Homebase has its Garden Academy recruits to thanks for its gold award at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

While winning the top gong is nothing new for Homebase – it has won it for the past three years now – it went about things a little differently this year by asking members of its new Garden Academy to help its designer Adam Frost build the garden.

The Academy, launched in October, aims to train up the next generation of garden enthusiasts. The Academy was open to existing Homebase employees but the retailer also looked outside the company too. Those chosen are able to study for a level one qualification from the RHS, and also be mentored by Frost. And of course, the lucky chosen ones also get the privilege of building a show-stopping garden at Chelsea.

Homebase will launch the academy again this September and managing director Paul Loft says eventually he wants every store to employ someone who has been through the scheme, to create gardening champions in every location.

“We want to train those in store but it’s also good for the whole industry if more people are qualified,” says Loft.

The aim is to up service levels in store and become even more of a destination for garden enthusiasts. Garden makes up a third of Homebase’s overall sales.

 “We need to convince people that versus a garden centre you can get plants of a similar quality, at a much better price and good advice,” says Loft.

Loft says Homebase could look to launch similar academies for other categories including decorating.

Paul Jablonka, one of the 11 who won a place on the academy, works at the Cheltenham store. He says helping to build the Chelsea Flower Show garden was “amazing”. “Adam’s enthusiasm is rubbing off on us all,” he says. Jablonka plans to study for his level two and three RHS qualification after completing the Homebase Academy course.

“It’s good to bring younger people into horticulture as it’s not seen as a cool thing,” he says.