The American Horticultural Society (AHS) has announced the distinguished recipients of the Society’s 2017 Great American Gardeners Awards, representing the crème de la crème of horticulture and gardening in the U.S. Individuals, organizations and companies are eligible for recognition, and each award-winner has contributed significantly to fields such as plant research, garden communication, landscape design, youth gardening, floral design and teaching.

Among this year’s winners is William A. McNamara, executive director and president of Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen, California, who is receiving the AHS’s highest honor, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award, for his many important contributions to horticulture.

The 2017 AHS Great American Gardeners Award recipients are:

William A. McNamara

Liberty Hyde Bailey Award

William McNamara also has received the Scott Medal and Award from the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, the National Garden Clubs Award of Excellence and the Veitch Memorial Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society.

The Liberty Hyde Bailey Award is given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three of the following horticultural fields: teaching, research, communications, plant exploration, administration, art, business and leadership. Named after Liberty Hyde Bailey, horticulturist, educator and author, it was first awarded in 1958.

Thomas G. Ranney

Luther Burbank Award

Tom Ranney is the JC Raulston Distinguished Professor of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University, where he heads the research program at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River. Ranney was profiled in the September 2015 issue of American Nurseryman.

The Luther Burbank Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in the field of plant breeding. It is named for Luther Burbank, legendary American plant breeder, and was first awarded in 1993.

Allen Bush

Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award

Allen Bush opened Holbrook Farm and Nursery in Fletcher, North Carolina, in 1980, pioneering mail-order nursery sales. He then helped to establish the North American office of Jelitto Perennial Seeds. Bush’s introduction, Heuchera ‘Molly Bush’, received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, and he received the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit in 2011.

The Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award is given to an individual or company whose commitment to the highest standards of excellence in the field of commercial horticulture contributes to the betterment of gardening practices everywhere. Named for Paul Ecke Jr., innovator, facilitator and businessman; formerly known as the Commercial Award, it was first awarded in 1971.

Brienne Gluvna Arthur

Emerging Horticultural Professional Award

Brienne Gluvna Arthur is a horticulturist, landscape design consultant and garden communicator in Raleigh, North Carolina; she serves as the foodscaping and landscape design correspondent for PBS’ “Growing a Greener World,” serves as a member of the AmericanHort NextGen committee and sits on the Executive Committee for the International Plant Propagators Society, Southern Region.

Given in the early stages of an individual’s career, The Emerging Horticultural Professional Award recognizes significant achievements and/or leadership that have advanced the field of horticulture in America; this is the first year the award has been granted.

Melissa “Missy” Marshall

Landscape Design Award

Melissa Marshall has worked on projects at more than 50 botanical institutions in 28 states; her projects have received awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects (of which she is a Fellow) and the American Public Gardens Association.

The Landscape Design Award is given to an individual whose work has demonstrated and promoted the value of sound horticultural practices in the field of landscape architecture; it was first given in 1974.

Tom Fischer

B.Y. Morrison Communication Award

Tom Fischer is senior acquisitions editor for Timber Press, where he has focused on bringing the most inspiring and environmentally responsible gardening books to eager and avid gardeners. His own books — Perennial Companions: 100 Dazzling Plant Combinations for Every Season and The Gardener’s Color Palette — were published by Timber.

The B.Y. Morrison Communication Award recognizes effective and inspirational communication — through print, radio, television and/or online media — that advances public interest and participation in horticulture. Named for Benjamin Yoe Morrison, landscape architect, plant breeder and artist. Formerly known as the Horticultural Communication Award, it was first awarded in 1987. In 2005, this award merged with the Horticultural Writing Award, which debuted in 1953.

Other award recipients include:

  • Julian Duval — Professional Award
  • Lee Coykendall — Jane L. Taylor Award
  • Johanna Roman — Teaching Award
  • Philadelphia Orchard Project — Urban Beautification Award
  • Vivian Boley — Meritorious Service Award

On Thursday, June 8, the AHS honored these award recipients during the Great American Gardeners Awards Ceremony and Banquet, held at the Society’s headquarters in Virginia.