How grandparents can encourage a love of gardening

Sharon Amos / 22 May 2015

Award-winning gardener Adam Frost is on his seventh Chelsea garden. Here, he tells us how his grandparents shaped his love of gardening.



Adam Frost had a balanced gardening education thanks to his two grandmothers, affectionately known as 'Scruffy Nan' and 'Tidy Nan'.

'Scruffy Nan was mad about gardening; it was as wild as Heligan outside her back door,' he says. 'She had old butler sinks full of water that I’d fish out newts from. As a boy the first plants she helped me to grow were coleus.'

Then, like every schoolchild entrepreneur, he set up a stall outside the front garden and sold them.

Her antithesis was Tidy Nan: 'Tidy Nan would even tie up her brambles. She and Grandad taught me everything I know about growing veg – I had my own corner of their allotment since I was four.'

Read our guide to setting up a vegetable patch for children.

From such beginnings great gardeners are made. Now Adam is on to his seventh garden at Chelsea Flower Show, and this year won this seventh Gold medal.

His Urban Retreat for Homebase in association with Macmillan Cancer Support pays homage to his own horticultural education at his grandparents’ knees: it’s a community garden where gardeners of all generations can come together and share expertise and enthusiasm. Featuring a rooftop wildflower lawn, cedar-clad pavilion and clearly defined water, lawn and planting zones it has a very modern feel to it.

Helping him are a group of students from the Homebase Academy, a programme designed to help the next generation of professional gardeners kick-start their career. Adam Frost plays a key role in the Academy, teaching the students about garden planning and design and helping them towards their RHS Level 1 Award qualification.

Started in 2013, 2014 saw their first participation at Chelsea Flower Show, working with Adam Frost on his his Gold medal-winning Homebase garden Time to Reflect, in association with Alzheimer's Society.

Homebase Academy student Mike Gogerty’s introduction to gardening was more recent than Adam's. 'I’d decided on a career change and while I thought about it I kept my Gran company as my Grandad had just died,' he says. 'I helped her in the garden – one of the first things we did was take bay cuttings together. She used to be a teacher and she expected high standards from me.’ It was after she set him a challenge to help her design her garden that he decided to take his interest to the next level.

While parents may well have gardening skills, too, what they don’t always have is time to pass them on.

Grandparents who are retired are perfectly placed to share their knowledge. A recent survey by Homebase confirms this to be the case. When a selection of 16-24 year olds were asked how they’d learned about gardening, nearly a third said they’d done so from their grandparents.

And of the grandparents who responded to the survey, 42% say they are teaching their grandchildren how to garden.

‘I wonder what I’d be doing now if my grandparents hadn’t introduced me to gardening,’ Adam muses. ‘Things might have turned out very differently…

‘But if my Grandad could see me now building my seventh show garden at Chelsea he’d be bowled over,’ says Adam. ‘It just goes to show what can grow from the smallest seed.’

You can see Adam Frost’s Urban Retreat Garden for Homebase at the Chelsea Flower Show from 19-23 May, rhs.org.uk The Homebase Garden Academy is open to new student applications from May 22.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.