Adam Frost's 2014 Chelsea Flower Show Garden
Adam Frost's 2014 Chelsea Flower Show Garden

Gardeners' World presenter Adam Frost shares tips, advice and stories with Brightwater

If, like us, you're avid watchers of BBC's Gardeners' World on a Friday evening, you may be familiar with the name Adam Frost. A talented British garden designer and landscaper, Adam has made quite a name for himself and is also an RHS Ambassador for Education and Community Gardens. 

We were lucky enough to catch up with him recently for a chat, during which he shared stories about his impressive career, offered tips for keen gardeners during April (National Garden Month!) and revealed his biggest sources of inspiration when designing new garden spaces.

1) As a gardener, what inspires and influences you? Is it other designers or are things like colours and textures more influential when you’re working on outdoor spaces?

Anything can inspire me when it comes to designing a garden: the glorious British countryside, modern design and architecture, a beautifully crafted object, even a fruitful conversation or a great glass of wine! I also love looking into history to inform the future. It’s great to understand where we have been and why. Inspiration is all around us, we just need to look and engage.

Some of the people I have been influenced by the most I have used to inspire the gardens I have created at Chelsea Flower Show. These have included the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the iconic house he designed in a woodland overhanging a river called ‘Fallingwater’. He was a fascinating character and a hero of mine – the way he managed to blend nature and the built environment was seamless.

Closer to home, the poet John Clare inspired my 2012 garden. Writing during the early 19th century, he was probably one of the earliest environmental campaigners, living just a few miles down the road from me in Lincolnshire. He had a deep and abiding love of the English countryside and his poems captured nature in its minutest detail, while remaining very easy to read.

Finally, but most importantly, my family are my biggest inspiration. A lot of the gardens I’ve designed are inspired by memories. Thinking about memories and what really is important led me to acknowledge that it’s my family that motivates me to get out of bed every morning and do what I do. And family, from being a kid onwards, is what shapes us. Memories to me are a very important part of the design process, not just looking back on them, but also looking at how we can create them.

Adam Frost

Adam Frost

2) What has been your most memorable career moment to date?

It’s quite hard to pick just one moment, as there have been so many points during my career when I’ve had to pinch myself! Meeting the Her Majesty the Queen at Chelsea in 2014 has got to be a highlight for me. The show garden was probably the most personal of all gardens I’ve created, as it was inspired by my family and the importance of memories, whether reflecting on the past, or making new ones.

The final 48 hours prior to the show opening had been an absolute nightmare! I even had special permission to return in the morning of Press Day to finish planting a border. It was an even more testing time for me as I’d been told that the Queen was paying a visit that afternoon and the last thing I wanted was for it not to be finished. Could you imagine, the Queen visiting your home for afternoon tea and it’s a mess!

When the Queen did arrive she made me feel like the most important person on the planet. I wouldn’t have described myself as the biggest fan of royalty, but by the time she left I was hooked. During our conversation, I told her about the history and inspiration of the garden. It seemed as if we were the only people in the show ground. I felt so relaxed that apparently as the Queen left the garden I said ‘ta-ta’ - it felt as if I was saying bye to my nan, who would’ve loved telling her friends about me meeting Her Majesty. 

Recently I interviewed HRH Prince Charles about biosecurity, which was a very special moment. It is a topic that is very important to us both, so it was amazing to be able to talk to him about it. Finally, simply looking back at my Chelsea journey. I don’t think I ever thought I would be stood here today with seven gold medals having been on the journey I have.

3) Do you have any tips or great advice for the keen gardeners among us, now that April (National Garden Month) is upon us? 

April is such an exciting month in the garden, it really feels like spring has properly arrived with new leaves and blossom appearing everywhere. It’s a busy month in the garden too, but thankfully the longer days mean that there’s plenty of time to get outside.

It’s a good time to get your beds and borders ready for the year ahead if you haven’t done so already. Tidy up plants by removing any dead, diseased or damaged material. Perennials that have become to congested can be dug up and divided to make breathing room and a new plant to plant elsewhere in the garden too. Also feed the soil by digging in organic material, like well-rotted manure or compost. Even if you don’t have time to dig it in, just get some goodness on the top of the soil and then let mother nature work its wonders.

Vegetable seeds can be sown indoors and outdoors - just double check the instructions on the packet first. You can also plant out crops in the ground, although they may still need a bit of protection with a cloche or fleece. A good way to know that the soil is warm enough to start sowing and planting straight into the ground is to keep an eye out for weeds. As frustrating as it is to see weeds poking their heads about the soil, it is a good sign that the earth is warm enough for things to germinate.

There’s still a slight risk of frost in April, especially if you are further north, but on warmer sunny days make sure you get outside with a cup of tea and simply enjoy seeing spring unfold.

Adam Frost's garden at Chelsea Flower Show in 2014

Adam Frost's garden at Chelsea Flower Show in 2014

4) You’re running a series of Garden School courses, what can people who book a place expect from the courses and what inspired you to start running such courses?

Teaching and sharing my lifetime experience of gardening with other people is something I really love to do. I think that often people can be very frightened of gardening. There are tricky latin names, the risk of plants dying and the ‘rules’ of where, when and how things should be planted and grown. Actually gardening doesn't have to be like that all and it should be fun!

My aim with the courses is to try and take away that fear-factor and get people to simply have a go. A garden doesn’t have to be a pristine work of art and in fact, I treat my own garden as a playground. It’s somewhere that I can understand how the garden works in terms of designing spaces, growing plants and watching the seasons unfold.

The courses usually are hands-on in some way, even if it’s a design day, I like to get people drawing garden layouts so they get a feel for what I’ve been talking about. On our Masterclass courses we look at monthly jobs to do in the garden, so there are lots of chances of everyone to get outside and have a go.

We cram a lot into each day, but make sure the courses feel relaxed and informal. Mrs Frost, or one of the team is there to greet everyone as they arrive and chat during lunch. We really like to get to know the people who come to visit the Garden School and have met some lovely people!

Adam Frost's new book is out now!

Earlier this month, Adam Frost released a book (pictured right) called RHS How to Create your Garden: Ideas and Advice for Transforming your Outdoor Space, and you can order yourself a copy here

The book starts at the beginning, with Adam explaining the entire process of designing a garden from the idea's inception to its completion in ways that can be digested by gardeners of any skill level. 

What can you expect from the book?

  • Create a garden that truly fits your needs
  • Enjoy step-by-step instructions on how to lay turf, plant trees, build raised beds and more
  • Use his monthly checklist to maintain your garden
  • Take advantage of his stripped back, simple garden design ideas

Adam Frost's Garden School

From a garden masterclass to gardening with edibles, there are many day-long classes available now via Adam's website. If you're interested in booking a place on one of Adam's Garden School courses, click here now to view the full calendar and to secure your spot. 

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Gardeners' World presenter Adam Frost shares tips, advice and stories with Brightwater was published on 16 April 2019