Why Gardening Should be Important to Everyone | A Q&A with Adam Frost

4 October 2019

Charismatic, down-to earth and full of expertise, Adam Frost is a multi-award-winning British garden designer known for his successes at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and his BBC 2 program, 'Gardeners’ World.'

We caught up with Adam to talk about his 'journey so far', his work with Geoff Hamilton, and how gardening can combat climate change and help make the world a better place.

How did a boy from North London end up pursuing a gardening career?

The simple answer is that I didn’t have a lot of choice. I was brought up just outside Harlow until I was 15, then moved down to rural North Devon. It was a bit of a shock for a teenager to go from a school in the city to the slightly slower Devon life! It wasn’t always easy and gardening soon became my safe place.

I loved being in the garden from the early days spent with my grandparents. I had Tidy Nan and Granddad who had an allotment and taught me to grow my veggies. Then opposite Tidy Nan was Scruffy Nan. She taught me to propagate new plants and I set up a stall outside her house selling the things I had grown. They provided me with memories that have become very important to me.

I left school and home at 16, moving into a flat above a pizza shop. I started an apprenticeship with the North Devon Parks Department where I found myself undertaking anything from growing and planting bedding, to digging the occasional grave! Every Friday I used to spend hours travelling by moped and bus to and from college to study for my horticulture diploma. It was at the first time I’d got an A for anything and I really enjoyed it.

My lucky break came in 1991 when I saw an advertisement for a position with a ‘TV garden in Rutland’.  The TV garden belonged to Gardeners’ World presenter Geoff Hamilton. The time I spent working with him was the making of me and really confirmed that I wanted a career in gardening. Mind you, it was a job that I nearly didn’t get (but that’s another story).

You mentioned Geoff Hamilton as a mentor, what lessons did he teach you that you find yourself passing onto your audiences?

Geoff was a man ahead of his time. He understood the importance of our environment and the damage we were doing to the landscape. He was peat-free and organic long before it came to the attention of the media.

He also presented gardening in a way that took away all of the fear-factor that people often have and just made things simple.

I definitely try and pass this onto the audiences I speak to, as so many people seem to think that if you don’t do a particular task on a particular day, that you can’t do it at all. Where as gardening is really flexible and having a go is the best way to learn.

What is the importance of having plants in the workplace, and what are some of the best types you’d recommend to help employee wellbeing?

There have been lots of different studies that have looked at how having plants in the work space can increase happiness and productivity.

Make sure you choose something suitable for the conditions that they are going to grow in - what are the light levels like? How much space is there? Who is going to look after the plants? Do they need a lot of upkeep or a little? Many indoor plants are grown for their interesting foliage, but a lot do flower too.

You might even want to think about growing herbs in the workplace, which could be used to garnish lunches or even make herbal teas!

How is gardening a part of the answer within the bigger question of climate change?

For me, I think we can all do our bit to become greener and help our environment. Whatever size of garden we have, from a balcony to an allotment, has the potential to be a valuable space. We think progress is about how we stay in front of climate chance, but we could not be more wrong. We need to start understanding bio-security and look at planting for future generations to help deal with pollution and temperatures rising.

The changing climate is affecting our wildlife too. We need to be planting with wildlife in mind even more. Simple things like a pot of pollinator-friendly plants, or having a pile of logs tucked away in a quiet corner of the garden, would create great habitats to encourage insects and creatures into our gardens. The loss of natural habitats, like wildflower meadows, has a big impact on wildlife too. So we need to make sure that we are planting to offer diversity.

I think we can all become more conscious about where plants are coming from as well. Buying locally and British-grown is going to keep the miles down. There is also a great push at the moment to remove black pots (which aren’t recyclable) from our garden centres and not use compost that contains peat.

If the answers are in the soil, what questions do you ask the soil?

Pick up a handful of soil and you’re basically holding a Walt Disney movie in your hands! There is so much life and so many stories just in that one handful, it is truly amazing. We know that soil is vital for plants to grow, but we are only just beginning to understand that it is a communication tool too. I know it sounds pretty weird and wonderful, but the soil is the link that plants use to connect with each other.

The way we have have farmed our countryside since the war hasn’t left our soil in very good shape, but there is definitely a shift to change that now. If you have a good understanding of what’s going on under your feet, then you will know what and where to grow things, as well as what you can do to make the soil even better.

You’ve won gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and ‘Best New Talent’ at the RTS West Awards in 2016, and we love seeing your on Gardeners’ World too, so what’s next for you?

I’m really not sure, I just keep getting up and having a go - it’s got me this far! I just love what I do.

Thank you for talking to us Adam! We look forward to seeing your future endeavors flourish!

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