After a two year break, Tony and Marie Newton opened their stunning, award winning and perfectly named garden ‘Four Seasons’ under the National Garden Scheme last weekend. The sunny mild weather we experienced was just perfect for the many visitors keen to take pleasure in the vibrantly colourful planting that is a key feature of this all year round garden.
It’s a privilege to have such a renowned attraction (and favourite of Alan Titchmarsh) so close to home in Walsall and on Sunday afternoon, my mom and I visited this lovely garden, carefully created over more than 30 years. The first thing mom pointed out was the perfect shaping to the many varieties of Acer – indeed they do all fit perfectly into their allotted spaces, never impinging on their neighbours, instead complimenting each other in terms of shape, size and colour.
A feature I find particularly impressive is the 17 metre stream Tony and Marie have constructed to meander through their garden and under bridges created amongst complementary planting. It’s success as a feature is evident – it feels as though it has always been there, for there is nothing obviously man made about it at all. You feel you could just sit for hours in its colourful surroundings, listening to the water trickling through and the peacefully melodic birdsong.
After enjoying a stroll along the pathways though the varied autumn foliage, we asked Tony for some pruning tips. After stressing that he has learned by experience and is not a trained horticulturist, Tony explained how he and Marie keep the garden in such perfect shape, starting with planning and planting.
- First and most importantly, you should be familiar with a plant’s natural size, colour (year round) and framework
- You must know the space you’re positioning them in
- Do appreciate a new plants’ neighbours – colour, shape and position
- Envisage the eventual shape you wish to achieve with your plants to ensure that they all contribute naturally into the wider picture
To keep the acers in shape, Tony has a particular regime. Starting in winter when all leaves have fallen, anytime between January and March, Tony prunes of all the stems that are growing beyond the desired shape. Later, when new growth starts, Tony pinches out any buds threatening to start branching out, he stresses that it’s most important not to let these grow into full stems that would then require cutting back as this would result in a plant covered in ugly stumps.
It was extremely surprising to see, when comparing photographs taken in the 1990s that the same acers, red robins and conifers in the foreground of the photo below are of a similar size and shape today – all down to the care and attention given to them.
A few steps further on, red foo dogs welcome visitors to the middle garden, where a wonderful pagoda provides a peaceful spot for contemplation – the red Buddha adds to the feeling of tranquility that prevails.
In opening the garden for their named charities and the NGS, Tony and Marie have raised over £44,000 (2009 – 2016) – an extremely impressive achievement!
Having spent a most enjoyable and informative afternoon, I’m looking forward to next time – Tony and Marie are opening the garden for the NGS on May 18th and 19th 2019 – one for the diary, it’s a must do!