Neil Lucas has never been one to let the grass grow under his feet, but even he is surprised at how fast his business has blossomed since his BBC debut.

Ever since he starred on Gardener’s World in September, the owner of Knoll Gardens has been working 12-hour days just to keep up with demand from around the UK for his specialist grasses and perennial plants.

“It has certainly made me realise the power of TV,” says Neil who is celebrating his 20th anniversary at the garden and nursery centre at Stapehill near Wimborne.

“We are working all the hours we can at the moment.

“Fortunately I live on site – I’m usually awake by 5am and start work between six and half past.”

And Neil’s time in the media spotlight looks set to continue as he is also taking part in a new series of The English Garden.

“When I first started here 20 years ago I had no intention of being a grass specialist, it just worked out that way. Grasses are so easy to use and they work well next to the shrubs and woody plants that were already here.

“We started with around 30 or 40 different varieties and now we have around 500 in total.”

And Neil has overseen many changes since he took on the six-acre site which was originally a carrot field in the 1960s and then a botanical garden featuring Australasian plants.

“When we took it on it was designed as a tourist attraction. The previous owners made their money through the tea room – they didn’t really sell any plants.”

But Neil, now 57, who previously worked as a gardens manager for a health trust, had different ideas.

“I’m a gardener first and foremost, so that was the area of the business I wanted to focus on.”

Neil favours what he describes as “a naturalistic approach” to gardening.

“I don’t like anything to be too regimented – I try not to draw too many straight lines. This way it is easier to maintain which is just as well as I only have one gardener.”

An unexpected upside of his low-maintenance approach, is that the gardens are proving to be a magnet for wildlife, especially birds, butterflies and an unusual breed of grasshopper.

“The National Wildlife Trust recorded 50 different species of moth in one night.

“This was a surprise to me and I’m only just beginning to understand how it works, but that’s the thing with this business – you are always learning.”

But his tenure hasn’t been without its trials. On February 14 this year he lost seven trees in a storm.

“There has been more damage in my 20th year than at any other time. I know we are talking about plants, not people but it was very upsetting. It was a real blow but we got over it. In fact one of our prized eucalyptus trees has continued to thrive even though it’s now on its side!”

Neil has certainly never lost his passion for the business – his enthusiasm for his way of life is almost tangible.

“You can get tired from the business side, as a small business it can be hard to make enough money, but I only have to look at a plant to realise that my interest in the natural world is the same as it was when I was 18.

“It’s about having a love, a connection, an affinity with things that grow. When I walk around the garden I still feel quite excited by it – but this is not so much a job, as a way of life.”

To mark his 20th year, his new project is a mini meadow which he planted in July.

He also gets great satisfaction from inspiring other people with a passion for plants.

“Autumn is my favourite season. I love woody plants and grasses - the two together can look quite fantastic.

“What I love about this style of gardening is that it is constantly changing. Every day I see something different.

“It’s important to show people alternatives – to move away from the concept of tidy lawns and marigolds. No wonder so many people are put off gardening.

“My approach is all about more wow, less work.”