red brick, for instance, a scheme of vermilion or terracotta reds with greens could be appropriate. It is worth remembering that many of your garden fixtures – from pergolas and fences, gazebos and garden sheds, down to the least garden chair – can be tied into your colour schemes with a coat of stain or paint. White is an obvious colour candidate, but it is stark and bright and can eclipse surrounding colours. Blue-green, green or grey are proven choices for garden furniture, but you might be more daring and try a colour that makes a complete contrast, such as bright blue or even rusty red.
The colours of surrounding buildings, especially in the city, and even the trees in neighbouring gardens will influence your colour selection. In the country, too, bring the colours of the borrowed landscape into your schemes, to ease the transition from the garden into the surrounding countryside. Gardens look best in partnership with their environment and not in conflict.
The most challenging goal for gardeners is to keep the colour interest alive in every season of the year. You can choose, broadly, between two planting approaches, and your choice will depend partly on the size of your garden. If you have plenty of space you can devote separate areas of the garden to distinct seasonal effects. By grouping together plants that peak at the same time, you can be sure of an intense incident of colour when that time comes. Each one might be quite short-lived but if you have space for enough incidents and you spread them through the year, there should always be at least one colourful corner in the garden for every season. This way you would have separate ‘gardens’ for winter and spring, and beds or borders that come to a peak at different moments through the summer and autumn.
If you have a small garden, the second approach for achieving successional colour is the one for you. In a small space you cannot afford to leave parts of the garden inactive for very long; you need to keep the whole garden working for you through the seasons. The way to do this is to select plants that will grow up through each other and perform in sequence on the same piece of ground, as seen in the two photographs shown here. Use shrubs, bulbs, herbaceous perennials and annuals together in mixed borders, with the widest seasonal spread among them. In any one border the year might begin with early bulbs – aconites, snowdrops and crocuses under winter-bare shrubs, with narcissi and tulips following on. By the time the spring bulbs have gone over, herbaceous plants have pushed through to take their place. As the summer progresses, fill any gaps with annuals, or place a container to hide an empty space. To keep control over your colours, decide on a particular scheme for each section of the garden – it might be an all-white scheme, for instance, or a more complex mix of colours – and use only plants within this colour range in each season. This is labour-intensive gardening, because you need constantly to cut back plants as they go over, to make room for the newcomers in the cycle. Overall, though, it is a regime that ensures that you will be able to enjoy your chosen colours on the same patch of ground for the longest possible time.
You do not have to rely on flowers alone for all-year colour. Foliage provides colour over a longer period and changes interestingly with the seasons. For winter colour, evergreen foliage has a part to play and so do coloured bark and stems, fruits and berries, seedheads and even the mosses and algae that grow on garden surfaces.
12 THE GARDENER’S BOOK OF COLOUR