About Us

Together, British gardens account for an area five times the size of Greater London. These gardens, and the activities of millions of gardeners, have a significant impact on our environment and on the wildlife that inhabits it.

We believe that not only should gardens be beautiful to look at, they can also act as ‘mini reserves’, offering refuge and food for wildlife. A working partnership that benefits ourselves as well as our wildlfe.

Traditionally British gardens have been based on moulding our individual domestic green spaces into visually pleasing areas through a mix of form, colour and texture. Rarely does this acknowledge the native context within which the garden sits, or the bio diversity (a collective term for all living things), value our gardens can bring to both humans and wildlife.

Based at Knoll Garden’s four-acre show garden in east Dorset, the Knoll Gardens Foundation helps UK gardeners to make their gardens more low impact and wildlife-friendly by reducing reliance on scarce natural resources.

Knoll Gardens has championed the naturalistic style of gardening in the UK for many years. The Knoll Gardens Foundation takes this a step further by making its horticulture and garden design techniques available to both professional and domestic gardeners.

Established in 2008, the concept behind the charity is really quite simple.
The first step is to understand that whilst each garden may be unique, the basic principles for successful gardening remain the same; the need to look at the garden first; then discover its needs and plant accordingly. This creates a truly long lasting, sustainable garden.

The second step is to begin to understand that whilst many plants can create a sustainable garden, some are more worthy than others in terms of the wildlife they support and their contribution to biodiversity.

Finally we need to understand that the garden is a living community, a group of individuals all working together to create a harmonious whole. Using plants that are best suited for any individual site will always result in the highest levels of success and satisfaction and the lowest cost to both the environment and the gardener.

We welcome visitors to the garden and hold regular free open days supported by like-minded charities including the RSPB and Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Who Are we?

The Knoll Gardens Foundation is run by a team of trustees and supported by some wonderful volunteers.

The Knoll Gardens Foundation Registered Charity number 1159390

Our trustees:

  • Peter Gear – Chair of the Foundation
  • Neil Lucas MI Hort– RHS Council member and judge, plantsman, and author
  • Amanda Walker FRSA – Specialist in horticultural marketing and owner of Phoenix 2
  • Ross Humphrey – Nursery Manager, Knoll Gardens
  • Bob Sweet, Horticultural Director, River Street Events
  • Andrea D’Souza
  • Rowena Jecock – Retired public health policy adviser. Botanist and microbiologist.

What We Do

Whilst our gardening concept may be simple, significant research is required to establish why some plant communities work better than others and how this knowledge can be used to encourage a balanced, common sense approach to gardening across Britain.

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 young people and take part in complementary events. We are also raising sponsorship to create an outdoor classroom to extend our season and expand our educational remit throughout the year.

Projects and research

Inspiring young minds

Our monthly toddler group, Bugs and Buds was launched in 2017. Aimed at inspiring young minds with the wonders of nature the group in led by our Education Ranger Tracy Standish and enjoys activites ranging from pond dipping to nest building, garden art an bug hunting, all specific to the changing seasons in the garden. To check availability and book email education@knollgardens.co.uk

Education programme

We have developed an education programme to encourage children and young people to engage with the natural world and inspire in them a better understanding of science through sowing seeds, caring for plants and discovering the creatures that inhabit our gardens. The programme has, initially, been designed to contribute to the primary school curriculum.

An outline of the education programme is available here.

Young Molly is the first child to enjoy the Knoll Gardens Foundation's new educational programme copy v2

Wildlife surveys

Understanding the wildlife that is attracted to Knoll Gardens is key to the future development of the garden and we undertake regular wildlife surveys to add to the data we already hold. Birds are monitored and recorded each month while butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies are surveyed every two weeks. Bees, bats and hedgehogs have been the subject of workshops and identification days.

Summaries of data collected by our surveys can be found on the Reports page.

Some past key events..


“We Value Volunteers”

In celebration of National Volunteers Week we opened the garden gates to offer free admission to anyone who volunteers in any capacity. Unseasonably chilly weather didn’t put off the many garden enthusiasts who relaxed and recharged their batteries as they enjoyed a welcome break from day-to-day commitments.

Wildlife news – the first Scarce Chaser dragonfly of the year in Dorset and west Hampshire was recorded in the garden at Knoll.


“Wild About Gardens”

Hedgehogs, and their declining numbers, were the focus of a special Wild About Gardens event run in conjunction with the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Visitors were able to handle hedgehogs and learn about these prickly creatures from Dorset Wildlife Trust officers, and get advice on ways to create suitable hedgehog habitats and ‘wildlife corridors’ to encourage hedgehogs into our gardens.

“Garden wildlife survey”

Over 100 wildlife species were identified in the garden in just five hours when Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) staff and Knoll volunteers undertook a garden wildlife survey as part of the DWT Great Heath Project.

From stag beetles to tree bees, hornet hoverflies to holly blue butterflies and dunnocks to buzzards, the survey revealed a thriving wildlife community of 103 species, an increase of nearly 30% since the garden’s first annual survey.


Yellow Necked Mouse

“Education programme launch”

The thunder of massed mallets launched the Foundation’s Education Programme when the Chairman and Trustees welcomed the Mayor of Ferndown and other business and civic leaders to Knoll.

The thunder of mallets came from guests trying out one of the many fun activities included in the programme – selecting leaves and flowerheads from within the garden before smashing them with mallets to extract their colours and create individual artworks to take home.

Wildlife news – Knoll’s Australian Snowdrop Tree flowered in February, several weeks early. With alleged medicinal properties the tree is rarely seen in the UK.


“Beautiful Bees & Glorious Gardens”

A range of bee experts came together to focus on how Knoll attracts bees and explain how we can make domestic gardens as bee-friendly as possible by identifying the best plants to attract and feed bees in your own garden. Jane Adams, founder of the national Garden Bioblitz, led a bee walk where participants not only identified the different bees that visit or call Knoll their home, but also met bee monitor and naturalist Dr Richard Comont of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Visitors also joined in with bee-related activities including making bee houses and beeswax candles. The East Dorset Beekeepers Association displayed a virtual hive and sold local honey.

“Garden Bioblitz”

We’re delighted over 100 species were counted as part of our Garden Bioblitz in August 2014, in conjunction with Dorset Wildlife Trust. For a species list from the event, follow this DWT link



Wildlife news – tree bees, the only bee species to nest above ground made their home in one of Knoll’s summerhouses and a red kite swooped over the lower lawn.


“The ‘not so secret’ garden event”

As well as raising much needed funds for the Foundation, a special ‘not so secret’ garden event attracted hundreds of garden and wildlife enthusiasts and included free, guided tours, garden advice sessions and plenty of help for everyone wanting to plant beautiful, wildlife friendly gardens.

Wildlife news – Our June bat walk rewarded us with additional sightings of nightjars and the International Space Station.