Come and see our garden
Planted with thousands of our own grasses and flowering perennials, Knoll Gardens is renowned for its naturalistic style. Constantly evolving, the garden also provides a living workshop for our award-winning nursery as we showcase our ‘right plant right place’ principles to glorious effect. With year round interest it’s the perfect place in which to discover how our plants can bring the wow factor to your own garden.
New visitors to our four-acre garden will find one of the country’s most extensive collections of grasses planted against an equally impressive backdrop of beautiful and unusual woody plants.
Returning visitors will enjoy the constant variety as we work with nature to create a beautiful year-round garden, a flourishing environment for our plants and a welcoming habitat for wildlife.
As you stroll through our naturalistic planting you can enjoy the garden simply as a place of rest and relaxation; or take a more active interest as you discover working examples of how we use and maintain our plants to create maximum effect throughout the year.
What’s happening in the garden?
Knoll is home to internationally acclaimed plantsman Neil Lucas, and new planting ideas feature throughout the garden as his naturalistic style continues to develop. Neil’s recently extended Mediterranean-style gravel garden featured in many national magazines and more recent developments include removing tall hedging around the Dragon Garden to create a more open, meadow style with an almost prairie-like feel: the sumptuous effect created by swathes of glorious grasses is heightened by the addition of a selection of flowering perennials and is especially wonderful when viewed from the Pergola Walk.
Meadow-style planting is also more prevalent as Neil takes his cue from California to create smaller, easy-care meadows more suited to the English style. Now in its second year, the Sunny Meadow was deliberately planted without any formal plan; taking nature as its example. Using plants rather than seed, all chosen following the ‘right plant right place’ principle, the results are quite spectacular, producing an amazing amount of flower throughout the season.
So much more than ‘just’ grasses
Whilst Knoll is renowned for ornamental grasses, the garden features an equally impressive, though less well-known, collection of rare and unusual trees and shrubs. This mini arboretum includes stunning Eucalyptus, as well as Willow oak, Ginko biloba and Silver Maple, adding glorious autumn colour and providing an impressive year-round backdrop.
With real interest throughout the year, spring is heralded in by the unusual Australian Snowdrop Tree, Southern Sassafras. Its delicate scent and mass of velvety cream flowers appear shortly before the brighter colours of the camellias and magnolias. Summer flowerers include the hydrangeas, with Hydrangea sargentiana due a notable mention for its winning combination of large leaves and purplish blue and white flowers. The showy white flower heads of Hydrangea quercifolia bring light to shady summer spots but its true worth becomes more obvious in autumn as the leaves turn a sumptuous deep red.
From August to late into October Knoll is at its best. With the warm browns and golds of the grasses adding their honey-coloured hue, autumn is truly stunning in the garden. Set against the pinks and reds of the spindle trees the grasses come into their own providing a host of photographic opportunities as well as much needed food and shelter for wildlife. Once the winter cold descends any frost and ice quickly highlights the amazing structural shapes of the grasses and perennials left to stand until they are cut down and turned to mulch in the annual ‘spring chop’ at the start of the new gardening year.
A flower for every day of the year
It has been 24 years since Neil began championing his naturalistic style at Knoll Gardens. The years have seen him prove that grasses can be planted to beautiful effect and demonstrate a new route to an affordable, low maintenance, wildlife-friendly and truly sustainable garden. He is now extending that approach to try to put in place a planting structure that will provide “a flower for every day of the year” and thus a valuable resource to wildlife. It is the latest development in a process intended to get the best out of a finite space with limited resources and will further contribute to making Knoll an inspirational garden to visit whatever the season.
Knoll Gardens has championed the naturalistic style of gardening in the UK for many years. Established in 2008 the Knoll Gardens Foundation takes this a step further by working to make our horticultural and garden design techniques available to both professional and domestic gardeners.
Knoll’s four-acre show garden offers a working base for research into plant selection and trialling, yet is small enough for its methods and overall appeal to have real relevance to private gardens.
With a growing team of volunteers we run a full programme of events, have erected interpretation boards in the gardens at Knoll, conduct formal surveys into wildlife in the garden, develop educational material for people of all ages and take part in complementary events. We are also raising sponsorship to create a classroom within the gardens to extend our season and expand our educational remit throughout the year.
The story of Knoll Gardens began in the early 1970s. John and Enid May planted on a carrot field and semi-wooded overgrown area of scrub alongside an existing market garden and nursery called The Knoll. As their collection of plants increased the garden became known as Wimborne Botanic Garden.
John was fascinated by plant breeding. Amongst other successes he raised many hybrid Rhododendrons and produced the first hybrid Phygelius (cape fuchsia) that he named Phygelius African Queen. He also had an abiding interest in aircraft that led to the garden featuring a ‘Meteor Walk’, complete with a full-sized Meteor aeroplane!
In 1988, in the same year as the garden appeared on BBC TV’s Gardeners World for the first time, the business was sold to Kevin and Sally Martin. They changed the name to Knoll Gardens, mirroring the name of the original nursery and built the water and formal gardens.
Early in 1994 Knoll came into the care of Neil Lucas and John and Janet Flude who brought with them many interesting and unusual plants from their own collections. Neil is now responsible for it’s ongoing development whilst Nursery Manager, Ross Humphrey concentrates on growing the nursery’s increasing range of grasses and flowering perennials, many of which can be seen to full effect in the garden setting at Knoll.