Knoll Gardens celebrates three decades of success with support from Chase Freight & The APC network

By APC Overnight on 26th June 2024

From carrot fields to national fame: The evolution of Knoll Gardens

Founded in the 1970s as Wimborne Botanic Garden, Knoll Gardens began its journey under the care of John and Enid May. The couple transformed a former carrot field into a thriving garden alongside their existing market garden and nursery, 'The Knoll.' In 1988, new owners changed the name to Knoll Gardens, mirroring the name of the original nursery, with the gardens appearing on BBC TV’s Gardeners’ World for the first time.

In 1994, Neil Lucas, along with John and Janet Flude, became the new owners of Knoll Gardens and started to grow it into the leading ornamental grass business it is today. They shifted the focus towards mail order, capitalising on the growing interest in plants and expanding their reach nationwide. This transition allowed Knoll Gardens to serve a broader customer base beyond the local visitors in Bournemouth. The business now has customers across the country and ships approximately 5,000 parcels, with ornamental grasses and flowering perennials, a year through its partnership with local delivery partner, Chase Freight - part of The APC network.

Talking about what contributes to the business’ success, Neil praised his team saying: “The foundation of our business is based on the power of knowledge, making experienced staff crucial to our success. Some of our team have been with the business for over 20 years, and are deeply engaged with horticulture and have built fulfilling careers. Our small firm ethos ensures close connections foster a sense of community and involvement and this close-knit, specialised approach is a defining characteristic of our business.”

One example of this is Ross Humphrey, who joined Knoll Gardens from school, with little knowledge of horticulture. But through the guidance and support of Neil and the team, his interest and commitment has grown over the last 24 years and today Ross holds the role of joint Director alongside Neil himself. It is in fact Neil’s intention, with Ross now joint owner of the business, that eventually when Neil retires, Ross will take over the whole business, ensuring the legacy of Knoll Gardens continues.

Neil Lucas, a rich history rooted in Horticulture

Neil Lucas, inspired by his grandfather's passion for plants, has dedicated his life and career to horticulture. Testament to this, Neil was awarded the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour in March this year, making him the UK’s leading authority on ornamental grasses. This honour places him among esteemed figures such as Monty Don, Carol Klein, Alan Titchmarsh, and King Charles III. The RHS praised him as an "exceptional champion of ornamental grasses" who has "increased our understanding of naturalistic planting and garden wildlife."

In 2008, Neil established the Knoll Gardens Foundation, a charity promoting a wildlife-friendly, naturalistic approach to garden design and care. The foundation conducts workshops, educational events, and wildlife surveys, fostering public engagement and enhancing the understanding of garden design and wildlife conservation.

The right network

As Knoll Gardens focused on expanding its presence and reaching gardening enthusiasts across the UK, the business knew it needed a delivery partner which would deliver its plants with the same care and attention in which they are grown. So in 2007, Knoll Gardens teamed up with Chase Freight - an independent delivery firm based in Dorset and part of The APC, the UK’s largest independent delivery network - to take on this task. Knoll Gardens trusted Chase Freight's local, personalised service and The APC network's expertise to ensure products were handled and delivered with the level of care and attention that Knoll Gardens is known for.

Neil Lucas, Joint Owner and Director of Knoll Gardens, said: “The importance of choosing a parcel carrier became extremely clear early on - the delivery partner we choose is just as crucial to our customers as growing the plants themselves. That’s why we partnered with Chase Freight.”

“We made the decision to partner with Chase Freight due to their reliability and exceptional customer service. For us, having local contacts who understand our business and the needs of our customers, who are willing to go the extra mile is really important for our business.”

Glenn Edwards, General Manager at Chase Freight said: “We feel extremely proud to be able to partner with Knoll Gardens and support local SME businesses. The APC network understands the different needs of a variety of businesses, and the unique and flexible approach of the network is incredibly important to help us build strong relationships with our customers, ensuring high delivery standards and customer satisfaction.”

Growing a legacy

The core offering of Knoll Gardens has evolved over the past 15 years, meeting the changing demands of customers and their evolving tastes, influencing new varieties of plants and grasses the business now offers.

Since the pandemic, Knoll Gardens has noticed a shift in consumer attitudes towards their gardens, with people now more willing to invest in their outdoor spaces in a similar way to other major home improvements.

This shift has contributed to the success of Knoll Gardens in recent years, with customers often seeking advice from Neil and the team for a variety of garden projects, enabling the business to build strong relationships with its customers.

“Whilst our core business focuses on supplying a wide range of plants, we regularly provide experience based information and advice to customers, helping to educate them on how to look after their plants” says Neil. “Customer demand for both plants and for guidance on helping them thrive are equally important to us as a business.”

Neil continued: “The business is doing well and the relationships with our customers and suppliers remain strong. This continues to be our focus as a business to build reliable partnerships for years to come.”

Find out more about Knoll Gardens here: and Chase Freight here:

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