A NEW initiative is providing visitors with further information about Knoll Gardens’ rare and unusual trees and shrubs as well as advancing the understanding of biodiversity in the garden.

As part of a programme of an ongoing research, volunteers of the east Dorset, garden-based charity The Knoll Gardens Foundation has began a long-term project to label all the plants in the garden starting with trees, shrubs and woody climbers before moving on to the established perennials. Thousands of plants grow within the naturalistic four-acre garden and the project is expected to take several years.

Charity trustee, botanist and microbiologist Rowena Jecock said: "Labelling will allow us to maintain an accurate record of which plants are in the garden at any one time, and where they are planted. It will be helpful to Knoll's visitors, who often ask for advice on particular plants in the garden, and will also feed into our garden biodiversity surveys.

"This will make it easier to identify which trees may be hosting certain species of lichen or fungi, and identify key plants in the garden that are most favoured by the creatures that live or forage there."

The Southern Sassafras, (Atherosperma moschatum) was the first tree to be labelled in the garden. Also known as the Australian Snowdrop Tree, this unusual evergreen is not often seen in the UK, but thrives in Knoll’s sandy soil, heralding the spring with its delicate scent and a mass of velvety cream flowers.

The Snowdrop Tree is just one of Knoll’s many rare and unusual trees and shrubs. The tree was once renowned for its alleged medicinal properties, and the Victorians praised its virtues as an all round tonic, possibly due to the aromatic nutmeg-like smell of its crushed leaves. It can be seen flowering now and usually retains its flowers for several weeks, weather permitting.

Visitors hoping to see the Southern Sassafras in flower will also receive a free map detailing some of the garden’s other unusual trees. Knoll Gardens opens Tuesdays to Saturday from 10am.

Information about the Knoll Gardens Foundation and volunteering opportunities can be found at knollgardenfoundation.org