Devotees of Gardeners’ World – and there are up to 2.6 million – will have noticed that the highlight of their horticultural week has grown to twice its usual length and blossomed to fill an entire hour. This is welcome news for the keen gardeners who have clamoured for years for more primetime coverage of one of the nation’s favourite pastimes.
To help the programme expand into its new hour, a roster of new presenters now joins regulars Monty Don, Joe Swift, Rachel de Thame and Carol Klein.
Prominent among the half a dozen or so fresh faces is Adam Frost. He has already made the occasional appearance but, he says, the call to become part of the new team “came out of the blue. Everyone else seemed to think it was obvious, but I didn’t.”
The hour-long variant is on trial until the end of the current series’s run on 21 October. “The core of the show will always be Monty at Longmeadow,” explains executive producer Paolo Proto.
“That’s what everybody wants and loves. But we’ll also have additional items about different subjects. What the hour does is give us the opportunity to try out new people and new strands. Monty’s garden is lovely, but we don’t all have a gorgeous, two-acre garden and we want to include gardens of all shapes and sizes.”
Frost, 46, will present one such strand. With wife Sulina and four children (aged nine to 20), he has just moved to a handsome stone house in a village on the Northamptonshire/Lincolnshire border.
It has a large, mature garden, with fine trees and useful walls. ‘The garden is past my wildest dreams. Someone has really cared for it,” he says, proudly pointing out a beautiful blue wisteria that clothes the back of the house and is flowering for a second time this year. “I haven’t the heart to prune it, the scent is so fantastic.”
Despite his evident joy in his new plot he is clear that it “needs bringing back to life and moving on to its next chapter”. Gardeners’ World will follow his progress, as he takes viewers through the renovation, week by week.
He’ll show how to carry out the kinds of projects that we could all complete, from laying out a small breakfast terrace to revamping a tired, over-mature border and creating a modern vegetable garden from scratch.
Frost has all the right credentials for the job. He spent his childhood in north London, but moved with his parents to rural Devon when he was 15 and, after leaving school, started work as an apprentice gardener in the North Devon parks department.
Then he moved back to London and trained as a landscaper and, when he was 21, landed one of the plummest jobs in gardening, at the late Geoff Hamilton’s Barnsdale Gardens in Rutland. “Geoff’s the one who turned the light on for me. I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” Frost says.
Not only did he learn a great deal from the creative gardening brain of the legendary presenter of Gardeners’ World from the 1980s and 90s, but he also seems to have unconsciously absorbed some of his style.
There’s definitely something of the lovable Geoff Hamilton about his protégé: his unforced and engaging enthusiasm, his easy, man-of-the-people approach and broad London accent, his empathy with other gardeners, whatever their background or aspirations, and his lack of pretension. When Frost says, “If you are going to do television, you just have to be yourself ”, you believe he means it.
As a young man, Frost helped Hamilton lay out a number of small gardens at Barnsdale (and even appeared as an assistant on Gardeners’ World). After his mentor died in 1996, Frost set up his own landscape contracting company and, at the same time, discovered an aptitude and an enthusiasm for teaching gardening.
So he began giving courses at horticultural colleges and talking to gardening clubs. In 2010, he founded a small garden design practice that’s now based in a renovated barn close to his new home.
He’s been very influenced by Hamilton’s campaigns for organic gardening, preserving natural resources by not using peat or natural rock, and recycling materials. All of these things are right on-trend these days.
His philosophy is simple and comprehensible, even to new gardeners: “Gardens are about four things: people, space and the shapes that make up that space, plants and a sense of place.”
One of Frost’s earlier Gardeners’ World appearances involved him making a gravel garden at his old home and won him a Royal Television Society New on Screen Talent award. He was also a pundit at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show (where he has won a clutch of gold medals since 2007).
He has nothing but praise for the programme’s other presenters. “Monty Don has been absolutely brilliant,” he says, with his customary enthusiasm. “He’s given me guidance, he’s had time for me, he’s been full of advice and encouragement. He’s made me feel I should be here.”
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The idea of passing on knowledge and mentoring is close to his heart. He helped set up the Homebase Garden Academy in 2013, which prepares 80 of the retailer’s young employees every year for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Level 1 award.
“One of the things that drives me is connecting the next generation with what’s going on outside,” Frost says. He is also an RHS Ambassador, helping to raise the profile of gardening among secondary-school students and community groups, in particular.
It may sound old-fashioned, but Frost is adamant that gardening does everyone good, both mentally and physically. “We don’t realise how good gardening is for us,” he concludes with a smile. “It’s better than the gym.”
Gardeners’ World is on Friday at 8:30pm on BBC2 (Saturday 10th September in Wales)