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40 years of green fingers for the Graduate Gardeners

PUBLISHED: 09:00 02 December 2014 | UPDATED: 09:52 02 December 2014

The early days of Graduate Gardeners, which celebrates its 40th annivarsary this year (2014)

The early days of Graduate Gardeners, which celebrates its 40th annivarsary this year (2014)


Promotional feature: Philip Howard and his brother in law founded their landscape design, construction and maintenance company Graduate Gardeners 40 years ago, and helped it grow into the business it is today

The Graduate Gardener team todayThe Graduate Gardener team today

When Philip Howard gave up his steady teaching job in 1970 and told his friends that he was going to design and build gardens, they all thought he was mad. Undeterred, he set out to arm himself with a diploma from Merrist Wood College and then founded the company with his brother in law, in 1974. Both being Oxbridge graduates they felt the name would set them a cut above the rest.

The infant company blossomed and with the help of Stuart Gibbs, a fellow student from Merrist Wood, Graduate Gardeners became a regular exhibitor on main avenue at The Chelsea Flower Show, constructing for other designers and designing and building their own projects. Over 25 years, the company collected numerous RHS medals, including 6 Gold, on the way.

The company joined BALI early on and they were actively involved in regional events, taking on chairmanships and enjoying the support of a national organisation.

In 1984, the company moved into a purpose built and landscaped yard and nursery on a 3-acre site in the village of Bisley, in the Cotswolds. The new yard allowed the company to stock the full range of landscaping products, with the nursery growing some 40,000 plants in over 700 varieties

When Philip retired in 2003, Charles Price and Mark Draper, another Merrist Wood graduate with 11 years of Graduate Gardeners service already under his belt, took on the business and have driven it forward to new heights.

Graduate Gardeners has been entering projects annually for the BALI awards, winning 14, including 3 principal awards, since 2008Graduate Gardeners has been entering projects annually for the BALI awards, winning 14, including 3 principal awards, since 2008

They now run six landscaping teams, each led by a highly experienced site foreman, with as many projects on the go at any one time, as well as a further ten skilled staff working on the maintenance side. The company has stuck with the domestic landscaping market, finding this far more rewarding than the commercial sector, and has enjoyed entering projects annually for the BALI awards, winning 14, including 3 principal awards, since 2008.

The company has designed and built gardens for the RHS Malvern Spring Show, where they have won Six Gold medals and Five ‘Best in Show’ gardens in a row, and with nearly 100,000 potential customers coming through the showground this has proved to be a valuable showcase for their gardens.

In this, their 40th year, Graduates have not only won a Gold Medal and Best in Show at RHS Malvern but also Four National BALI Awards and, to celebrate, Managing Director Charles Price is bringing the whole company to the BALI award ceremony.


For more about Graduate Gardeners, visit their website:


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