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Annual Awards

Association Executive Director Casey Sclar, PhD, presents Award for Program Excellence to Pam Meisner, aka "Ms. Smary-Plants" and the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, CA at the 2015 Annual Conference.

The American Public Gardens Association Awards are the professional horticulture industry'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.

2016 Award Nominations Open in early December, 2015


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.

Program Excellence Award

This award is reserved for an American Public Gardens Association Garden member who has displayed a truly innovative spirit in the development of an original 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.

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.

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.

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

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

American Public Gardens Association Service Award

Created in 2004, this award is reserved for an individual who has shown selfless service to the organization through work as a Professional Committee member, Service Committee member, and/or Board member. It is not the intent that this award be given solely to Board members (all Board members must wait four years after the expiration of their terms before being nominated) but to all who participate actively in the Association's business through their volunteer efforts. The Association's strength is based on its volunteers, and the Association wishes to recognize their contributions.

GCA Hope Goddard Iselin Fellowship

Offered in partnership with the Garden Club of America

The Garden Club of America Hope Goddard Iselin Fellowship in Public Horticulture will award up to $5,000 to a student enrolled in a graduate-level university program to study public horticulture through experiential learning that takes place at a recognized public garden, botanic garden, arboretum, or other closely aligned public horticulture institution. Applications are due no later than January 15th of each year. Click here for application materials

Student Travel Award

The American Public Gardens Annual Conference is both an educational experience and an important career opportunity. As many current professionals in the field will attest, attendance at the Conference allows one to learn about public horticulture as a profession, make contacts with leaders in the field, and keep abreast of the latest issues and techniques. To help students attend, the Association offers annual Student Travel Awards. To help students attend the American Public Gardens Association Annual Conferences. 

The Award covers all Conference registration fees and includes a stipend of $500 to help cover travel and lodging. Award recipients are required to contribute a minimum of four hours of their time to assisting Association staff during the Annual Conference.  

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, or coalition of gardens, in recognition of their outstanding dedication and achievements in promoting sustainability through their programs, operation, facilities and/or research. Factors in selecting an award winner include influence, innovation and applicability to the public garden world and beyond.


Please note: Standing Association Board Members and Members of the Awards Committee are not eligible for Honorary Life Member, Award of Merit or Professional Citation awards.


For questions or more information about the American Public Gardens Association Annual Awards Program, contact Kate Tyrawski, or 610.708.3012.