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

Planted with thousands of grasses and flowering perennials, Wimborne’s Knoll Gardens is renowned for its naturalistic style and home to one of the country’s most extensive collections of ornamental grasses. Constantly evolving, the garden also provides a living workshop for its award-winning nursery, showcasing its plants to glorious effect. As you stroll through the spectacular 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 Knoll’s owner, Neil Lucas works with nature to create a beautiful year-round garden, a flourishing environment for his plants and a welcoming habitat for wildlife. Neil is the UK’s leading ornamental grass specialist and an internationally acclaimed plantsman. His newly-extended Mediterranean-style gravel garden has featured in many national magazines and he is now concentrating on refining the California style of meadow planting to make it more suitable to smaller English gardens. Knoll’s Sunny Meadow was planted two years ago without any formal plan, taking nature as its example. The results are quite spectacular, producing an amazing amount of flower throughout the season. A new meadow featuring low-level grasses and sedges is now underway. It will showcase the rather softer, and very beautiful, foliage effects they can produce when seen en masse. Whilst Knoll is renowned for ornamental grasses, the four-acre 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, Ginkgo biloba and Silver Maple, adding glorious autumn colour and providing an impressive year-round backdrop. A full event programme includes guided walks, workshops, masterclasses and plant fairs, and volunteer guides are in the garden most Friday mornings to provide practical advice and information. Knoll’s Chelsea Gold Medal-winning nursery sells many of the plants found in the garden and can also offer planting advice.

History

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

Tues - Sat 10am - 5pm (4pm Nov - Mar) Closed Sun & Mon except Monday Bank Holidays

Visit the Knoll Gardens and Nursery website

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Reviews

  • over 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