Evie Kissack chats to award-winning Garden Designer, Alexandra Froggatt, ahead of Gardeners' World Live 2019. 


You’ll be creating the headline Show Garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live this summer. Can you tell me a little about the concept of the garden, and where your inspiration came from?

The ‘Watchmakers Garden’ is a nostalgic celebration of the Jewellery Quarter during the late Victorian era. At this time, jewellery and watch making was rapidly expanding in Birmingham with workshops springing up in gardens to meet the demand. This garden will have an industrial feel backdrop and will be set around a rustic workshop containing antique jewellery-making equipment. The garden will be full of unusual heritage vegetables and soft, pretty cottage garden planting with actors in traditional Victorian dress working in and around the space. 


Why was it important for you to incorporate local history into the design?

BBC Gardeners’ World Live is held at The NEC in Birmingham, so I felt it was important to link the garden to the area. Birmingham has such a rich history and was so important to industrial growth; this seemed like a natural way to go.


How did you initially become involved in garden design?

By accident! I had graduated from university after studying Biology and was volunteering with the Sheffield Wildlife Trust. I was offered a job as a gardener which I took as an income while I was volunteering. Very quickly, I realised how much I enjoyed it and set about teaching myself about plants, garden design, and construction. After two years I stopped doing maintenance and set up a garden design practise. That was in 2010... 9 years later my business is going from strength to strength! 


How would you describe your garden design style? What sets AFD apart?

I wouldn’t say I have a particular style as such, although I do tend to design mostly rural gardens for period properties or very contemporary spaces for modern homes. I feel it is crucial that a garden reflects the personality of the clients and style of the property, so each garden is unique to them. I always endeavour to include an original feature in the space, a bespoke pergola or seating, or a detail such as a mosaic to give the garden an edge. 


You have previously won prestigious awards at BBC Gardeners’ World Live, including a Gold Award and Best in Category. How do you ensure your gardens create an impact?

I usually take inspiration from something unrelated to gardens such as art, fashion, or pop culture. This helps keeps my creative process fresh. I always try to include something innovative - ideas that haven’t been seen before. Planting is my passion too. I’m always looking for the latest plant variety and creating exciting colour combinations.


Watch Maker's Garden - Alexandra Froggatt 

You’re also an expert on living walls, which have become a phenomenon in recent years. What ways can living walls benefit those with minimal garden space? 

Living walls are a fantastic way to add greenery to walls, especially in small spaces. The garden goes up the wall instead of along the ground! Also, small, enclosed gardens are often very shaded but there are plenty of shade tolerant plants which are suitable for living walls. Different coloured foliage or flowers can be used to create beautiful patterns. Soft lighting, which grazes the foliage, enhances the feature even further. As well as aesthetic appeal, planting from green walls are linked to improved wellbeing and many plants help to purify the air, which is of great benefit in urban areas. Green walls can actually absorb sound too so if you live near a road, this may help to lessen the noise.


As we enter spring, and the weather improves over the next few months, what should we be doing in our gardens?

Weeding! With the warmer weather comes growth from unwanted plants. Pull them out before they take hold. Any deciduous perennials and grasses, which haven’t already been cut back, should be done so by March so you don’t cut into new growth. Also, feeding and treatments for pests/diseases can start from April time.  


Summer will soon be approaching – what advice do you have for creating great entertaining spaces in the garden?

Areas for entertainment are normally best in the sunshine and out of the wind so think about where gets the sun and whether extra screening is needed to protect from wind. Also, being positioned near to the kitchen is handy for getting drinks and food. Do you want to host dinners in the evenings? Outdoor lighting and heating are a great way to maximise use of the area. Bioethanol firepits are ideal for a smokeless heat source and some can be doubled up as a table. 


Often, newbie gardeners are unsure of how to make the most of their garden space. When planning the layout of a garden space, what things should we be considering?

What will you use the garden for? Entertaining? Relaxing? Children’s play? This will then guide you with what to include; a patio, seating, planting, lawn, a structure. Also check what the conditions in the garden are. Seating is best in sunny and sheltered spots. Place any practical elements such as bin stores or a shed out of sight if possible or include decorative screening. Also, get inspiration! Seeing an array of styles/designs at a garden show like BBC Gardeners’ World Live is a great way to find out what you like (or don’t like!) and to find ideas to try at home. The garden is an extension of your home so key colours and materials can be continued outside for cohesion. 


What’s the best time of year to build a garden?

Any time really, as long as the weather isn’t too awful. Frozen or waterlogged ground stops work. Planting is best in autumn or spring so that less watering is needed but it is warm enough for their roots to grow. Bare root and root balled trees and shrubs can only be planted between November and March (although exact dates depend on the weather) when the plants are dormant. 


Finally, what plants are you loving at the minute for the spring months? 

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ is a real spring favourite of mine. It has delicate blue forget-me-not-like flowers on variegated heart shaped foliage. It is also very shade tolerant and semi-evergreen. A hard-working little plant! Aquilegias are a lovely spring plant with little colourful bobbles appearing on long stems. Aquilegia ‘Black barlow’ has very dark, almost black flowers which add a contemporary edge to cottage garden planting. Lastly, Euphorbia myrsinites for an evergreen with unusual grey-green succulent like foliage and acid yellow flowers. This would look striking trailing from the top of a tall planter of mixed with other succulents in gravel.


Alexandra will be appearing at BBC Gardeners’ World Live, 13 – 16 June 2019

The most inspirational day out for gardeners…

Experience stunning Show Gardens and Beautiful Borders packed with ideas to recreate in your own garden; visit the Floral Marquee and Plant Village to shop from a vast array of nurseries with an unbeatable variety of plants; buy the latest gardening kit from 100s of exhibitors; enjoy demos from the TV presenters Monty Don, Carol Klein, Adam Frost and Joe Swift, plus Alan Titchmarsh and much more. All tickets include free entry to the BBC Good Food Show Summer, so you’ll go from plot to plate in just a few steps.

Book tickets today at bbcgardenersworldlive.com or call 0844 581 1344*

*Calls cost 7p per minute. £2.95 fulfilment fee. Details correct at time of print.

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