We all want our gardens to look their best, and that means introducing flowering plants and shrubs that provide interest and colour for as much of the year as possible. Get the choice of plants right from the start and you can enjoy your garden all year round with minimal effort on maintenance.
The spring is when most people's thoughts turn to the garden and preparing it for the year ahead. If you've moved to a new house, you'll want to start planning how your garden will look. If you're planning major changes, you might want to supplement your essential gardening tools by hiring a rotovator or roller.
For spring colour most people turn to bulbs such as crocuses and daffodils. These are easy to grow, and if planted at the correct depth will readily naturalise and increase in numbers each year. You can thin them out and use the extras to populate other areas of the garden. Bulbs aren't the only option, as flowers like pansies enjoy cooler conditions and will flower in spring and early summer.
This is the time when the garden will be at its colourful peak. You can turn to traditional bedding plants such as begonias, sweet peas and geraniums, but don't neglect summer flowering bulbs such as lilies, freesias and gladioli.
The advantage of summer bulbs for the lazy gardener is they need little effort. Bulbs like crocomimosa will come up year after year and spread naturally through your borders. Summer-flowering shrubs such as buddleia can give your garden a splash of colour too, with the added bonus of attracting butterflies and bees into your garden.
Autumn is usually seen as a time for tidying up, when your essential gardening tools will be for pruning and lifting tender plants, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some late colour. Plants like hardy chrysanthemums can provide a splash of brightness long after summer bedding plants have faded.
Primroses too offer a splash of colour later in the year, and you should also considers stocks, which not only flower in autumn but also create a lovely fragrance.
There isn't a lot of work to do outdoors at this time. However, you can still enjoy an attractive garden in the winter months. Evergreen shrubs like euonymus offer year-round colour with their green and gold variegated leaves. The dogwood does lose its leaves but still puts on a winter show with its red stems. Fewer plants flower in the winter, but there are some. You can get varieties of the mahonia shrub that flower in November and December, and there are types of iris that will produce colour from October to March.
When it comes to bulbs, snowdrops will be poking their heads up after Christmas, ready to flower in January and February. They also multiply readily and will grow in shady spots, making them a versatile choice. Varieties of galanthus and scilla are available that flower in January and February too.