Got your head in glorious gardening magazines? Feeling inspired after the delights of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show?
Well, we don’t have to travel far this summer to see a beautiful new landscape thanks to a Yorkshire couples dream of transforming their garden into a wonderland of beautiful blooms.
In 1998, if you’d seen the bleak fields stretching for miles across the horizon towards York, you’d never have guessed that 20 years later, an unassuming Yorkshire couple would have single-handedly transformed this unforgiving landscape into one of the most idyllic – and largest – flower gardens in the county.
But now the secret is out, and you can visit this exquisite place all summer!
This huge, magical garden near York offers visitors a diverse range of magnificent, vibrant borders, sparkling fountains, beautiful lake, immaculate lawns, trees, shrubs, amazing garden design, and over 6,000 different varieties of flowers, trees and plants – all named.
The planted garden stretches to over 20 acres – that’s around the equivalent of 13 football pitches – with wide, easy pathways which are perfect for everyone.
With no formal horticultural training and only the love of gardening, vision and hard work to drive them, former Pharmacist Colin Parker and his wife Marylen have created the breathtakingly-beautiful Breezy Knees Gardens at Warthill, near York. The place has been described as a ‘glimpse of paradise’ by a recent visitor, and gardening writer Roy Lancaster wrote: “What I saw exceeded all expectations and I was totally bowled over.”
‘Breezy Knees‘ was named by the couple because 20 years ago there were no trees or hedges in place and when working on the land in the middle of winter – so it seemed a very apt description. Now, visitors needn’t worry as the gardens are beautifully sheltered by glorious trees and shrubs, but the name has stuck.
The creation of Breezy Knees Gardens is a truly inspirational story but both Colin and Marylen are no-nonsense characters with an endearingly down-to-earth approach.
“People are often put off by over-complicated advice from so-called garden experts,” says Colin.
“But all it takes is enthusiasm and a willingness to experiment. Don’t be afraid of failure. If a plant doesn’t thrive where you’ve planted it, then just plant something else. If a design isn’t quite right, take another approach.”
Marylen says: “Nothing stands still here. Every year we continue to add new plants, re-design borders and improve existing ones.
“Recently we’ve planted out Euphorbia and Achillea Rivers which are proving popular and are getting many complimentary comments. A visitor from Blackpool has just called us to see when our Peonies will be out as she enjoyed the display so much when she visited previously and wants to see them again. It’s lovely to hear how much enjoyment our gardens give to people!”
Breezy Knees Gardens are tended manually by the equivalent of just two full-time staff including Colin and Marylen. The couple’s daughter Holly runs the café. The adjoining Breezy Knees Nursery stocks over 1,500 varieties of perennial flowers to buy and plant.
Colin and Marylen both have a sense of fun and the gardens are full of surprises. There’s a great topiary project called Stone Hedge, which is a Hornbeam version of the Neolithic prehistoric monument in Wiltshire. And two enormous wellington boots overlook the Rose Garden, offering amusement and picture opportunities.
One border is named the ‘Rogues Gallery’ as it’s full of plants that traditional gardeners hate because they run amok and there’s even a ‘Rabbit Path’ where rabbits can run freely amongst the flowers. The Peony and Daylily Gardens attract visitors from all over the country, year after year because of their beauty.
“Visitors always mention the beauty, peace and the tranquillity here,” says Marylen.
“And you know, even though this is our workplace, we can both still enjoy that aspect of it too. We really never tire of our work because there’s always something lovely to look at – or better still – improve!”
Breezy Knees Gardens are open every day May – September, 10.30 am – 5pm. Adult entry: £7. Children (3-16): £2.50 and a season ticket is £27 pp.
Common Lane, Warthill, York YO19 5XS; breezyknees.co.uk