There are some family names that over the years have become synonymous with UK horticulture, thanks to their leadership role in setting standards and acting as ambassadors for the industry. At the top of that list is Hillier.
It was today's chairman of the company, Robert Hillier, who took on the task - during his years as marketing and then managing director - of transforming a much cherished but struggling family business through rationalisation to a sound and prosperous future. Plant production had to become more commercial and new markets developed.
By the time he stepped down as managing director last year he had developed a broad-based business - 14 garden centres, two cash and carries, the largest field production tree nursery in the UK, extensive shrub production nurseries and one of the largest container tree nurseries in Europe - all contributing to a turnover in excess of £27m.
This commercial success is underpinned by technical excellence which under his leadership has been nurtured and developed. More than 100 new plants have been raised and selected, international acclaim achieved for the launch of the award-winning Streetwise Range of Trees, a record-breaking 64th Chelsea Gold medal won and many prestigious environmental and industry awards attained. In addition to leading these developments, he has played a crucial role in the leadership of the horticulture industry for many years.
He is a past president of the Horticultural Trades Association, a former British Commissioner at the Liverpool Garden Festival of 1984, a former chairman of the Joint Council for Landscaping Industries and has spent over 25 years as a trustee and, at one point, treasurer of the Arboricultural Association.
Awards include the Pearson Medal for services to horticulture and an OBE in 2000. In addition to his many important industry roles, for the past 10 years he has served on the RHS Council, chairing its shows committee and more. Meanwhile, in ambassadorial mode, he played a leading role in the Greening the Games campaign, helping to ensure UK horticulture got a proper hearing in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.
All in all, Robert Hillier's has been a huge contribution to the industry - and one that Horticulture Week is delighted to recognise with this special award.
Horticulture Week is the UK's leading business weekly for the professional horticulture community, providing news, analysis, opinion, technical reports, product and market data. Published since 1840, it includes coverage targeted specifically at professionals working in production horticulture, historic and botanic gardens, parks, garden retail, contracting, landscape design, arboriculture and turf.