Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Constant Gardener

Kew, Wisley or a suburban garden in the West Midlands? Amateur gardener creates his own masterpiece after 20-year labour of love

By Tamara Cohen
Last updated at 1:44 AM on 29th October 2011

Resplendent in crimson, bronze and every conceivable shade of green, this manicured garden looks like it belongs to a stately home or national park.
In fact, it is nestled behind an unassuming suburban home in Walsall.
It does not have a team of gardeners toiling over it, but is the labour of love of retired GP Tony Newton and his wife Marie, who have worked on it almost every day for the past 20 years.

Labour of love: Retired GP Tony Newton, 62, is surrounded by a kaleidoscope of autumn colour in his garden in Walsall, West Midlands - The award-winning garden has been a labour-of-love for over twenty years

Yesterday they showed it off surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colours from their autumn shrubs such as acers, azaleas and conifers.
They said it was at its best due to the recent spell of warm weather. ‘It’s so unusual not to have had a frost by this time of year’, Mr Newton said.
‘Normally frosts can kill of autumn colour but we’ve been frost-free and the colours are stunning. They’ve all come together, and you can’t plan that, it’s like herding a bunch of unruly kids.’
The couple moved to the four-bedroom home in suburban Walsall in 1982 and began landscaping the neglected garden 10 years later when their four children no longer used it as a play area.
Self-taught, they drew up meticulous drawn-up plans for the layout to make it a ‘four seasons’ garden which would look dazzling all year round.
They alternated deciduous and evergreen trees, found blue and yellow conifers and a variety of bedding plants. 
It took two years to create, snatching time during evenings and weekends while they were both were working full-time, Mrs Newton as a transport planner. 
Since retiring two years ago they devote up to eight hours every day to its upkeep, and now open it to the public several times a year to raise money for charity. 
They do not know the exact number of plants in their garden  - which measures 50 by 180ft - but say it is several thousand and they plant new bulbs every Spring. 
Mr Newton said: ‘We just don’t think of it as work because we enjoy it so much and love spending time there. And other people enjoy it and we have raised £25,000 for charity. So it’s a win, win, win situation. 
‘Even when we were working we would be out there into the night with head torches. People ask if we spend all our time weeding but we don’t - we catch them when they are so miniscule it is not really a problem, we’ve beaten them.’
Mrs Newton added: ‘You don’t get bored because its always different. People just don’t expected this at the back of a 1930s house. They walk down the hallway and there’s a point when they just stop and say ‘wow’.'
 Before the finished product: The garden photographed in April 1992 during the total re-landscaping one year after the beginning of the garden makeover
Unassuming: The front of the couple's 1930s house in Walsall. The couple moved to the four-bedroom home in 1982 and began landscaping the neglected garden 10 years later when their four children no longer used it as a play area


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