Presented at a ceremony in London’s Lindley Hall on 25 February 2016, the RHS Awards recognise both horticultural excellence and personal endeavour and are regarded internationally as being among the highest accolades in horticulture.
The top award the RHS bestows, the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH), is awarded to Johan Hermans and, posthumously, to Mark Flanagan. Established in 1897, the VMH is awarded to British horticulturists deserving of special honour by the Society. Only 63 medals may be held at any one time in recognition of the duration in years of Queen Victoria's reign.
Johan Hermans is a respected horticulturist, highly regarded throughout the world as an orchid scientist and taxonomist. He is a member and former Chairman of the RHS Orchid Committee and is an experienced RHS Judge. He has gained more than 100 RHS plant awards and several more for his displays of plants and photographs. He has described more than 75 new orchid species and two genera, and has a particular interest in the orchids of Africa and Madagascar.
Mark Flanagan receives this award posthumously. He was a highly knowledgeable plantsman and the Crown Estate’s Keeper of the Gardens in Windsor Great Park, The Savill Garden, The Valley Gardens and the private garden at Frogmore House. He travelled extensively in search of hardy plants, was an author and lectured widely. He joined the RHS Woody Plant Committee in 1994, becoming Chairman in 2014, and was a Trustee of the Chelsea Physic Garden. He died on 24 October 2015.
The Veitch Memorial Medal is awarded to Sarah Carey, Diana Grenfell, Marco Polo Stufano, Dr Ken Thompson and Ernst van Jaarsveld, recognised for their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the science and practice of horticulture. All recipients have had an exceptional impact in their area of expertise.
The Associate of Honour is awarded to english Heritage's John Watkins and Bristol Botanic Garden curator Nicholas Wray. Established in 1930, the Associate of Honour is conferred on persons of British nationality who have rendered distinguished service to horticulture in the course of their working life.
Other awards, such as those associated with the prestigious RHS Shows, include the Williams Memorial Medal for a group of plants and/or cut blooms which show excellence in cultivation. The Williams Memorial Medal this year goes to Brookfield Plants for their exhibit of hostas at the 2015 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
Following this, the Lawrence Medal, which is awarded annually for the best exhibit shown to the Society during the year is awarded to R. & A. Scamp Quality Daffodils for their exhibit of modern & historical daffodils at the RHS Flower Show Cardiff 2015. The nine nominees for the Medal included Birmingham City Council, Drointon Nurseries, Eric Young Orchid Foundation, Medwyn’s of Anglesey, R. & A. Scamp Quality Daffodils, Southfield Nurseries, Trewidden Nursery, Vacherot & Lecoufle and W.S. Warmenhoven.
Other awards include the Harlow Carr Medal (Don Wright), Wigan Cup (Birmingham City Council), Eric Young Orchid Trophy (Eric Young Foundation) and Stanley Lord Bowl (RV Roger).
RHS President Sir Nicholas Bacon said: "I would like to offer my congratulations to everyone receiving an award. It is an honour to be able to recognise the extraordinary contribution that these individuals and organisations have made to horticulture."
Nick Wray's award recognises his work of more than 30 years at Britol Botanic Garden and for his role in creating the new Botanic Garden at The Holmes, which was the first new university botanic garden to be moved and redeveloped in the UK for nearly 40 years.
He said: "I am delighted and honoured to accept this award for ‘distinguished services to horticulture’. I had always wanted to be a horticulturist and work with plants, even as a teenager. Encouraged by my family I grew plants, particularly trees - one of a number of strong interests I have to this day. I have been particularly fortunate in being able to work with some inspirational people throughout my working life including the fantastic team at the Botanic Garden and the garden’s supporting Friends."
Wray, who has been curator at the garden since 2004, is responsible for curating the Botanic Garden’s plant collections and promoting them as an educational and conservation resource. He has many interests in plants particularly the flora of South Africa, where he has spent years studying plants in the wild and leading tours to this biodiverse part of the world.
He is involved in teaching on the University’s BSc Biology degree, including co-teaching on second year field courses and supervising third year projects. A large part of his work centres on public education and outreach. He has worked with the small team of dedicated Botanic Garden staff and large team of volunteers to create a vibrant programme of public engagement courses, activities and events, both at the garden and in the city. The Ballast Seed Garden is one such project which involves other city-based partner organisations. Nick has developed the horticultural design, planting and interpretation for the project and has led interpretive tours and talks.
Wray added: "I enjoy exciting people about plants, their beauty, diversity and their place in a complex web of living things, including mankind. Many of the solutions to the problems facing the modern world are to be found in the world of plants. Motivating people about the possibilities contained within plants is key to society finding a balance with nature and exploiting the resources within the plant kingdom in a sustainable way.
"I have been lucky to travel to many parts of the world and see the speed at which healing of the land can take place when people work with plants. With societies vulnerable to environmental damage, plants and horticulture help with living, working and socialising environments. Their value in cities has recently entered the mainstream of planners and designers. Long may this continue and help enthuse the next generation of horticulturists."