Adam Frost’s top tips for your garden redesign

Adam Frost’s top tips for your garden redesign


I’ve just asked top garden designer and
BBC Gardeners World presenter Adam Frost on how you should redesign your garden. I
met him at the Painters Forstal gardening club, and we repaired to the
hall’s tiny little catering kitchen and had a quick 15 minute chat on how you
should redesign your garden. Well, firstly he says ‘don’t do anything – if
you’ve moved into a new house, don’t do anything to the garden. Go out into the
garden every morning, every evening and just walk the space, and really think
about what you want from it. He himself has really quite recently moved into a
new garden and he says that’s what he’s done. You need to think about where
the sun comes up, where does it go down, where are you most attracted to sitting –
its there any part of the garden you actually don’t really want to be in
and why? Are you trying to protect yourself from an overlooking
window or maybe there are noisy neighbors? We can’t get rid of noise
completely but there are things you can do that will make it much easier. Adam
really advises taking a whole growing season, which is pretty much a
year, before you do anything to see what grows in the garden and see what grows well. And he most specifically says ‘don’t have prejudices,’ – don’t think ‘oh I hate
conifers’ or ‘I hate acuba, I hate this or I hate that.’ I
completely understand this because when we first came to this garden we were
determined to get rid of a great big conife,r which is really planted quite
close to the back door. Thank goodness we didn’, because we lived with
it for a while and we realized that it was screening out the light from a
really ugly street lamp. Now if we’d taken that conifer down, it would have
been unbearable to be on our terrace at night. So really think not just’ I hate
conifers’ but ‘what’s this tree doing here? What does it bring to the garden?What
does it bring to the party?’ We’ve all heard about towns and villages having
micro climates, but every garden has microclimates, Adam says. For example, my viburnum
opulus is only just changing colour, but my neighbor, who also has a viburnum
opulus – which is probably just about 100 feet away – and is
facing in the same direction has already lost all its leaves. Now now this is probably
because my neighbor’s viburnum opulus is against a wall, and that’ll make it much
warmer – it’s probably growing faster and actually I’ve noticed it also comes out
a little bit earlier in the spring – a good three weeks behind mine. And mine’s in
rather a shady spot. So what about garden privacy?
well Adam suggests you create a secluded corner. If you’ve got a window
overlooking you, don’t stick a row of trees down by your garden border. They’ll take years before they really screen anything. You can put something
much smaller really close to where you’re going to sit. Having trees close
to the house can create a secluded, private effect . And if it’s noise you’re
worried about, try a water feature with a gentle sparkling sound of water
trickling over. As I said, you can’t ever get rid of noise, but you can distract
yourself. Adam says that good gardens have the right amount of layers. He
thinks a good English garden reflects an English woodland. And
woodland – he says – naturally has four layers. At the top we’ll have your mature
trees, the oaks and the beeches, and then underneath there are the saplings
the younger trees, and then in woodland you’ll see the equivalent of shrubs –
it’ll be like rhododendrons or hawthorn or other quite large plants which grow
sideways to make the most of the light, and then lower down you’ve got the ferns
and the brackens which he equates to a herbaceous border, and finally you get
the lowest level, the snowdrops, the bluebells, the anemones, and this is your
bulb layer. And I can see what he means – and it’s quite a good idea to assess
your garden thinking ‘Are all those layers here? So, looking around my garden
I’ve certainly got the larger trees – and I do remember someone saying I’m so glad
you’ve left the larger trees there because it makes the garden have better
proportions – and I think that’s what she was talking about – I think it’s possible
that maybe I haven’t got quite enough in the smaller trees/ larger
shrubs area – I’m not sure about that? Now one tip that I thought was
incredibly useful is that Adam suggests that if you’ve got a gap in your border,
think about the foliage not about the flower color, think about the leaf shape
and put a plant with a different leaf form in that gap. Now that’s a really
interesting way of filling a gap in a border. Adam really believes in
planting for wildlife as well: ‘We’ve lost so many of our wildflower meadows in the
last ten years,’ he says. So if you’re planning a garden redesign, then design
in the wildlife because our gardens can help fill that gap. There are a number of
videos that I’ve made about gardening for wildlife, and there’s more about this
in the information in the description below. Adam also suggests that you think
about a word that sums up your garden, so when you’re in the garden center or the
nursery and you’re going to buy new plants or new garden furniture or something, you
think ‘Does it fit with this word?’ So if your word you used to explain your
garden is ‘calm’ or if it’s ‘romantic’ or ‘colorful’. Then look at what you were
thinking of buying and say ‘well, if it’s not “calm”, it’s not coming home. If it’s
not “romantic” it’s not coming home, And, and finally I think the best advice of all
that he gave was to say ‘Don’t chase the dream that it’s got to be perfect all
the time, enjoy those little moments that your
garden can give you, find your own way and don’t worry about what anyone else
thinks.’ Adam Frost is a very inspiring speaker and he’s also very practical. He
became a garden designer after he’d been a landscaper, so he really understands
how the hard landscaping of a garden works. You can find out more about his
garden design in the links in the description below, and he’s also got a
fantastic garden school that he’s just opened. He’s also available for talks. And do
join us on the Middlesized Garden every Saturday if you haven’t subscribed. We’d
love to see you, thank you.

11 thoughts on “Adam Frost’s top tips for your garden redesign

  1. Very interesting tips. Thanks Alexandra. I really like the layers idea. Maybe one can add another layer under the bulbs layer – mulch, fallen leaves or creeping ground covers, for example? They add to the overall landscape.

    Filling gaps with contrasting foliage, as Adam suggests, is a useful way to approach filling gaps. I always find filling gaps difficult because the plants on either side are often capable of filling the gaps in time, through further growth. The garden designer who redesigned our front garden two years ago did not want to fill gaps for that very reason. In fact, she said, "Oh I don't believe in having a stuffed garden" (it sounded quite funny!). She also said that shrubs would grow to meet one another and knit together. However I sometimes found the gaps too stark and filled them anyway, later moving them (or even consigning them to the compost heap, I'm afraid). I think the garden owner has the last say – "to fill, or not to fill". 🙂

  2. Great tips although I won't be waiting a full year to do anything to the garden. It's funny how green thumbs always give that advice but few of us actually follow it 😉

  3. What an interesting video!  I've made the mistakes of not 'listening to the land', planting impulsively, not considering the long term outcome.  I've changed.  I had to. Now when I am in my garden, my soul seems to rest, and any wildlife that joins me I take as a compliment. Such great advice!  I wished I found your channel sooner than I did.

  4. Fantastic video!!! The tips given are just perfect. As a new gardener I’m discovering many new things on my own. One has been layers and what took me back was how this great gardener finds his inspiration in the woods or forest because I’ve been paying attention a lot to our woodland areas around here. I’ve been asked to do a video on layers because I always speak how important they are specially in a small garden like mine I believe it not only makes it fuller but a more mature look. I don’t believe I’m ready at all to give such great advice as on your video but I will be explaining my experience and why to me it’s important. How I love your channel wonderful information. Have a beautiful day.💚💚💚💚💚💚

  5. Love your content! When I bought this home a couple years ago it was a jungle of grasses and weeds and had lost all but one tree but I took the same advice and this is the year I start implementing my plan. I’ve lived with almost no landscape other than the oak and two crepe myrtle which are so over used in the southern United States. Thanks for all your efforts!!

  6. “Every garden has a microclimate.” That is so true. I made that point in my recent video “Flower Empowerment Sun or Shade.” 🌼🌿

  7. Great advice! Wait for a whole growing season, study your garden, watch where the sun rises, as it changes during the year, watch the shadows made by the buildings and by the trees, as they're much longer or shorter as the seasons go by.

  8. One thing I did when I moved into a new house was to leave the garden and then also walk about the neighbourhood to see what grows best in this area, as I can now grow different types of plants to previously.

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