Over the last 27 years, internationally acclaimed gardener and owner of Knoll Gardens Neil Lucas, together with his team, have created a wonderful naturalistic garden, a haven for both people and wildlife. Seamlessly blending graceful grasses, adding drama with striking perennials and form and structure with mature trees and shrubs, the gardens afford colour and interest throughout the seasons.
A perpetual calendar of natural delights
Enchanting vistas and intimate alcoves surprise and delight as you explore the winding paths that snake around the naturalistic gardens at Knoll. Framed by stunning, specimen/unusual trees and shrubs and punctuated with seasonal bulbs, a plethora of striking ornamental grasses and tall perennials provide form, texture and vibrant hues throughout the year. As the natural rhythm of the seasons progresses different varieties provide new focus, reaching their peak as the trees and shrubs adopt their stunning autumn colours, creating a beautiful backdrop for the grasses – magically illuminated by the low season sun.
Low maintenance planting that thrives whatever the weather
Although subtly merging, a distinctive series of garden areas have been created at Knoll, using plants suited to particular growing conditions, following the ‘right plant right place’ mantra. Putting to one side ideas of controlling nature and instead working in partnership with it, Knoll Gardens has created a space which not only evokes a sense of wellbeing but also provides a home for wildlife. The different areas have been sustainably planted with the minimum of resources and with maximum – and quite spectacular – results, the happy result of ‘low input, high impact’ naturalistic gardening.
Vitality and versatility
Used in informal groupings and meadow style plantings, the stunning ornamental grasses, for which Knoll is renowned, are seamlessly interwoven with complimentary perennials and bulbs, which celebrate the grasses versatility, durability and captivating rhythms.
Writing in his book “Designing with Grasses” Neil Lucas notes “Understanding grasses’ origins and their contributions to the wider ecosystem inspires us to see our gardens differently. Grasses can offer us insight into a way of working – an approach to gardening that combines a focus on adaptability, ease of use and sheer simplicity with the most strikingly beautiful of effects”.
Framed by the unusual, mature trees and shrubs, the grasses are perhaps the star performers at Knoll Gardens – which also boasts the National Plant Collection of hardy Pennisetum. The distinctive areas within the gardens, whether it be the Shady, Damp and Water Gardens, the Sunny, Sedge and Dry Meadows, or the most spectacular Decennium Border, are the result of the best suited and most stunning grasses having been planted in the appropriate conditions – the results speak for themselves.
We are delighted to welcome visitors to the garden and nursery during our opening hours. If you cannot make a visit or might just like to get a flavour of how the garden looks through the seasons, why not take a Virtual Garden Tour.
Habitats for wildlife
With the sympathetic naturalistic approach, and the creation of a range of different garden habitats, comes a fascinating variety of wildlife, depicted beautifully in our online wildlife gallery. Bees, moths, butterflies and a myriad of insects thrive, each drawn to their own corner of Knoll and homing in on favourite plants for nectar, food and shelter. In the summer months, Dragonflies and damselflies are attracted by the garden’s ponds and delight visitors with splashes of iridescent colour and in the cooler seasons, many birds find their home and succour among the garden’s trees, shrubs and seed-heads.
The positive effects of the naturalistic approach to gardening on wildlife is evident and the Knoll Gardens Foundation charity was founded to research and promote the benefits that Knoll’s gardening style brings to both gardeners and wildlife. With an inspired team of volunteers, and in partnership with many wildlife organisations, the Foundation are learning about how sharing with wildlife benefits all, and the relationship between Knoll’s planting styles and biodiversity. Wildlife surveys to date have shown just how crucial planting can be in terms of sustaining certain wildlife and there are exciting new plans to further develop this area of research. Anyone wishing to support this valuable work please visit the Foundation website, alternatively those who shop on Amazon can select the Knoll Gardens Foundation as their chosen charity as part of the Amazon Smile initiative.
50 years and counting…
50 years ago…
In the nineteen seventies, Wimborne Botanic Garden – as Knoll was then known – first opened to the public. It was planted on a carrot field alongside an existing market garden and nursery called ‘The Knoll’, and among the new plantings, many hybrid Rhododendrons were raised including the first hybrid Phygelius (cape fuchsia), named Phygelius African Queen.
40 years ago…
In 1988 new owners changed the name to Knoll Gardens, mirroring the name of the original nursery. Additional water and formal garden areas were developed, with the gardens appearing on BBC TV’s Gardeners World for the first time – the beginning of a happy friendship.
30 years ago…
In 1994, Knoll Gardens came into the care of Neil Lucas (the current owner) and John and Janet Flude. They brought with them a range of unusual plants including ceanothus, itea, and the wonderful Viburnum cylindricum, which was planted in the now magnificent Decennium border.
20 years ago…
Neil began developing his now widely acclaimed, naturalistic style of gardening. Using the existing backdrop of rare and usual trees and shrubs as a foil, he planted grasses and perennials in drifts, perfectly matching the growing conditions.
In 2008 he started the charity the Knoll Gardens Foundation. The Foundation researches the effects of Neil’s gardening style and its relationship with wildlife using the resultant data to inspire others to create wildlife friendly gardens.
10 years ago…
Now the UK’s leading authority on ornamental grasses, Neil was at this time concentrating on the garden and developing his naturalistic style. Nursery Manager, Ross Humphrey, was now overseeing the production of Knoll’s range of grasses and flowering perennials – many of which can be seen to full effect in the naturalistic plantings at Knoll.
Back to the future!
The gardens continue to evolve today with the sizable extension of the Mill End Borders, alongside innovative new projects such as the Dry Meadow and Rain Garden initiatives that are taking Knoll well and truly into the 21st century.