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
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 programme is available here.
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 Garden data page.
Some past key events are summarised below.
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 committments.
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.
Education programme launch
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.
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 the link below:
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.