The CIH Northern Branch Commendation for 2023 has been awarded to Sarah Owen-Hughes MCIHort, Head Gardener at Rudding Park Hotel and Spa in Harrogate. The Commendation was presented in recognition of Sarah’s passionate commitment to promoting horticulture and horticultural careers in the North of England.

The award was presented by Northern Branch Chairman Clive Parker CHort FCIHort live on the Human Gardener Stage at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show on Saturday 17th September. The Human Gardener Stage is just one of many examples of Sarah’s efforts to showcase the diversity of horticultural careers available. Over the course of both the Spring and Autumn Flower shows Sarah, alongside Thorp Perrow Arboretum Curator Faith Douglas, interview industry professionals live on stage to reveal the people behind the plants and gardens.

Sarah retrained as a Garden Designer when she and her family returned to Yorkshire, after many years living and working overseas and forged a successful career as a horticultural lecturer with stints at both Craven College and RHS Garden Harlow Carr. Sarah will be well-known to many for managing the degree programmes at Askham Bryan University Centre, York in Horticulture, Arboriculture, Sports Surface Management and Landscape Garden Management.

During in here lecturing career, she was responsible for numerous projects creating opportunities for students to network and build their own careers. She revived the annual Horticulture Conference at Askham Bryan, involving many local horticultural employers, businesses, charities, industry bodies and colleges to inspire the next generation and share best practices. She has been involved in Erasmus projects in Aquaponics in Spain and built show garden at the Harrogate and Tatton Park flower shows. Always going above and beyond for her students, she memorably drove a minibus full of arborists on a 450-mile round trip to Merrist Wood College for a Young Arborist conference – even managing to get onto Radio 2 for her exploits!

Sarah stepped away from lecturing in 2020 to work in private horticultural research and development, gathering data for her doctoral thesis in optimising nematode applications to control leafminer (Liriomyza ssp.). However, she continues to take an active interest in promoting horticulture and horticultural careers by supporting alumni and talking gardening clubs across the North. In 2023 Sarah was appointed Head Gardener at Rudding Park Hotel and Spa, in Harrogate.

Sarah has also been a passionate supporter of the CIH Northern Branch having arranged many tours, visits and guest lectures for members over the years.  

“Sarah’s passion and enthusiasm for horticulture is inspirational; talking to her previous students it’s obvious to see the impact of her drive, creativity, and commitment to supporting them in developing their own horticultural careers. I am thrilled that we have been able to recognise her outstanding contribution with this commendation” Jason Daff CIH Honorary Secretary. 

Photograph Caption:

Sarah Owen-Hughes MCIHort receiving the Northern Branch Commendation 2023 from Northern Branch Chair Clive Parker CHort FCIHort.