In October 2018, I featured Tony and Marie Newton’s stunning, award winning and perfectly named garden ‘Four Seasons’ in a blog written at the height of its Autumn colour. This year, due to Covid 19, the Newtons have not opened their garden – this is usually done through the National Garden Scheme (NGS). However, last week there was press coverage of this great garden – it’s been filmed by a drone, showing it’s spectacular autumn colour. As a result, I’ve been inspired to revisit my own blog and the pictures I’ve taken of this spectacular garden (we are fortunate to live just 3 miles away), so I hope you’ll enjoy a virtual visit to the vibrantly colourful planting: it’s key feature:
It really is a privilege to have such a renowned attraction (and favourite of Alan Titchmarsh) so close to home in Walsall, we’ve visited it on several occasions over the last few years and it never fails to captivate. The garden has been carefully created over more than 30 years and aside from the amazing colour, we’re always struck by perfect shaping to the trees and shrubs, particularly the many varieties of Acer – they 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.
During one visit, after enjoying a stroll along the pathways though the varied autumn foliage, me and my mom 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 several enjoyable and informative physical visits to this great garden, a virtual tour can’t possibly do it justice, but as this is our current way of life, we just have to be satisfied with a compromise to appreciate it’s charms. Looking to the future, hopefully we can all look forward to a time when we can make plans for regular real garden visits…..