European Award for Ecological Gardening 2023

While back in 1974 the world population amounted to only half of the current population, it is set to increase to eight billion by 2023 according to calculations by the United Nations. This is just one of the many reasons why we should start worrying about green spaces and gardens. Consequently, it is up to us humans to come up with a number of solution approaches and ideas for high-quality communal areas and a good common future.

The European Award for Ecological Gardening 2023 is awarding prizes to high-quality projects and achievements, which are based on ecological gardening and which have already been implemented. We are looking for projects which are innovative and sustainable, have a model character and are near-naturally designed, ecologically cultivated and can also include social and economic aspects. The competition is open to anyone. The competition particularly targets gardeners, planning offices, municipalities and local communities, educational institutions, research institutes, initiatives and associations from all European nations.

The initiative Natur im Garten, represented by the Federal Province of Lower Austria as well as the “European Garden Association - Natur im Garten International”, the „Natur im Garten“ GmbH and the “Natur im Garten” Service GmbH will award the “European Award for Ecological Gardening 2021“ as a recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of ecological gardening. The Award, for which participants from all over Europe are eligible, will be handed over by an international expert jury. The jury will select a winning project for each category. Participants to the competition nominated for the prize will be informed in writing and announced on 15 August 2023. The prize award ceremony, during which the winning projects will be announced, will be held on 13 October 2023 in Innsbruck, Austria. For each category, a prize will be awarded to the winning project. The prize is made up of the public prize award ceremony, a special plaque, as well as a prize money of EUR 1.000,00.

Projects were submitted in the following categories:

Given that climate change constantly poses new challenges for us, we need intelligent ways of adapting green spaces in the public sphere. Therefore, we are looking for already implemented projects which represent an added value for humans and the environment alike, whether they serve as a place for experiencing nature, as places of recreation, as producers of cold air or as CO2 reducers. At the same time, the focus is on the innovative use of location-appropriate plants as well as on rainwater management, a positive impact on the microclimate and, not least, climate-fit gardening. The availability of a care concept for the sustainability of a given project also plays a major role.

Awards will be given to ecologically valuable projects in public and semi-public green spaces with a permeable ground and a cooling effect or building greenings, which can be used for a variety of purposes irrespective of their size and which also take into account the region or the environment, such as the origin of the materials used (natural stone, wood, etc.). All projects submitted should reflect aspects of environmental justice, climate protection, energy generation and utilisation in an innovative way.

The near-natural garden strengthens the positive relationship of our children and young people with nature, makes it possible to experience contexts and significantly contributes to the development of their environmental awareness. We are looking for new approaches by schools, kindergartens, universities and other educational institutions, which consider gardens as a kind of “third pedagogue“ and have designed them actively for the purposes of exercise, social and action-oriented learning.

No matter whether teachers, students and parents lend a hand together or whether the garden is designed by experts: We highlight innovative, ecological gardens, which are used as a diversified and practice-oriented learning environment for a variety of topics and subjects, as well as for active breaks, sensual experiences and leisure time.

Awards will be given to pedagogically and ecologically valuable projects for learning and teaching in public, semi-public or private green spaces, which, irrespective of their size, can be used for a variety of purposes of research, discovery and natural experience for young and old and can be used in an inclusive way and also take into account the region or the environment. Beyond that, also aspects of environmental justice and climate protection should be reflected in the submitted projects.

The ecologisation of gardens and green spaces promotes biodiversity and improves the ecological balance. That is why we are looking for diversified green spaces for visitors, ranging from renaturated industrial areas, city parks, public green spaces to free spaces around company and residential buildings – with the particular focus of conveying biodiversity to people and emphasising ecological gardening and an attitude towards ecological gardening and circular economy as a life-affirming sign of environmental protection and a variety of species. Biodiversity means diversity – a diversity of different habitats, species diversity of animals, plants, mushrooms and microorganisms. Diversified structures in near-natural design, a careful handling of the soil and environment through ecological care are equally as important. In the end, natural und species protection starts directly at our doorstep.

We are hoping to receive a lively mix of implemented submissions, with all of them promoting biodiversity and aiming to encourage imitation – through inventiveness, new solution approaches or innovations and at the same time having the potential to initiate new projects.

Awards will be given to appealing, inspiring and ecologically valuable projects in public, semi-public or private green spaces, balconies and terraces, which, irrespective of their size, represent a real added value for humans and the environment alike and contribute to increasing biodiversity.

And the winners of the European Award for Ecological Gardening 2023 are…

Category 1: Climate-fit municipal green areas

A valuable urban habitat through climate-relevant greenery: attractive extensive shrub beds, meadows and tree underplantings are joined by new surface drainage systems.

Submitter: Stadtgemeinde Baden - Abt. Stadtgärten
Year of project implementation: running since 2019
Place: Baden (AUT)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: © Cedrick Kollerics

Eighteen town districts provide a near-natural interplay with versatile cooperations and projects, reaching from insect-friendly lighting to paradise sites in cemeteries.

Submitter: Gemeinde Hohe Börde
Year of project implementation: 2014-2023
Place: Hohe Börde (DEU)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: © Gemeinde Hohe Börde

Many lighthouses use the soil as a sponge in the flood-damaged region, promoting rainwater management as well as species-rich cohabitations.

Submitter: VORTOUR der Hoffnung/Landfrauenkreisverband Ahrweiler
Year of project implementation: 2022
Place: Ahrweiler (DEU)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: © Ingrid Strohe

Category 2: Learning in the Garden – Nature experience gardens in kindergartens, schools and educational institutions

The green play and learning landscape with rainwater utilisation, redesigned for climate and species protection, brings children and the neighbourhood into contact with nature.

Submitter: VBS Sint-Paulus / Klimaatspeelplaats
Year of project implementation: 2020 laufend
Place: Kortrijk (BEL)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: © Cedric Ryckaert

This natural place of encounter, recreation and exchange for students, employees and local residents is maintained by students for the purposes of practical learning.

Submitter: ÖH der Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt
Year of project implementation: running since 2015
Place: Klagenfurt am Wörthersee (AUT)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: Dietmar Rossmann

The school garden and an outdoor area equipped with natural garden elements are used for a varied curriculum and are also open to visitors.

Submitter: Freie Schule Rügen
Year of project implementation: running since 2014
Place: Dreschvitz (DEU)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: Mathias Rapphahn, Jana Hahne

Offering a lot of potential for children, parents, village inhabitants and nature, this showcase nature garden located around a primary school bears the Nature Show Garden badge.

Submitter: Kindergarten Restoky
Year of project implementation: running since 2003
Place: Restoky (CZE)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: Martina Olivova, Eva Kolarova

Category 3: Gardens for visitors with the focus on raising people´s awareness for more biodiversity and ecological gardening

Biodiverse, sustainable and climate-resilient spaces - piccolo - with native plants and garden structures that promote living space can be transferred to other residential buildings.

Submitter: Stiftung für Mensch und Umwelt
Year of project implementation: 2020-2021
Place: Berlin (DEU)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: © Stiftung für Mensch und Umwelt

The "butterfly meadow", which has developed into a permanent paradise, gives (young) people the opportunity to help wildlife in a self-effective way through design and care.

Submitter: Vienna Ombuds-Office for environmental Protection (Wiener Umweltanwaltschaft) and Wiener Stadtgärten
Year of project implementation: running since 2004
: Wien (AUT)
Website Wiener Umweltanwaltschaft
Website Wiener Stadtgärten
project description

Fotocredit: © Dominik Linhard

The steadfast, unique urban living and learning garden puts into focus vegetable and fruit growing while at the same time improving societal awareness of topics for the future.

Submitter: City Farm Augarten - Verein zur Förderung von Urban Gardening, Gartenpädagogik und ökologischer Bildung
Year of project implementation: running since 2011
: Wien (AUT)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: © Elisabeth Pollak City Farm Augarten

Special prize Tirol

The Botanical Garden's exhibition uses creative design and attractive planting to convey easily understandable specialist knowledge on the native flora and fauna.

Submitter: Green School, University of Innsbruck, Botanical Garden
Year of project implementation: 05.05.2023–01.11.2023, 01.05.2024–01.11.2024
Ort: Innsbruck (AUT)
project description (PDF)

Fotocredit: © Sabine Sladky Meraner, Caecilia Lechner Pagitz

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