As 2022 draws to a close, it's a good time to reflect back on the year we've had. We asked director of the Garden Museum, Christopher Woodward, for the top ten people who he felt made an impact in 2022. From philanthropic organisations through to designers and gardeners, here's his list.


Ten people who made an impact in 2022

Project Giving Back

Hands Off Mangrove by Grow2Know. Designed by Tayshan Hayden-Smith and Danny Clarke. Sponsored by Project Giving Back in support of Grow2Know CiC. Show Garden. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022.

Yes, we're starting with an organisation, rather than a person, but eighteen gardens sponsored at the Chelsea Flower Show, each for a good cause: you have to blink at the generosity of Project Giving Back, set up by anonymous philanthropists to revive a post-Covid Main Avenue. Project Giving Back also supports charities including the RNLI and St Mungo’s by each installation metamorphosing into a permanent new garden after the Show. The best connection between gardens and good causes since the National Gardens Scheme was founded in 1927.

Koos and Karen Bekker of The Newt

The Newt in Somerset
The Walled Garden, or Parabola, has been transformed into a maze of different apple varieties. © Jason Ingram

The Newt in Somerset opened in 2019. It’s an epic and conscientiousness investment in gardens on an old country estate by a couple with an interest in garden history and design, from the productive formality of architect and landscape designer Patrice Taravella to the restoration of the garden of a ruined Roman villa by Urquhart & Hunt (winners of Best in Show at the Flower Show). In 2022 The Newt became the official sponsor of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – and the gala night got a lot cooler, with an Ibiza deck upstairs.

Charlie Hawkes

Landscape designer

The Wilderness Foundation UK Garden. Designed by Charlie Hawkes at Chelsea 2022
The Wilderness Foundation UK Garden. Designed by Charlie Hawkes at Chelsea 2022 © RHS/Tim Sandall

Perhaps the coolest and most confident of the Project Giving Back gardens at Chelsea Flower Show this year was a deep green square in the marquee by Charlie Hawkes for Wilderness UK. The lapping green leaves are an echo of the plantings of Dan Pearson’s Millennium Forest in Hokkaido, where Hawkes spent a transformative year gardening.

Alexandra Noble

Garden and landscape designer

Balcony of Blooms. Designed by Alexandra Noble at the RHS Flower Show in 2021
Balcony of Blooms. Designed by Alexandra Noble at the RHS Flower Show in 2021 © RHS/Sarah Cuttle

If you want to be surprised, ask Alexandra Noble what she is up to; last time I called her she was at Paris Fashion Week, installing a forested catwalk. Noble first studied as an architect and has a particular nerve for taking on difficult urban sites. Romantic, with a hard edge.

Charlotte Harris

Landscape designer

Charlotte Harris
© Christa Holka © Christa Holka

Harris’s partnership with Hugo Bugg is one of the most interesting in gardens, with a confidence to pick and choose provocative and worthwhile projects, from 1930s housing estates in London to Scottish islands. Their 2021 Chelsea garden was notable for the pipework sculpture by architects Mcmullan Studio. Harris is becoming a voice pushing the profession to try harder, while her must-have one hundred plants for Gardens Illustrated in January 2022 perked up many of us for the year ahead.

Poppy Okocha

Ecological food grower

Poppy Okocha, at her garden in the heart of Totnes, South Devon
Poppy Okocha, at her garden in the heart of Totnes, South Devon

Okocha began to study horticulture in 2016 to root in her interests in foraging, food and permaculture. During the pandemic she became the gardener young urbanites were looking for: sincere, unpretentious, and infectious with her skill. The gardener most likely to be on stage at festival the Secret Garden Party.

Katy Merrington

Cultural gardener

Katy Merrington

The Hepworth Garden at Wakefield designed by Tom Stuart-Smith is Britain’s most successful (and free) new public garden. Its gardener, Katy Merrington, has re-invented the perception of what a gardener can be: a caring, recognisable and respected presence in the modern city.

John Little

Founder of the Grass Roof Co

© Charlie Hopkinson © Charlie Hopkinson

Little has been quietly doing his thing since 1998 when he founded the Grass Roof Company as a second career, experimenting with plants that grow in poor soil or in cracks in city streets. In recent years his self-built house in Essex has become the go-to place for aspiring brownfield gardeners. And he's one of the nicest guys in gardens.

James Horner

Gardener and designer

James Horner
© Andrew Montgomery

At Great Dixter, James Horner began a collaboration with designer Luciano Giubbilei which is unique in the exchange of talents. ‘His plant combinations are just amazing’ says Giubbilei, who’s brought in Horner to work on gardens from Formentera to Tuscany. But the garden everyone wants to see is Horner’s own walled garden in Sussex, where he propagates and collects with an artist’s eye. A quiet talent to watch.

Ras Prince


A personal choice: my most inspiring encounter this year was with Ras Prince, whose made a garden beside a football pitch in Lewisham, clearing half an acre of knotweed. But it’s not just another good-hearted community project: Prince is a real experimenter with growing and nurtures plants from Jamaica, where he was born, in a polytunnel heady with paraffin, and plants these beside old pears and roses. A former teacher, this is a life in plants.


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Christopher Woodward has been Director of the Garden Museum since 2006. He was previously Director of the Holburne Museum of Art in Bath and Assistant Curator at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.