Gar­den of the week

Visit this breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful York­shire flower gar­den cre­ated from a farmer’s field by a cou­ple with no for­mal hor­ti­cul­tural train­ing

Garden News (UK) - - Advertisement - Words Val Bourne Pho­tos Lee Beel

Just five miles east of York lies Breezy Knees that’s ad­ver­tised as York­shire’s Flower Gar­den. It’s smack in the mid­dle of the Vale of York, not the most shel­tered place for a gar­den and nurs­ery, hence the name. It’s the cre­ation of Colin and Marylen Parker, who jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to buy 50 acres of low-ly­ing farm­land some 20 years ago.

“It was a coun­cil ten­anted farm,” Colin ex­plains. “But it was too small to make a liv­ing from, so the house and land were sold off sep­a­rately. We’d been want­ing to make a large gar­den for a few years, but ev­ery time a par­cel of land came up, the lo­cal farm­ers snapped it up un­der our noses.”

At the time Colin was work­ing as a phar­ma­cist and, al­though he didn’t have a gar­den­ing back­ground, both he and his wife Marylen en­joyed their hobby im­mensely.

Their phi­los­o­phy is that you have to em­brace life and make the most of what you do, so they de­cided to take the plunge, al­though Colin car­ried on work­ing as a phar­ma­cist for an­other few years.

Their first job was to cre­ate a shel­ter belt to stop the bit­ing north-east­erly winds that come in straight from Siberia. “We spent the first seven or eight years plant­ing trees and hedges,

so we only made our first flower gar­den 12 years ago, in 2006,” they ex­plain. They’ve kept go­ing and the new­est ar­eas are only two years old.

“We’re also cre­at­ing a 10-acre ar­bore­tum close to the lake, which is re­ally a large pond made in an area that con­tin­u­ally flooded in win­ter.” The spare soil from the ex­ca­va­tion work was piled round the lake and most of the bor­ders in this gar­den are raised above the paths. “That way the rain­wa­ter has a chance to es­cape and this helps plants to sur­vive our wet win­ters.”

The heart of the gar­den con­tains herba­ceous bor­ders and ev­ery­thing found on the nurs­ery can be seen grow­ing in the gar­den, al­though Colin is keen to point out that they’re “a gar­den with a small nurs­ery, rather than a nurs­ery with a gar­den”.

De­spite that, the nurs­ery has roughly 1,200 peren­nial va­ri­eties for sale. How­ever, only half the plants in the gar­den are herba­ceous, be­cause Colin con­fesses to lik­ing al­most ev­ery plant. “We try to have as much

va­ri­ety as pos­si­ble and there’s a conifer gar­den, lots of shrubs, roses, a pe­ony and daylily gar­den, and sea­sonal ar­eas that peak in dif­fer­ent months. The only things we don’t grow are an­nu­als, be­cause they can be dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish in dry sea­sons, and we don’t use spring bulbs ei­ther be­cause the gar­den doesn’t open un­til May. It’s not be­cause we don’t like them, but we only have the equiv­a­lent of two full-time gar­den­ers here, so we have to be sen­si­ble.”

“The very best time to see this gar­den is July and Au­gust,” Colin adds, “but our Septem­ber Gar­den ex­tends the sea­son and be­gins to shine from mid-Au­gust on­wards. We have five colour-themed sec­tions in red, white, yel­low and orange, pink and blue and this pro­vides ‘con­cen­trated colour’,” as Colin calls it.

Tall late-sea­son grasses, mainly molinia and mis­cant­hus, act as buf­fer zones be­tween each colour-themed area. There are also roses in the Septem­ber gar­den, but these are given a Breezy Knees ver­sion of the Chelsea chop to de­lay flow­er­ing time. “They have their buds re­moved in June and this makes them pro­duce a glo­ri­ous flush late in the sea­son.” The warmyel­low flori­bunda rose, ‘Ab­so­lutely Fab­u­lous’ and blush-white tea rose, ‘The Bride’, are among Colin’s favourites.

Shrubs also play their part in this au­tumn ar­range­ment, es­pe­cially those with a late pres­ence. The spec­tac­u­lar spin­dle tree, Euony­mus

eu­ropaeus ‘Red Cas­cade’, dis­plays a heavy crop of vivid orange and red fruits in au­tumn in the red bor­der. The yel­lowor­ange berries of an English holly, Ilex aquifolium ‘Am­ber’, light up the yel­low bor­ders and Colin also uses peren­nial rud­beck­ias in this area. The sin­gle, brown-cen­tred ‘Gold­sturm’ and a long-flow­er­ing dou­ble ‘Goldquelle’ add a blast of sun­shine-yel­low.

Asters, ‘an au­tumn es­sen­tial’,

also play their part, whether it’s the vivid-pink New Eng­land aster, Sym­phy­otrichum no­vae

an­gliae ‘An­denken an Alma Pötschke’, or the paler pink ‘Barr’s Pink’. These are both up­right, mid­dle of the bor­der asters, but the shorter Ital­ian

Aster amel­lus ‘Bril­liant’ curt­sies over the path, pro­vid­ing a cloud of pur­ple.

Se­dums are also an au­tumn sta­ple here and Colin ad­mires their abil­ity to sur­vive from year to year with­out be­ing di­vided. ‘Kar­funkel­stein’, a dusky-leaved se­dum with pink-red flow­ers, and ‘Pur­ple Em­peror’ with red Au­gust flow­ers, fade to Sub­scribe for just £1 an is­sue. Go to choco­late-brown as au­tumn days shorten. ‘Red Cauli’ does what it says, pro­duc­ing a round head of flo­rets.

Breezy Knees at­tracted 15,000 vis­i­tors this year. How­ever, it’s still a bit of a se­cret out­side York­shire, so do come and ex­plore next year. There’s colour aplenty when­ever you ar­rive, and you’ll find tran­quil­lity, too. With 12 acres to ex­plore, you’ll need a cuppa and Colin and Marylen’s daugh­ter Holly can be found hard at work in the café. You’ll even be able to take plant trea­sure home with you! It’s the per­fect day out...

A hazy au­tumn day, with low sun shin­ing on sub­dued beds of au­tumn hues

Au­tumn can be just as much a riot of colour as sum­mer – rusty grasses and bur­gundy berberis jos­tle with vi­brant roses and asters, with slices of lime for good mea­sure

Left, the red gar­den (in the back­ground) goes rusty in au­tumn, with molinia sep­a­rat­ing it from the el­e­gant white gar­den. Right, rose ‘Ab­so­lutely Fab­u­lous’ is one of Colin’s favourites

Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis, clumps of var­i­ous asters and monks­hood look lovely in the blue-themed gar­den, with mis­cant­hus grass in the back­ground sep­a­rat­ing this sec­tion from the yel­low-orange area

Above, se­dum ‘Bril­liant’ lives up to its name and, right, asters in bold blue. Be­low, asters ‘Barr’s Pink’ and ‘An­denken an Alma Pötschke’ dom­i­nate the pink bed, with a lib­eral dose of se­dums, phlox and al­stroe­me­ria to boot

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