RHS director-general Sue Biggs said landscape contractors have always been "the unsung heroes" of Chelsea and it is time for them to be recognised for their talents.
"Of course the garden designers are extremely important but really [it’s important] for us to be able to recognise the people that build the gardens as well," added Biggs. She said the award would provide an "interesting new take" on the show.
The decision was made as far back as RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, with details finalised in the last few months, said the RHS. Gardens judged "excellent" in the construction category will be shortlisted for the award, which will recognise the best landscape construction work in the show. Judging will be carried out on the Monday and the best construction prize will be awarded on the Tuesday along with the design awards.
Show organiser Tom Harfleet agreed that "hypothetically" a fairly average garden could still win the award if its construction is top-notch. He added that the award has been discussed extensively at the RHS. "We wanted to make sure we get it right because obviously they’re a crucial part of the industry and we wanted to make sure they were properly represented at Chelsea."
Chelsea contractor veteran Mark Gregory of Landform Consultants welcomed the "long overdue" announcement. "We’ve been banging on about contractor recognition as part of the team for years and years so it’s great that they’re finally doing it," he added. "Anything that recognises the whole team is really positive as far as I’m concerned." But he said he would like to see the award judged on more than just the construction’s finished quality, with aspects such as cleanliness, site management and teamwork considered as part of the whole.
He also hopes soft elements such as mature tree placement and hedge planting are considered. "I don’t think you can judge construction purely on marks. For me it’s the team, how they interact on site, even how they help other people. It’s about plant husbandry, courtesy — what makes an exemplary team? It’s not just good [brickwork] pointing."