Marie and Tony's story 


Building streams, summerhouse and pagoda, and creating the jungle


Access to the garden is down a minimum of six steps, and this created numerous challenges over the years as we imported 15 tons of yorkstone, 11 tons of garden soil, 15 tons of concreting sand and 105 cubic metres of pine bark!

The volume of materials needed!  Just one of the 8 loads of pine bark we've spread on the garden.

In 1996 Marie returned to full-time work and Tony worked long hours, so short days were lengthened by the use of head torches ....

.....and inclement weather was ignored!

Between 1995-2001

We continued tweaking and experimenting with planting schemes and  removed all but one of the original garden plants that were here when we came in 1982.    We developed a style using bright evergreens to complement our acers and azaleas; together they provide the colours red, blue and yellow and bold contrast of shape and form.  

Our year-round interest is enhanced by focal points of oriental ornaments and dark wooden structures.

Gritty sand and repeated compost and pine bark mulches over several years have dramatically improved the soil. 

Work to maintain our garden is spread across the year. With over 3,000 plants, including 450 azaleas, 120 acers, 100 camellias and several conifers and trees over 25 years old, we have found that careful, timely pruning is the main skill needed to keep our plants and garden looking pleasing from one year to the next. Fortunately, many of the plants we have chosen are very amenable to pruning.  Conifers are kept to a height that can be reached without ladders. Many acers are pruned in the winter and the new growing tips are pinched out in the spring. 

We prune to maintain size, shape, form and to keep plants healthy and in proportion with one another.  We have found that the life of many our plants has been extended by pruning since it prevents, or delays, the onset of overcrowding that would need the removal of some of the plants. In 2011, during a Gardeners’ Question Time feature from our garden, panellist Ann Swithenbank declared that she was going to re-evaluate her own pruning methods since Tony and Marie’s plants were so healthy!

Upper garden in 1997

Upper garden patio 1997

Leading into middle garden 1997

Leading into lower garden 1997

First stream  2001

Bridges had been placed on paths – but a bridge does look better if it goes over water! We had placed a bench in the bottom right-hand corner of our garden near the boundary with Walsall Arboretum.  It was a lovely place to sit.  Wouldn't it be nice to look at a little stream - just a short one - perhaps 12ft (3.6m) or so. 

But .... you know what happens when you do things yourselves!! It grew to 54ft (16.5m) complete with waterfall.

We started building the stream in May 2001 and it took us 6 months of work to get the stream functioning and then we had the landscaping to sort out.

The base of the stream bed was lined with steel reinforcing mesh and the sides supported with york stone.  

At the top of the stream we decided to build a waterfall using five precast sections.  It also required substantial rocks and 11 tonnes of soil.

We hit bedrock when digging the sump hole.  The clay we dug out was useful modelling material for the children!

The sump end of the stream. 

Needs must!

The waterfall

The stream bed went between established planting.  

The sump is a 75 gallon drum and the electric pump has a flow rate of 3,000 gallons an hour. It was quite a challenge to get the electric cable under a path that we had laid with such deep, solid foundations!!

Summerhouse 2003

We decided build a summerhouse to replace the bench at the sump end of the stream.  
With heating, lighting and music, it was a tranquil place for dictating medical referral letters!
And the view is lovely, no matter what the season....
.... and the birds love the water, too!

Second stream 2003

Whilst work  on the first stream was underway, the temporary placing of a bridge elsewhere gave rise to the idea of another stream in that position!  Because we bought pre-cast sections, this was completed in just a few day in April 2003.
18 April 2003

We only needed to lift a very short section of path - but we had laid it with such deep, solid, foundations that it generated 6 bags of rubble!
Sump end - we used a water tank as the reservoir.
For this short stream we purchased pre-cast sections. Creating the stream took us just four days.
Early May 2003 - completed in record time!

Jungle and pagoda 2004/5


In October 2004 we visited a garden centre and saw a very large palm tree in an enormous pot – surely we could accommodate that!  And so we started creating the jungle, which provides all-year-round interest and excitement!

It was quite a challenge to negotiate the garage, narrow doorway and steps into the garden.
Then we added the tree ferns .....

Triumphantly, we hauled it down the paths to its allotted space – and so began the jungle in the middle garden!

.... followed by other palms, several bamboos and banana plants!
Pagoda 2005

On 1st January 2005 we saw this oriental pagoda in a garden centre - just what we wanted as a focal point in the jungle!
The pagoda arrived in 175 pieces - with no instructions, inventory or screws! On several evenings during those cold winter months Tony worked in the garage applying seven coats of woodstain.
We built a substantial yorkstone base as we waited for 950 screws to arrive. And then the bombshell - we needed planning permission since we are in a Conservation Zone!
June, and the pagoda is almost finished!  


Making the garden child safe and friendly


Starting to re-landscape the whole garden


Achievements, our garden now