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Annual Awards

The American Public Gardens Association Awards are public horticulture's best showcase for the most influential, thought-provoking individuals and organizations. These award winners set a professional precedent for other individuals and organizations to follow.

Nominations for the 2022 Awards cycle are now closed.

Please note that nominations for the 2023 Cycle will require participation in the Association's Benchmarking platform.

Click any award title for a list of past winners.
Click current winners for their award videos.

Honorary Life Member

American Public Gardens Association confers its most prestigious award, the Honorary Life Member Award, upon an individual who has provided meritorious service to the Association over a long period of time and has displayed an uncommon devotion to the field of public horticulture. The award is designed to honor an individual who has for many years supported the Association through active committee work, energetic membership, and leadership positions and whose efforts have led to the advancement of the Association. Besides working tirelessly for the Association, this individual is expected to have held leadership positions that further the missions of public gardens. This award is generally given to an individual nearing or in retirement. Given the status of this award, it is not expected to be given on an annual basis.

2020 Award Winner
Paul Meyer, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
not awarded in 2021

Award of Merit

The Award of Merit recognizes an American Public Gardens Association member who has performed with distinction in the field of public horticulture and has excelled as a public garden professional at one or more institutions. The recipient's accomplishments will encompass some combination of botany, horticulture, conservation, gardening, research, extension, education, development, or administration. The intent is that this award be given to an individual during the mid-to-latter part of an illustrious career.

2021 Award Winners
Sharon Loving, Longwood Gardens


Professional Citation

The Professional Citation recognizes the significant achievements in public horticulture of an American Public Gardens Association member who has excelled in one of the disciplines generally associated with public gardens such as botany, horticulture, gardening, conservation, research, education, extension, development, or administration. Recipients may be at the early-to mid-point of their prestigious career. More importantly, the nominee should embody great skills, innovation, and potential.

2021 Award Winner:
Chad Washburn, Naples Botanical Gardens

Program Excellence Award

This award is reserved for an American Public Gardens Association institutional member who has displayed a truly innovative spirit in the development of an original and completed program and has pioneered in one or more of the disciplines appropriate to public horticultural institutions, including education, conservation, development, botany, gardening, horticulture, research, extension, or administration. The committee will take into consideration a garden's budget when determining the award recipient.

2021 Award Winners:
Longwood Gardens, Community Read; Nebraska Statewide Arboretum - Bloom Box

Award for Garden Excellence

Started in 2003, the Award for Garden Excellence is an annual award given to a public garden that exemplifies the highest standards of horticultural practices. Selected by its peers, the award recipient is a public garden that has shown a commitment to supporting and demonstrating best gardening practices. The criteria for this award, which are given to the public garden in their entirety, include:

  • The best designed and most horticulturally outstanding display;
  • Gardening practices that are appropriate to a local or regional environment and reflect environmentally informed horticulture;
  • Maintenance of commitment to plant collections;
  • Demonstrated commitment to the national or a regional horticultural community;
  • Encouraging students of gardening at all levels through innovative horticultural practices.

2021 Award Winner:
Atlanta Botanical Garden

Dorothy E. Hansell Marketing Award

This award is a tribute to a woman who stood for excellence in horticultural and botanical journalism. Hansell was editor of the New York Botanical Garden’s Garden Journal, the newsletter and bulletin of the Holly Society of America, the American Bonsai Society Journal, and the APGA Bulletin.

This award recognizes an Outstanding Marketing & Communications Campaign that Powerfully Advances a Public Garden’s Mission.

2021 Award Winner:
"Everybody's Garden"; San Francisco Botanical GardensCheekwood, Where Flowers (Virtually) Bloom

Operational Sustainability Award

Public gardens have a unique ability to demonstrate leadership in the promotion of sustainability because of their recognized expertise in plants, biodiversity and ecosystem health -- elements of the natural world dependent on public opinion and behaviors.

This award is given to an American Public Gardens Association member garden, in recognition of their outstanding dedication and achievements in promoting sustainability through their programs, operation, facilities and/or research. Gardens must participate in the Public Gardens Sustainability Index assessment of sustainability achievement to be considered for the Operational Sustainability award, and must mention their participation in their nomination form. Factors in selecting an award winner include influence, innovation and applicability to the public garden world and beyond. The committee will take into consideration budget when determining the award recipient. Self-submission is welcome and encouraged.

2021 Award Winner:
Duke Farms

Service Award

This Award is reserved for an individual who has shown selfless service to the organization through work that advances the Professional Communities, service on an Association Committee, and/or the Association’s Board of Directors.

2021 Award Winner:
Tom Smarr


Please note: Gardens are encouraged to self-nominate for the Garden Excellence, Program Excellence, Dorothy E, Hansell, and Sustainability Awards. Standing Association Board Members and Members of the Awards Committee are not eligible for Honorary Life Member, Award of Merit or Professional Citation awards.


Looking for Student Travel Awards? They are now part of the Garden Scholars Program under Scholarship Opportunities.