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IT'S amazing what you can do with a blank canvas, although it takes years of enthusiasm and a great love of gardening to grow a setting created by Bill Rogers and his artist wife Jean at their Allesley Village home.

"The garden was just a field full of rubble when we moved here 45 years ago," said Jean who, like her husband, worked for BT before retiring.

"We drew a plan of the shape we wanted. To start with we had a vegetable garden and planted lots of potatoes to break down the soil, because it's all thick red clay, then gradually we planted trees and flowers."

The couple, who have three grown-up children and seven grandchildren, are preparing for their garden to be among those open to the public on Sunday, July 13, as part of the Allesley Festival.

"It's a green garden," said Bill. "Jean loves ferns and ivy, and she especially loves acers. "We tend to buy each other plants as gifts.

"We're also into ponds. My favourite part of the garden is the little waterfall area. I built a little series of ridges covered in pebbles that leads down into the pond - I love fly fishing on the River Dove in Derbyshire, and this reminds me of that."

Wandering around their garden in Whitelaw Crescent, there are surprises at every twist and turn. The initial view of the beautiful lawn and its surrounding collection of evergreens, acers, rhododendrons, ferns and mosses is just the start of a stroll of discovery.

There are secret spinneys and dells, ponds and water features, while wooden and stone feature ornaments are tucked away so discreetly that you seem to find them by chance.

The couple, who have just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, are very much into art and poetry.

Jean's work includes acrylic paintings incorporating natural materials from the garden to give a 3D look as well as encaustic art - one of the oldest methods of art using wax and a hot iron.

Bill enjoys writing poetry, often about nature, and the couple's creativity is reflected in the garden - there are painted stones and pebbles, upturned coloured bottles buried deep into the pebbled pathways and bridges made from railway sleepers.

There is also a glass-fronted lily pond based on an old coal bunker.

"My wife has very interesting ideas," said Bill good-humouredly. "She wanted a bridge over the big fish pond which we built 20 years ago, and you might think you would want the bridge to span the narrowest part of the pond - but not my wife!"

Standing beneath the bows of a large three-trunked sycamore, he added: "The garden has evolved. Take this sycamore. Years ago I just stuck a handful of twigs into the ground, and this grew, and Jean pretties it up with climbing ivy.

"The garden is always changing and no doubt it will be different again next year."

ALLESLEY Open Gardens are part of the Allesley Festival from July 5-13. The Garden Walks take place on Sunday, July 13, at 2pm. Last year a record pounds 1,600 was raised for charity through the garden walks. There will also be strawberry teas.

Programmes, including a map, cost pounds 2 from the Rainbow pub, Allesley post office, Harry Caplan House or Roger Burton on 024 7640 7480. Proceeds from the Allesley Festival will benefit the Coventry Myton Hospice Appeal and the Evening Telegraph/ Mercia FM Snowball appeal for children.

Get stuck in!

GOOSEBERRIES in full fruit should be picked over. Remove young green berries for cooking but leave plenty to mature for dessert.

REMOVE the growing points from early peas which have finished flowering to focus energies on pod production.

LIQUID-FEED gladioli for better blooms.

IN THE rock garden cut back plants after flowering and trim trailing plants.

DEADHEAD roses to encourage repeat flowering

CLIP fast-growing, established hedges.


GOING GREEN: The lawn is just the start of a stroll of discovery; QUIET SPOT: One of the secrets dotted around the garden; POOL FACILITIES: Bill and Jean Rogers in their garden. Pictures: MICHELLE SPERRY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 21, 2003
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