Adam Frost has won Gold at RHS Chelsea Flower Show six times, as well as Best in Show. This year, he has designed a community garden in Main Avenue called Urban Retreat, sponsored by Homebase with whom he launched the Homebase Garden Academy three years ago. It’s an apprenticeship scheme that helps kick-start Britain’s next generation of horticulturists.
Last year, Frost was made an RHS Ambassador, a role he uses to raise the profile of horticulture as a career.
A treasured possession
I have two — my grandfather’s garden fork, which dates back to the Second World War, and the spade that belonged to the grandfather of BBC Gardeners’ World, presenter Geoff Hamilton. I worked with him for seven years when I started out, helping him create the gardens that were used for the TV programmes. I was honoured that his wife gave me Geoff’s spade. It sits alongside my grandfather’s garden fork in my office and makes me smile every day.
London gardens, on the whole, are small, so don’t overcomplicate. Incorporate different levels to make the space appear larger and give it some depth. Consider built-in furniture and raised beds to make the most of every inch. Divide your garden into zones to make it more interesting. Paths should meander, not whizz you through the space in a straight line. A series of focal points — a seat, even a statement plant — encourages a journey through the garden.
My home comforts
At this time of year, my comfort zone is in my own garden in Rutland. My family and I eat outdoors as much as possible at an oak-and-metalwork table that I designed for my Chelsea 2013 garden. I call it the thyme table, because it has insets in the centre to drop in pots of herbs.
My favourite landmarks
I love modern architecture and Modernist materials such as concrete and steel, which I’ve used a lot in my Chelsea garden, so a favourite building is the Bauhaus-driven Isokon block of flats in Hampstead, where Modernist architect Marcel Breuer lived.
The next garden trend
There is an increasing awareness of just how beneficial gardens and gardening are to the mind and body. Londoners lead busy and stressful lives, so it makes sense to find time to connect with nature. A growing movement of enlightened doctors even prescribe gardening or simply getting outdoors.
Best garden shop
Hortus in Blackheath Village is a great source and inspiration if you are looking for something to form a focal point in the garden, such as a sculpture, an unusual container or maybe an antique cloche.
Twentytwentyone in Upper Street, Islington, on the other hand, has a terrific selection of altogether more contemporary garden furniture, from the simple Eames Elephant Stool in bright colours to fabulous teak patio tables that can seat up to 10 people.
Rassells, the independent plant nursery in Earls Court Road, is an inspiration and the plants are always a bit different. The Gated Garden in the Three Crown Square area of Borough Market is a hidden jewel for everything from tomato plants and fresh flowers to great big hydrangeas.
At Homebase, we’ve put a great Chelsea Collection together, inspired by this year’s show garden. There are some knockout peonies and aquilegias as well as foxgloves in strawberry and chocolate shades.
My secret shops
I’m a big fan of Baldwin’s in Walworth Road, a wonderful old herbalist shop with high, old-fashioned wooden counters that sells only plant-based products. Cornelissen’s, the artists’ supplies shop in Great Russell Street, smells wonderful and is a treat, even if you only buy a paintbrush. Both these shops are over 150 years old. Amazing.
Where I like to escape
The London Wetland Centre in Barnes is an extraordinary nature reserve where you can see kingfishers, water voles and all kinds of wildlife in the most natural settings.
At the end of Chelsea week, my family always join me at the Rose & Crown pub in Lower Sloane Street, where many of the show garden’s designers hang out.
Then on Saturday morning we head to the showground for the Saturday sell-off. We all muck in and help sell the plants from the garden and it’s fun and hugely chaotic.
This year, the money goes to Macmillan Cancer Support.
Best outdoor space in London
I go for a morning run around Battersea Park when I’m working at Chelsea. I love peeking through the small, tucked-away entrance in the park that leads to The Old English Garden, a surprisingly big and magical space with masses of perfumed plants and a trickling fountain.
At Kew Gardens, my boys love the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, which was designed by the same architects as the London Eye, Marks Barfield.
The walkway is 18 metres high and you walk around the crowns of the trees, so you get the same view as the squirrels.
Most coveted design object
I love the work of London-born stone carver Emily Young. I was first introduced to her work when I helped Terence Conran build his Chelsea garden for the Imperial War Museum in 2005, and he used a head she carved in the style of a warrior.
Recently, I have loved Young’s exhibit of six gigantic heads in the middle of Berkeley Square, and I’ll slope off this week because she’s exhibiting in the art fair at Olympia from tomorrow until Saturday. You can see Angel busts by Emily Young in St Paul’s Churchyard at St Paul’s Cathedral.
My latest project
Creating a garden at Chelsea takes 100 days of the year from start to finish, so it’s time-consuming. For private clients, I’m building a garden at the foot of the Atlas Mountains that reflects the landscape and architecture of its surroundings, but has a resolute English feel.
In London, I’m making a garden for a plantaholic in Finsbury Park that has a Tudor wall in the middle of it with a six-foot drop. I love creating tiny oases of calm in the city. You can bring in wildlife, scent and colour, and literally change people’s lives.