Me & My Job - Sam Ovens, RHS young designer of the year

Sam Ovens, RHS young designer of the year
Sam Ovens, RHS young designer of the year

How did you get started in the industry? I graduated in garden design from Falmouth in 2012, which was the last year of the course. It's a real shame it ended. It produced three RHS young designers of the year - Hugo Bugg, Daniela Coray and me. There's nothing else like it.

How did the young designer competition come about? I always knew about it and there have been the previous winners from Falmouth. You submit a design and the RHS gives the three finalists £12,000 each, which seemed a lot at first but I quickly realised is tight, but it was a big help and a big reason why I did it. As a young designer it's very hard to get sponsorship. Out of all the RHS shows, Tatton is the one with most funding. I took a year out to travel in 2012-13 and came back looking at going self-employed, and I was looking at doing a show garden. I travelled in Australia, Borneo, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, and that influenced my design with floating platforms and everything on legs to reduce flooding and in the garden there is reduced paving.

What are you working on now? I live near Looe in Cornwall and work for Schoolscapes as a full-time designer making natural playgrounds, but I hope to run my own full-time practice in the future. I've always preferred places with lots of people and I like a bigger brief, working with landscape architects and a range of other people.

What advice would you give to others starting out? Study and get a good understanding of design. Sometimes it's too much about plants. They are incredibly important but sometimes good design seems to be just about plants. You need to have both sides, to appreciate materials and combine them both. A lot of people understand plants better than me but you need both.


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