Secret gardens and plant pioneers in Dorset

PUBLISHED: 12:47 02 September 2013 | UPDATED: 12:47 02 September 2013

Knoll Gardens

Knoll Gardens


Specialist nurseries and gardens across East Dorset have come together to launch a new trail which celebrates the area’s strong horticultural traditions

Cranborne Garden Centre hosted the official launch of an exciting new partnership which highlights the many specialist nurseries and gardens of East Dorset. ‘Specialist Nurseries and Hidden Gardens of East Dorset’ is a gardens trail which aims to encourage visitors to the area and show them where to find delightful walled gardens, historic garden buildings, the best places to buy quality plants, and, where to enjoy delicious local ice creams amid the flowers. It also provides details of local accommodation, including country cottages and an Edwardian country home – all with their own delightful gardens to enjoy.

The initiative is the idea of Rachel Limb, Tourism Manager, for East Dorset District Council who has spearheaded the production of the leaflet. “The idea of bringing specialist nurseries together had great merit as the East Dorset area attracts many visitors with an interest in gardens and horticulture,” says Rachel. “East Dorset is home to award-winning growers of roses, camellias, fuchsias, blueberries, azaleas, acers and heathers, as well as the multiple Chelsea gold medal winning ornamental grasses of Knoll Gardens.”

The trail leaflet highlights many of the fascinating horticultural ‘firsts’ that have happened in the area - from the first blueberries brought into the UK to the first ‘garden centre’. “These show the high pedigree of horticulture here,” says Rachel, “its towns and villages have always taken great pride in their appearance and Wimborne currently holds the title of ‘Best Small Town in Britain in Bloom’. We hope this leaflet will go a little way towards explaining why nurseries have flourished in East Dorset and encourage plant enthusiasts to buy with confidence from our horticultural pioneers.”

The Specialist Nurseries and Hidden Gardens of East Dorset leaflet is available free of charge from Wimborne Tourist Information Centre (01202 886116) or download it at the Knoll Gardens website, click on Nursery Trail.


East Dorset’s Plant Pioneers

The Blueberry & Camellia Specialists

The Trehane’s are pioneers of the UK’s blueberry industry. Their fruitful empire started back in 1951 when David Trehane (Senior) saw an article in the Farmers Chronicle offering 100 free blueberry plants to anyone who wanted them. The plants were a gift from a parson on Lulu Island, British Columbia. David, who was one of only four people to take up the offer, duly took delivery on 7 March 1952 of the very first blueberry plants to arrive in this country. He planted them in the acid heathland soil below his house in Wimborne and trialled them over the next five years before deciding to plant commercially. Today Trehane are the UK’s leading organic blueberry producer, supplying many tons of blueberries every year to Marks and Spencers, Abel & Cole and directly to the public via their Pick Your Own venture. The nursery sells nine varieties of blueberry, which all offer scented spring flowers and autumn colour, as well as their healthy berries

Trehane’s are also the UK’s leading camellia nursery where they create and trail new varieties. Their latest release is named after the owner’s mother, who is a world-renowned authority on camellias. The Williamsii hybrid, ‘Jennifer Trehane’ has a stunning full peony-form pink flower with subtle white edging and its upright, compact shape make it an ideal garden plant. (


Tall Stories at Deans Court

Within Deans Court’s 13 acres of gardens are a number of interesting, mature specimen trees include one of the first Tulip Trees to be introduced into the country in the 17th Century and a Mexican Swamp Cypress (Taxodium Distichum), both planted in 1607. At 110ft tall the Swamp Cypress is the second tallest in the country but has the largest girth. Deans Court also boasts the second largest ‘crinkle-crankle’ or serpentine wall in the country, it was built by French prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars. The gardens are opened as part of the NGS - National Gardens Scheme. (


Home of the Garden Centre

In 1859 nurserymen William and David Stewart arrived in East Dorset from Dundee in search of a mild climate in which to grow more delicate plants. They set up their nursery in Ferndown and continued, through the 1900s, to be one of the largest producers of nursery stock in the country. Though the firm established other branch nurseries across the area they remained at Ferndown for a full century before moving to farmland at nearby Broomhill. During this time Edward Stewart introduced container grown stock (potted plants), an innovation which changed the whole horticultural industry. In the same period Edward flew to America to look at horticultural developments there. He wrote to his sisters from Toronto in 1953 saying that he had seen the future and it was called ‘Garden Centres’. His first garden centre was created within adapted sheds at Ferndown in 1955 and was the forerunner of the first purpose-built centre in the country, opened in 1961 in Christchurch. (


Nurseries to explore…

Forest Edge Nurseries

This heather specialist sources the best and newest varieties from across Europe and the USA. Their nursery at Woodlands is open to visitors by prior appointment only call 01202 824387 to book. (

White Veil Fuchsias

This speciality fuchsia nursery at Three Legged Cross is where you can find many varieties in bush, trailing and hardy fuchsias all grown from cuttings on site. 01202 813998

Koirin Azalea Centre

Koirin’s range of evergreen azaleas is probably the best in Britain and features many rare and unusual varieties, they also have a great range of rhododendrons at their nursery at Woodlands near Verwood. 01202 824629 (

Barthelemy Nurseries

Barthelemy has specialised in Japanese maples for over 30 years and is the largest grower of these beautiful trees which are famed for the colourful foliage. This family-run nursery at Stapehill produces strong, pot grown plants with leaf forms ranging from delicate filigrees to full moon shapes. 01202 874283 (

Cranborne Manor Garden Centre

Independent garden centre, set in the grounds of Cranborne Estate, which specialises in old fashioned roses, clematis and a good range of herbaceous plants. 01725 517248 (

Knoll Gardens & Nursery

The UK’s leading ornamental grass specialist, and holder of 10

Chelsea Gold Medals, Knoll also offers free-flowering perennials.

01202 873931 (


Hidden Gardens to discover…

Knoll Gardens

Secluded naturalistic style 4-acre show garden at Hampreston, near Wimborne, featuring spectacular, naturalistic modern planting, unusual trees and shrubs and award-winning ornamental grasses grown by internationally renowned plantsman,

author and RHS Council Member, Neil Lucas. New plants can frequently be spotted at the nursery and in the garden.

Open: All year round Tues-Sat 10am - 5pm (4pm Nov-Mar)

Cranborne Manor

Walled kitchen garden, orchard, and an allee -a fashionable feature of Jacobean gardens designed by John Tradescant. Scented shrubs, species roses and sculptures.

Open: Mar-Sept, Weds only, 9am-5pm


Fine Tudor/Georgian manor house surrounded by 6 acres of gardens, including wide lawns with fine specimen trees, a large collection of flowering shrubs and a long herbaceous border. Other features include a recently restored sunken greenhouse, an octagonal Victorian dairy and an organic walled garden.

Open: Apr-Oct, Suns & Weds, 2pm-5pm

Priest’s House Museum

This delightful walled burgage plot is full of surprises and interesting features including arbours, a gunpowder store and a ‘Victorian’ greenhouse. The Britain in Bloom judges described the planting in this garden as ‘superb’ and there is a large collection of apple and plum trees, espaliered pear trees and topiaried box and yew to admire.

Museum & Garden open: Apr-Oct, Mon-Sat, 10am-4.30pm

Farrs Lodge

The evolving garden of botanic artist Lys de Bray features a Mediterranean garden on three levels, enclosed formal rose and seasonal garden, wild flower meadow, Buddleia walk, natural pond and streamlet. Lys’ studio displaying her paintings, prints, books and china is also open.

Open: Every Sun to end Oct, 2pm-4pm

Barford Farmhouse Ice Cream Garden

Enjoy award-winning ice cream made on the farm using cream from their Jersey herd in these colourful gardens, followed by a walk along the nearby River Stour.

Open: late March to Oct, Tues – Suns & Bank Hols, 11.30am-5.30pm

Local gardens which regularly open for the NGS include The Secret Garden at Serles House, Deans Court, and The Glade. More details

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