The Garden Landscape Guide

Knoll Gardens and Nursery

An inventive garden attached to a nursery. The collection of grasses is of note and is becoming nationally and internationally recognised. The show garden also features a gravel garden and meadow garden.

Head Gardener's Comment

Recently featured on BBC Gardeners’ World, Knoll Gardens is a nationally recognised naturalistic garden and nursery, specialising in ornamental grasses. Originally a private botanic garden featuring Australasian plants, rare and unusual trees and shrubs are planted throughout the four acre garden, forming a mini-arboretum which combines with Knoll’s showcase grasses to create a real ‘wow factor’. Knoll’s naturalistic style reaches it peak from August through to October with stunning autumn foliage, but there is always something special to see regardless of the time of year. Vibrant spring poppies start the year with a zing of colour, followed by the exquisite flowers of Eucryphia, Hoheria, Hydrangea and Myrtle, all providing fragrant homes to the garden’s many birds in the warmth of the summer sun. When the grasses are at their seasonal best, their autumn colour is further enhanced by a stunning array of deciduous plants: the fruit and foliage of spindle trees, maidenhair and Persian ironwood all combining to spectacular effect. Low lighting and winter sunshine make the garden equally spectacular as the days draw in. Knoll’s towering miscanthus, backlit by the winter sun is sure to be long remembered. Strolling around this secluded Dorset garden you’ll find an increasing range of native plants, new introductions – some launched to great acclaim at Chelsea Flower Show – rare varieties and several plants unique to the garden at Knoll. Winding paths lead you through inspirational, luxuriant displays, past water and the garden’s guardian dragon sculpture, as you discover this truly inspirational garden, abundant with wildlife. Knoll’s owner, Neil Lucas has spent the last 20 years introducing his own sustainable style to the garden’s sandy soil. A best-selling author as well as RHS Council Member and Senior Judge, Neil is a passionate plantsman and his energy and enthusiasm have translated themselves into Knoll’s glorious grassy wonderland providing a wonderful environment for both resident and visiting wildlife and all those interested in finding out a little more about his wildlife-friendly gardening techniques. Free volunteer-led tours are available for garden visitors most Friday morning, and Knoll also hosts a programme of activities and events throughout the year. Internationally acknowledged, and the UK’s leading ornamental grass specialist, Knoll’s onsite nursery is an acclaimed specialist grower of grasses and flowering perennials - many not available elsewhere. With ten consecutive Chelsea Gold Medals to its name plant quality is a top priority. A comprehensive online catalogue is available but personal shoppers are also likely to find further plants, not featured online. Frequently grown to order, these are usually surplus to contract and available only in small numbers and for a very short period.


In the early 1970s planting began on a carrot field and semi-wooded overgrown area of scrub alongside an existing market garden and nursery called The Knoll. This collection of plants increased rapidly and it became known as Wimborne Botanic Garden. Many of the fine trees seen today, including the Eucalyptus, are from these initial plantings. In 1988, in the same year as the garden appeared on BBC TV's Gardeners World, the business changed ownership. The new owners created the water and formal gardens and did much to improve visitor facilities. The name was changed to Knoll Gardens, reflecting the original nursery name. Early in 1994 Knoll came into the care of Neil Lucas and John & Janet Flude who carried out a major refurbishment, bringing with them many interesting and unusual plants from their own collections. Today Knoll has a national reputation for its ornamental grasses grown within its own nursery which continues to supply plants to both the show garden and to the general public.

Plants of note

Knoll has several mature specimens of eucalyptus which like the dry sandy soil. One of the largest in the garden is Eucalyptus rodwayi which, along with the others, sheds it bark in such quantities as to always cause comment. Spectacular in autumn are the spindle trees or Euonymus with their fascinating brightly coloured fruits set off by wonderful fall colour. E. Red Cascade has a gently drooping habit with leaves that turn a gorgeous red. Probably the tallest grass is Miscanthus giganteus forming wonderful pillars of bright green gracefully curving leaves. This seldom flowers in the UK but is unrivalled as a tall screen or accent as can be seen from the several groups around the garden. At the other end of the height scale is the much lower Carex Ice Dance with a subtle green and white variegation it is superb at creating hassle free, good looking cover even in dry shade, which can be one of the most difficult of conditions to plant successfully. Specialist Horticultural Advice Knoll Gardens is also home to Neil Lucas MI Hort, internationally renowned ornamental grass specialist, author and RHS Council Member. When not on plant hunting trips overseas, lecturing or judging at flower shows, Neil is very much hands-on in the garden, constantly developing its modern naturalistic style, overseeing new plant trials, running masterclasses and leading walks and talks; all designed to help budding enthusiasts find out more about gardening with grasses. Neil’s extensive horticultural career and natural affinity with nature has also left him well placed to provide practical advice, garden consultancy and stunning planting schemes to ensure you get your garden moving in the right direction. With a career spanning private and public projects, ranging from NHS hospitals to private gardens, zoo and stately homes, Neil makes frequent guest appearances on radio and television as well as featuring alongside Knoll Gardens in the national press.

Stapehill Road, Hampreston, Wimborne, Dorset, England, BH21 7ND

Gardens and Nursery Opening Times: Gardens open February 3rd for 2015 Tuesday to Saturday - 10.00am - 5.00pm (4pm November - March). Last entry to garden 30 mins before closing. Closed Sundays and Mondays, except Bank Holiday Mondays. Closed from December 18th 2015, re-opening February 2nd December 2016 In periods of adverse weather the garden may be closed for safety reasons.

Admission to Gardens (free entry to Nursery) Adult: £6.25 Concessions: £5.50 Child (age 5 - 15): £4.50 Disabled Person + helper: £1.00 off each appropriate category Group Rate (minimum of 12 people): £5.00 per person. £9 to include guided tour. Season ticket: £20.00 Personal tours by Garden owner, Neil Lucas also available Pre-booked coach parties welcome.

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  • about 7 years by Adam Hodge 3 / 5

    As one who has been long undecided about 'Grasses' I visited this Garden to be convinced of their merit! I was to an extent, but also deeply frustrated by the shortage nee absence of labels to tell me what was what !
    There are a lot of interesting plant combinations, groupings and settings for grass. The labels became more evident in the older areas of the garden that has a tremendous selection of interesting trees , rhodos, and other stuff.

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Knoll Gardens, Hampreston Photograph © Knoll Gardens
Knoll Gardens, Hampreston Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Knoll Gardens, Dorset Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Grasses, Knoll Gardens Photograph © Dianna Jazwinski/Knoll Gardens
Autumn, Knoll Gardens Photograph © Knoll Gardens
Knoll Gardens Photograph © Dianna Jazwinski/Knoll Gardens
Knoll Gardens and Nursery Photograph © Knoll Gardens