Interview - Adam Frost, chairman, association of Professional Landscapers

In the world of garden design, the landscapers who toil on the mesmerising final creations are often the forgotten faces at the back of the picture.

Averting crises, dealing with missing materials and simply having nerves of steel are generally prerequisites, particularly for the contractors getting to grips with gardens at major events such as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Having a foot in both camps has been a huge advantage for new Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) chairman Adam Frost, who last year designed and built his own Chelsea entry - awarded best urban garden by the judges.

"The industry says you can't do both well but I don't believe that," says Frost, who is based in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford. "I wouldn't be arrogant enough to say I'm the most inspirational designer in the world - but I would say I design and build practical, individual gardens for people.

"If I can build something that will get people out gardening I have achieved something; designing some great art work is not me."

With his outspoken enthusiasm for horticulture, which was nurtured during years spent working for the revered and longest-serving Gardeners' World presenter Geoff Hamilton, Frost is an almost unquestionable choice to lead the APL, a specialist group of the HTA.

It may seem that this year has been something of a meteoric rise for Frost, but the 39 year old is no stranger to the great and the good.

Not only has he worked with Hamilton, but he has also built for Terence Conran, RHS heavyweight Michael Balston and designer David Stevens.

"It was a great experience working for Geoff because he was so enthusiastic about the whole industry; people wanted to go out and garden after watching him," explains Frost, whose father was a landscape gardener at Gavin Jones and Blakedown Landscapes.

"The best designers understand you need a good landscaper - some of the poorer designers seem to think they are a cut above but the better they get the more they realise the best thing they can do is get a good contractor.

"For a long time I have built David Stevens' gardens, and there is trust there because I know what he is trying to achieve."

As a teenager Frost had two great passions - gardening and cooking - and it was only his love of the outdoors that finally swung his decision to follow a career in landscaping.

In his role as APL chairman, supported by vice-chairman and Landform Consultants managing director Mark Gregory, Frost says his biggest ambition is to transform the way the horticulture industry is perceived and to attract more young people to the sector.

"I would like to see kids leaving school wanting to go into horticulture," says Frost, himself a father of four.

"My children and all their friends love growing things, so what gets lost along the way?

"Is it the parents not wanting their children to go into horticulture, or are the careers not being properly talked about and offered in schools?"

Frost is planning to form a partnership with Lantra in order to help promote the training and education agenda among APL members, but says future work could also include going into schools to enthuse young people about the sector.

As a role model for the possibilities of horticulture and landscaping, Frost makes an ideal spokesman. His energy and drive for landscaping and garden design is clearly evident and, following this year's show success, he has been appointed by shopping channel QVC to design next year's Chelsea entry.

"I am really looking forward to that - it is the next size up from my garden last year but I think it is still going to be a design that people can relate to," explains Frost. "I would be surprised if this year isn't more difficult for people to get sponsorship, which is why I am over the moon."

Frost says the design is based on the idea of a couple whose children have gone off to university, so they have more time to enjoy their garden.

"There are two paths breaking it up and a central area for cooking and eating, with woodland around the boundaries," he reveals.

"There will be lots of softer, romantic planting, with lounging seats for reading a Sunday paper. They will have poems inscribed in the backs of them and there will be two water walls, herb planting and a raised fire pit."

Creating outdoor spaces that inspire regular people to get into their gardens is Frost's principal aim - and that certainly seem to be resonating with both the landscape contracting sector and those who judge garden design.

"We have all got to do our bit to push the industry," urges Frost. "Geoff Hamilton instilled in me this passion to do it and that is where my belief that everyone should garden comes from. That pushes everything I do."

1985: Starts apprenticeship at North Devon Council parks department
1985-88: Studies amenity horticulture at Bicton College
1988: Studies horticultural management at Oaklands College
1990: Starts working for Geoff Hamilton and studies garden design at
Capel Manor College
1996: Sets up Adam Frost Landscapes
2007: Designs and builds his first RHS Chelsea garden
2008: RHS Chelsea garden A Welcome Sight wins best urban garden
September 2008: Appointed chairman of Association of Professional

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