Gardeners' World presenter Adam Frost appears at North Berwick's Fringe By the Sea
BBC Gardeners’ World presenter, Adam Frost, was stopped by a fan recently.
She said that she was from North Berwick, so he told her that he was going to be appearing there, on Saturday August 5, as part of the Fringe By the Sea festival (August 4-13).
“Then, I went to the loo, and when I got back, she was on the phone and buying a ticket,” says Frost, 53, originally from Essex. “So there will definitely be at least one person in the audience”.
We’re sure there will be way more than that at the East Lothian appearance.
He has plenty of supporters, as evidenced by the fact that Sharleen Spiteri approached him recently to talk about horticulture. “She’s a diamond,” he says. “She’s into gardens and she likes me”.
No wonder, as Frost is just as loveable as his television co-presenter, Monty Don, and only slightly less adorable than Don’s dogs, Nell and Patti.
This author of books including How I Garden and The Real Gardener is also very open when it comes to talking about his successes and set-backs, which include growing up with dyslexia.
“As you get older, you realise that it frees your brain up to do other stuff,” he says, “You organise space in your head when you can’t do what other people do with words”. When we speak, he’s on his way to Oxford, where he’s designing a garden as part of the ‘real job’.
Frost’s career has been quite serendipitous.
He came from a working class background, with a dad who was “a bit handy after a few pints”.
The escape was either going to his grandparents’ allotment, or hanging out in his other granny’s wild garden. “I didn't realise at the time but it was somewhere where I felt safe,” he says. These elders were nicknamed “scruffy nan” and “tidy nan” and Frost thinks he takes after both of them to a certain extent, even if his wife, Sulina, does think that he errs in the direction of the scruffy side of the family.
He’ll be talking about their influence at the show and offering gardening tips as well as chatting about other major life events.
“When I left school at 16, it was on the basis that you could be a chef, you might be a gardener or join the army. Those were my options. And then I trained to be a gardener and went into a world that was sold to me on the basis of ‘you're obviously not very bright, so this is what you need to do’”, says Frost. “Then you realise, when you’re doing the job, that you’ll still be learning until the day you go into a six foot hole”.
At 21, he became the assistant to the late Geoff Hamilton, who presented Gardeners’ World in the Eighties and Nineties, at Barnsdale Gardens in Rutland.
“I suppose my life has been quite interesting. After that, I set up my business and slowly started a slightly mad Chelsea thing and then somehow ended up on the telly on a Friday night,” he says.
Even though he’s taken home seven of those prizes, Frost definitely isn’t your stereotypical gold-medal award winner at the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Earlier this year, Don agreed that the event is too white and middle class. At least Frost has been an exception to one of those rules.
“Imagine the first time I stood on the main avenue at Chelsea Flower Show. I mean, a working class lad, they didn't want me there to start with, but I think you just have to put a foot in the door and you have to keep it there,” he says. “You can't change anything from the outside”.
However, he does think that Covid has altered things to some extent. Since then, a more diverse and younger audience seems interested in all things green-fingered.
“I suppose people had this little space whether it be a balcony or this or that and they connected to it. We've turned a corner a little bit,” he says. “There's a lot of talk about mental and physical health, and environmentally, how much difference we can make in our own garden. When you start adding those together, there's a fair bit of power”.
Even though he’s doing his dream job, mid-life hasn’t all been smooth sailing. During lockdown, Frost’s family had something of a blip, when Sulina was suffering from sepsis.
“When Mrs Frost was poorly, she ended up in hospital for 10-11 weeks and I could only go in for an hour a day. During that time, one of my kids started self harming, and that turned into a full blown eating disorder,” he says. “We got through that, then I got locked in a room in September 2021 for 10 days with Covid. By the end of it, I sat in front of a head doctor and he said I’d got depression and burnout. I was doing the typical 50-year-old bloke thing of dealing with everyone else and ‘I'm alright Jack’. I did a lot of talking, had a rethink with family and simplified life. Compared to then, I feel a million dollars. I just get up to have a nice day”.
The family downsized from their huge Lincolnshire house, and now have a more manageable garden.
These days, the perfect afternoon for Frost might involve looking after it, but also photography and football. After slogging hard since he was 16-years-old, he’s trying to enjoy more downtime.
As he says; “I just worked and probably disengaged from so many things that I love doing. If you come from a certain background, you were taught that back in my day - the only way out is to work”.
Frost is appearing on Saturday August 5 from 11am-12pm, tickets £12, see www.fringebythesea.com