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Discover the garden at Kingston Lacy

A sea of ox-eye daisies in front of a mansion house
The house is surrounded by flowering meadows in summer | © National Trust/Mark Wratten

Relax in the garden at Kingston Lacy, Dorset, with a gentle stroll or a brisk walk; you'll be sure of far-reaching views. The changing seasons bring interest to areas ranging from the Fernery and formal garden to the South Lawn and Kitchen Garden. Come in the spring for cherry blossom, in autumn for flaming red Japanese maples, and in winter for carpets of snowdrops.

Enhance your enjoyment with a garden tour

Throughout the summer we run a variety of garden tours so you can discover the history and seasonal highlights of Kingston Lacy's many acres. The tours are free (normal admission applies), so book your place now to indulge your passion for the Kitchen Garden, Japanese Garden or Formal Garden. You can find all the details on Upcoming events.

The Kitchen Garden

The hour-long tours showcase the fascinating history and current usage of this iconic space, built in 1876 at a cost of £2,740 (about £180,000 today) and a favourite with the Bankes family.

The Japanese Garden

With a classic Tea Garden at its heart, this modern interpretation of a centuries-old horticultural tradition was planted with features such as bamboo, acer and cherry trees; find out how the seven-acre space has developed as the trees and shrubs mature, underplanted with wild flowers.

The Formal Garden

Classic Victorian bedding is on show in these tours, where you can discover the history, horticulture and highlights of the season, from the carefully planned displays on South Terrace to the historic planting of Lime Avenue and Nursery Wood.

The garden in summer

From shady secret seating to the wide open space of South Lawn, Kingston Lacy’s garden has something for everyone in the summer.

You’ll find traditional bedding in the Victorian Parterre to the east of the house, with its carefully planned colour scheme and disciplined planting. As a complete contrast, the restored Fernery takes you along winding paths in dappled shade; it’s always cool and inviting when the temperature rises. Pause on one of the seats and listen to the trickling fountain.

The main path leads you to a classic herbaceous border, mostly planted in shades of blue and white, which reaches its zenith in the summer. In the Kitchen Garden, what were once the cut flower borders are filled with blooms – you’ll find a wonderful display of traditional and contemporary planting with hollyhocks and salvias mixing with ornamental waving grasses.

Families will find plenty of space to spread out – South Lawn is a great place to catch a ball or a frisbee to work up an appetite. Bring a rug and a picnic, or find delicious treats in the café as well as takeaway drinks and ice creams.

Food for pollinators

Planting in the garden has been updated and modernised to provide food and habitat for pollinators, and as a result is alive with beneficial insects, spiders and ladybirds. Look out for the Sunken Garden, where the traditional bedding display has given way to a pictorial meadow in shades of blue and white.

In the Japanese Garden, spring blossom gives way to summer meadows. The cherry trees are underplanted with wildflowers and the garden team mow paths that invite a gentle saunter. The little thatched huts are the perfect spot to stop and admire the meadows, which are a favourite with photographers.

The parkland also fills up with wildflowers. You’ll see scabious, knapweed and oxeye daisies, as well as the orchids that are thriving as a result of the conservation grazing regime. The sound of the crickets can be deafening!

White and purple flowers
Alliums in full flower | © National Trust/Nina Elliot-Newman

Kingston Lacy's garden

South Lawn

The wide open spaces of South Lawn are perfect for a game of frisbee, or spread out a rug for a picnic. Or settle in to one of the deckchairs that go out in the summer, ready for a peaceful snooze surrounded by the hum of insects.

South Terrace and the Parterre

Follow the wide path in front of the house to see beautifully planted formal borders. The South Terrace's spring bulb display is followed by a tropical vibe, with exotics in dark colours. Then you can look down into the Parterre, an example of classic Victorian bedding updated for the 21st century.

The Fernery

This shady, secret spot with its twisting paths, benches and rustic raised beds was recreated after the Trust took over Kingston Lacy. Head to the Fernery in January and February to see many different varieties of snowdrop in flower, or find a bench by the fountain to escape the heat of summer.

Cedar Avenue

Stroll down Cedar Avenue and take in the beauty of the majestic and stately cedar trees. Many of these trees were cultivated from seeds brought from the slopes of Mount Lebanon in the early 1800s; the Bankes family also invited royal guests to plant a cedar tree to mark a visit.

Lime Avenue

Lime Avenue forms a spectacular cathedral of trees, with successive waves of colour throughout the year. In the winter the ground turns white with snowdrops, followed by the yellow of daffodils, the blue of bluebells, and the white of wild garlic. Visit later in the year to inhale the wonderful scent of the limes.

Nursery Wood and the Hyde collection

At the end of Lime Aveneue is the arboretum, Nursery Wood. This area bursts into life during the spring and summer months, with a spectacular display of azalea, camellia and rhododendron.

George Hyde was a local nurseryman, a rhododendron and azalea hybridist, who had been a pupil of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Wimborne. In 1996 Rosemary Legrand, his daughter, presented a gift of over 500 mature Hyde azalea and rhododendron hybrids raised by her father, including the named and registered Shakespeare rhododendron collection, and his mature camellia stock plants, to the National Trust for the gardens at Kingston Lacy.

Autumn is a great time to see peeling bark on the paperbark maples, and look out too for the delicate white and pale pink blossom of the winter-flowering cherry, which appears throughout the winter to lift spirits.

The Camellia Walk

Turn the other way at the end of Lime Avenue to discover a collection of colourful camellias, which bloom for months from as early as January. Huge bushes with glossy green leaves are covered in the reds and pinks of these glamorous flowers, which keep their colour as they drift to the ground.

The Japanese Garden

Set foot in the far east as you explore this seven-acre interpretation of a centuries-old horticultural tradition. Follow Lady Walk and look out for bamboo plants, granite lanterns and an authentic Japanese tea garden, set amid acers and cherry trees underplanted with wildflowers.

Red and yellow flowers in long borders, a wheelbarrow in the centre and a thatched summerhouse in the background
The cut flower borders in the Kitchen Garden | © National Trust/Nick Ashby

An ancient treasure leads the way

The nine-metre-high Philae obelisk casts a shadow over Kingston Lacy’s South Lawn, and leads the way to Blind Walk, a meandering path with cherry trees and shrubs that provide all-year-round interest (and a second obelisk).

Stay on South Lawn to discover the Sunken Garden, planted with colourful bulbs in spring and a pollinator's paradise of wildflowers in the summer.

Kitchen Garden

A slightly longer walk takes you to the Kitchen Garden, which has been conserved to give visitors a sense of the garden's Victorian heyday. There are glasshouses with vines and peaches, a new orchard planted along a pergola that spans the width of the garden, and a chance to see inside the buildings used by the garden team more than 100 years ago.

There's a play area for children, and a kiosk serving hot and cold drinks and light snacks.

There are more changes planned, so come along and see what’s been going on. There may even be seasonal products to take home for a small donation. There's a more indepth article at the foot of this page.

Visitors exploring the Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy, featuring a collection of framed Spanish paintings, a large wooden table and chairs, and a visitors relaxing on a couch

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