring flowering bulbs softens the hard landscaping’, says Sheila Jack. “Green randomly punctuated with graphic orange, yellow and blue links to the clients’ love for bold color.’

Percival Road, designed by Alice Ferguson and Jamie Innes

This project was to completely overhaul the front and back garden of this property. The main wishes of the client was to have an inviting front garden which welcomes you home and is enjoyable to walk through. Not only treat the garden as a transitional space, but as a garden to sit in and enjoy the evening sunshine in particular.  The team needed to incorporate echoes of the back garden with elements such as: box balls, water bowl feature and repetition of some of the same planting where appropriate. As well as practical elements such as allowing access for the owner’s bikes to brought from the street to the rear shed. The client being a keen gardener meant that the team opted for naturalistic, diverse planting with good structure for them to enjoy maintaining.

Murmuration Garden for Rehabilitation, designed by Tabitha Rigden and Helen Saunders

 This garden was designed for the neurorehabilitation ward at a London hospital, for patients - many of whom are long-term - with physical, cognitive and emotional needs.  The design concept was drawn from murmurations of starlings, which invoke a sense of fluidity, grace and liberation, inspiring a space that feels both uplifting and tranquil. It provides a sense of immersion in nature, whether viewed from within the garden or from the ward. The use of woodland and meadow planting will attract birds and pollinators.  Whilst trees along the boundary will provide privacy from the surrounding houses. The aim is that the garden will provide a therapeutic space to aid their recovery and enhance their stay.

Modern Georgian Garden, designed by Tabitha Rigden and Helen Saunders

The rectilinear character of the Grade II listed Georgian townhouse inspired the design. The back garden is divided by bespoke screens into a series of ‘rooms’. A laser cut patterns allow a partial view through and the geometric motif references Georgian period furniture. Height and privacy are achieved with new trees and a series of pergolas. The Georgian ‘plant hunter’ inspired the exotic plant choices, adding a playful twist to the classical Georgian scheme of espalier fruit trees and clipped Yew, and capitalising on the site’s microclimate. Foliage-rich planting gives year-round texture, with species selected to help counter air pollution.