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Discover the garden at Kingston Lacy

A carpet of white flowers under trees
Naturalised snowdrops carpet the garden at Kingston Lacy | © National Trust/James Dobson

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.

The garden in winter

Kingston Lacy has a fabulous winter garden, with snowdrops blossoming among the bamboo and winter-flowering cherries of the Japanese garden. Look out, too, for Hamamelis (witch-hazel), with its vibrant blooms on bare twigs, and the speckled flowers of Hellebores. You’ll smell wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) before you see it! In Nursery Wood the camellias are the first stars of the show, before the magnolias and azaleas get going later in the spring (March).

The Fernery has Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium to start the season off. As the snowdrop is one of the first bulbs to flower in the gardening calendar it marks the start of the spring colours. We look forward to daffodils (massed along Lime Walk), iris reticulata and crocus; then the colourful hyacinths and tulips that will fill the garden (in total over 50,000 bulbs emerge during this time of year).

There are great winter walks around the parkland – the Woodland Walk is suitable for pushchairs as well as being filled with snowdrops. Keep an eye out for the rare breed Portland sheep and Red Ruby Devon cattle – it’s normally March before the lambs and calves appear, but there might be some early arrivals.

A galanthophile's dream

Snowdrops have been part of the garden at Kingston Lacy for more than a century. Henrietta Bankes (1867-1953), a passionate horticulturalist, first had her gardener plant snowdrops in the early 1900s.

Now, more than 40 varieties of this much-loved flower pop up throughout the garden in January and February. One of the earliest varieties, Three Ships, often puts in an appearance for Christmas.

You don't need to be a dedicated galanthophile to enjoy Kingston Lacy's snowdrops; stroll through the Japanese Garden or along the Lime Avenue to see a glorious mass of delicate white blooms, naturalised under trees and the contrasting yellow stems of bamboo.

White and pink flowers blossoming
Winter colours in The Fernery | © National Trust/Clare Gascoigne

Kingston Lacy's garden

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.

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.

Follow Lime Avenue and you’ll find the arboretum known as Nursery Wood. This area bursts into life during the spring and summer months, with a spectacular display of azalea, camellia and rhododendron. Autumn is a great time to see peeling bark on the paperbark maples.

The Hyde collection

Wander through Nursery Wood at Kingston Lacy and you will find a collection of colourful and special rhododendrons. 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.

Look out too for the delicate white and pale pink blossom of the winter-flowering cherry, which appears throughout the winter to lift spirits.

Garden of the rising sun

Set foot in the far east as you explore this seven-acre Japanese garden which was created in the early 1900s. Follow Lady Walk and look out for bamboo plants, granite lanterns and an authentic Japanese tea house.

A garden in winter sunshine, with snow on the ground and bright red stems
The Japanese Garden in winter | © National Trust/Chris Cooper

An ancient treasure

An ancient nine-metre-high obelisk casts a shadow over Kingston Lacy’s South Lawn: a monument to the adventures of William Bankes, the ‘explorer’. The six-tonne obelisk took several years to be shipped from Egypt to England, and the Duke of Wellington chose its final location in the garden.

Children will enjoy playing hide-and-seek in the sunken garden with opportunity to climb up steps or run down the sloped banks near the large stone obelisk.

Kitchen Garden

A slightly longer walk takes you to the Kitchen Garden, which is being 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 new 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 a few 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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Clumps of white flowers under yellow stems

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