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Spring Begins Today!

Make 2017 a Colourful Year

The herald of spring is the perfect opportunity to plan your garden.

While you’re pondering on seeds, plants and bulbs, have a read through this extract from the 2017 Dairy Diary. It gives some great advice on how to plant for year-round colour.



Gardening for colour

Gardening for Colour

The garden is a naturally colourful place – green grass, brown earth, painted fences and sheds. But it’s the plants and foliage that provide that added zing, and with a little creative planning and judicious planting, they can provide it all year round.  

In poet Thomas Edward Brown’s estimation, ‘a garden is a lovesome thing’ and so it is, and it can be an even lovelier place if you think about what colours you want to see at different times of year. Haphazard planting has a lot going for it because it’s easy and can result in the garden looking beautifully chaotic for part of the year, although it can look a bit dull for the rest of the time. However, much of the pleasure in having a garden lies in deciding how you want it to look, and then watching your

However, much of the pleasure in having a garden lies in deciding how you want it to look, and then watching your masterplan come to life. No need to stick rigidly to the rules of colour theory; taking note of the general ideas can be enough, and experimenting is part of the fun. It’s your garden, after all. You can have a glorious mass of different colours if you like – and, in nature, they never seem to clash – but knowing how to use colour effectively throughout the year can make a big difference.

Whether you want your patch to be bright and cheery or a haven of peace and tranquillity will influence your colour choices. The hot colours – red, orange, yellow – are exciting, stimulating and demand attention; the cool colours – green, blue, purple – are restful, calming and recede into the background. If various sections of the garden are to have different purposes, or moods, the transitions between them are important, too, requiring subtler shades and whites.

Key effects 

  • The colour value of the plants you are intending to grow is important, too, i.e. how bright, pale or dark the flowers and foliage are likely to be, bearing in mind this is likely to change during the year.
  •  A small area of light colour in a sea of much darker vegetation creates a powerful effect.
  •  Repetition is an old trick that helps to avoid the garden looking too much of a riot. If you love red, for example, have more than one area of it.
  •  Pale colours reflect light and brighten up a shady corner.
  •  Bright colours can look wonderful and vibrant in full sun, while pastel colours will look washed out.
  •  Cool and pale colours bring a sense of depth; bright colours appear to be closer. Planted at the end of a border, pale colours make it look longer while bright colours foreshorten it.
  •  Silvery grey foliage lightens the area and cools down any nearby hot colours.

Growing plans

When choosing your plants, first and foremost, select those suited to the location and soil type of your garden, and plan to position them in the ideal spot for their individual requirements of light and shade. Otherwise, think about containers, not too big so you have the option of moving them. If you are experimenting with colours, it may be that you will want to move some plants to try other combinations; but shrubs, once established, are mostly better not moved, so be sure to plant them where you want them to be.

Shrubs and perennials are lower maintenance than annuals, and since perennials benefit from being divided every few years, they could be a good bet, augmented by bulbs and, in summer, by annuals. These are often flamboyantly colourful. Remember to deadhead to prolong flowering. Some perennials give very good value, such as Phlomis russeliana, which flowers from late spring to early autumn and has attractive seedheads in winter, dianthus with its pink flowers and silver-grey foliage, and penstemon, which flowers to first frosts.

Also, when planning a colourful border or bed, remember to choose plants that will flower at the same time in order to achieve the desired effect. As well as colour and flowering season, think about height and contrasts in shape. Tall, upright plants, such as irises, daylilies and foxgloves, mix well with those that have wide flowerheads, such as sedum and yarrow, and spherical flowerheads, such as alliums.

Foliage is an integral part of any garden display, whether used as background or as a focus in its own right. Shrubs such as cotinus and Fatsia japonica have eye-catchingly colourful foliage. Others, including berberis, viburnum and holly, have red or orange berries in autumn and flowers in spring.

Among all the possibilities, don’t forget roses. A fragrant shrub, climber or floribunda that blooms continuously throughout the summer can do wonders for your garden.

Year-round colour

Spring brings sunny yellows and greens, fresh pinks and blues and white morphing into the vivid mix of summer and the warm burnt oranges and deep reds of autumn. Come winter, if you think of the garden as being a colour-free zone, think again. Flowers, berries and dramatic foliage can lift it from the gloom.


Shrubs: azaleas, California lilac, euphorbia, forsythia

Perennials: aubrieta, elephant’s ears, forget-me-nots, polyanthus

Bulbs: crocuses, daffodils, grape hyacinths, tulips, anemones


Shrubs: rock roses, fuchsia, potentilla, mock orange, buddleia

Perennials: delphiniums, peonies, crocosmias, geraniums

Bulbs: alliums, irises, lilies, gladioli, begonias

Annuals: Busy Lizzies, lobelias, heliotropes, cornflowers, poppies, marigolds, tobacco plants


Shrubs: spindle tree, rhus, plumbago, Japanese maple

Perennials: chrysanthemums, asters, Chinese lanterns, ligularia, Michaelmas daisies

Bulbs: colchicums, nerines


Shrubs: winter jasmine, mahonia, dogwood, daphne, skimmia, winter heath, clematis

Perennials: winter pansies, violas, hellebores, hepatica

Bulbs: snowdrops, aconites, cyclamen (grows from tubers)


You can have a glorious
mass of different colours.


Garden colour schemes

Colour schemes

The colour wheel, a circle divided into six or twelve, shows how colours relate to each other and gives clues to the effects of juxtaposing them. For gardeners, the six-point colour wheel, made up of primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary (orange, green, purple) colours, is a useful guide. It may be a good idea to make one as a reference (look it up online), and bear in mind the enormous variety of shades, tones and tints that exist in gardening and in nature, so the colours can be liberally interpreted.

Complementary Also called opposing, these are colours that fall directly opposite each other on the colour wheel: red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange. Positioned next to each other, they seem especially vibrant, so complementary colour schemes can be eye-catching and lively. A small area of hot complementaries balances a larger area of cool ones.

Contrasting Colours equally spaced around the colour wheel are thought of as contrasting: orange, green, purple. They tend to go well grouped together – vibrant colours and green foliage.

Harmonising Analogous, or harmonising, colours are those that lie next to each other on the colour wheel, e.g. red and purple, yellow and orange, blue and green. Harmonious colour schemes can be elegant and serene, or, with hot colours, invigorating.

Monochromatic Using just one colour can be very effective, but challenging. Some contrast is necessary or the result can seem somewhat bland, so use all the shades, tones and tints at your disposal, and plenty of interesting foliage.


Harmonious colour schemes
can be elegant and serene.


Gardens to visit in 2017

Gardens to visit

If you’re short of ideas, or just want to soak up the atmosphere created by talented garden designers, why not take a trip to one of the hundreds of gardens around the country that are open to visitors? Many show the influence of Gertrude Jekyll (born in 1843), whom we have to thank for introducing colour-themed ‘rooms’ into the garden. Some are renowned for something extra special:

The white garden at Sissinghurst, Kent

Hidcote, in Gloucestershire, famed for its twin red borders

The winter gardens at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Great Dixter in East Sussex, for unusual colour schemes

Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex, for garden artistry

The herbaceous border at Arley Hall, Cheshire

Harlow Carr, the RHS garden in Yorkshire, pushing the boundaries of design and planting styles

Barnsdale Gardens, Rutland, described as a ‘theme park for gardeners’

Check opening times and facilities before visiting.












The secrets to year-round colour in your garden

Dairy Diary 2017 gardening feature

The secrets to year-round colour in your garden


Now the weather has got colder and those summer bedding plants have died down it’s time to do a little creative planting to give your home that va va voom.

There may not be an abundance of bedding plants to choose from at this time of year but you can still add kerb appeal with pots and baskets and a few well-chosen specimens.

2017 A5 diaries

2017 diary, A5 week-to-view with recipesFor a display that will see you through until spring choose a few small heathers in deep red or rust colours, some cyclamen and also a few silvery-coloured plants, such as Senecio Maritima ‘Silver Dust’ (Silver Ragwort).


Underplant with tulip bulbs and these will appear in spring. If the cyclamen fade early you can replace with Christmas roses. I’ve also chosen a gorgeous Skimmia Japonica to place in a pot by the front door.


The 2017 Dairy Diary has a fantastic feature on gardening for year-round colour, with tips on colour schemes and what to plant when for a gorgeous year-round floral display. It even gives a list of glamorous gardens to visit.

2017 A5 diary

Dairy Diary 2017Dairy Diary is available to buy for just £7.99.

Click here for more information, but don’t dilly dally as they’re selling fast.











Garden Revamp in 4 Simple Steps

Win £50 Garden Voucher

Fabulous Front Garden Revamp in 4 Simple Steps

Plus WIN a £50 garden voucher

Whilst rambling cottage gardens and wildflower meadows have a beautiful carefree charm, I also really love the pattern and uniformity of municipal gardens and even town roundabouts – try to see beauty wherever you can is my motto!

For many modern houses, this regimented type of planting can work really well, particularly in the front garden where space is often limited.

I love this Rainbow Fan idea from our Seasonal Garden Ideas book and plan to try this to cheer up a drab patch of soil underneath one of our windows. Here’s how to create it:




Summer annuals are unrivalled for the colour they can bring to the garden – it’s no wonder they are so popular for bedding schemes. Here petunias and marigolds have been planted in a rainbow fan of brilliant colour.

Plant in early summer when all danger of frost is past. The bed should flower throughout the summer. Set aside most of a day for planting – there are a lot of baby plants to put in.

What you need


Buy bedding strips of purple and blue petunias, yellow and orange Afro-French and French marigolds and variegated-leaf salvias – enough to cover the area you have in mind.

Here there are at least 30-40 yellow marigold plants and the same number of orange ones; 20 or so of each colour of petunia; and 20-25 salvias.


Fork, spade, rake and trowel. General-purpose compost.
1 Bedding schemes like this do best in full sun, so choose your site carefully. The soil does not have to be particularly rich, but it still needs to be dug over thoroughly. Remove any weeds, roots or stones as you dig. Incorporate a general-purpose compost into the top 8-10cm (3-4in) of soil and rake smooth.

2 Start planting the deep orange marigolds at the wide end of the fan. Remove the baby plants from their bedding strip and lay them out in three rows, spacing them about 20cm (8in) apart. Use the trowel to dig small planting holes, setting in and firming each pant methodically in three arcs.

3 Moving forwards, plant the bright yellow marigolds in the same way, again in three curving rows. Follow up with the salvias.

4 Finish with the two bands of blue and purple petunias, using the same procedure as before to plant them. Water the whole bed thoroughly, using a fine rose on your watering can so you don’t dislodge the newly bedded plants.

To keep the plants producing flowers for as long a period as possible, feed with a high potash liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks.

The salvias are not yet in flower in this bed. They will come into bloom later in the season.

Keep the bed well watered in dry weather. Deadhead faded and withered flowers as often as you can to encourage new ones to appear – and to keep the bedding scheme looking good. Clear the bed in autumn, dig over the ground again and replant the following year.



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Win a £50 Garden Centre Voucher


Win a £50 Garden Centre Voucher

And we have a fantastic prize on offer – enter this month’s competition
and you could win a £50 garden voucher to spend on anything you like.












4 Steps to a Fabulous Fragrant Pot


At the moment, I have a rather sad looking pot of mint by the sink. It needs a proper place to live as it’s bedraggled and neglected. 

I absolutely love the scent of herbs and would love to create somewhere special for them to grow and be nurtured so that we can use them in salads and stews and enjoy the aroma.

After browsing through our Seasonal Garden Ideas book I have decided to do this project (adding in my little pot of mint). It will look fabulous by the front door, will create a wonderful aroma as we pass into the house and give me an easily accessible supply of delicious herbs. I can’t wait to get started!


Bay, Thyme & Lavender

Three strongly aromatic plants combine here to make an enticingly scented corner. A  standard bay in a large ceramic pot is circled by a medley of low-growing thymes, with lavender surrounding the base.

Plant in spring.
All of these plants have a year-long presence – bay and thyme are evergreen, while lavender, which flowers in summer, retains its grey leaves throughout winter.

Allow a couple of hours to complete this container and the surrounding bed.

What you need


  • One bay tree (Laurus nobilis), trained to standard shape and clipped to a ball.
  • Eight thymes (Thymus serpyllum and Thymus citriodorus varieties – here golden leaved, variegated and grey-leaved forms as well as the more usual dark green).
  • Eight lavenders (Lavandula variety, such as ‘Munstead’).


  • Large ceramic container (or any other pot large enough to take the bay tree).
  • Soil-based potting compost with added grit or sharp sand for drainage.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.


  1. Position your pot where it is to stand – it will be too heavy to move once planted. Here the pot is surrounded by a narrow bed of lavender which will need about 45cm (18in) of planting space all around the pot.
  2. Line the container with broken crocks for drainage, then half-fill with compost. Check the level of the bay’s rootball by placing it in its original pot on the compost. Adjust the level as necessary to get the rootball to the same depth it was in before, then plant the bay, placing it centrally in the pot. Firm in.
  3. Top up the container with more compost – the thymes will have much shallower rootballs than the bay. Plant the thymes in a circle around the bay, firm in, then top up again with more compost to within 2.5cm (1in) of the rim. Water thoroughly.
  4. Work some of the compost/grit mix into the soil around the pot, then plant the lavenders all round. Water thoroughly.

If you wish, choose a dry, sunny day and cut some of the lavender flowers when they are at their peak. Leave them to dry in bunches, then use them in a vase or a potpourri, or make little sachets and stuff them with the lavender flowerheads – place in linen drawers or hang in clothes cupboards to keep the clothes smelling fresh and sweet.

Both the bay and the thymes are culinary herbs, so use them freely in your cooking.

All these plants do best in full sun and need light, well-drained soil. Keep the bay in shape by trimming any straggly shoots in summer; remove any frost-damaged leaves/shoots in spring. Remove faded lavender flowers in autumn, then prune in April – but do not cut into old wood. Clip the thyme, removing dead flowerheads and straggly shoots in spring.


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National Gardening Week

Succulents and Seashells project

Year-Round Interest in 5 Simple Steps 

National Gardening WeekAs it’s National Gardening Week I thought I would do something a little different in the garden.

Instead of the usual flowering basket I’m going to tackle this easy project from our Seasonal Garden Ideas book.

It only takes a few minutes but should give interest throughout the year.



Succulents & Seashells

Succulents are often grown as indoor house plants, but many varieties are perfectly hardy and do well outdoors – if given full sun and really sharp drainage. Striped and whorled seashells make perfect partners for these shapely rosettes.

Plant in spring. Succulents like these usually flower in June and July but their thick, fleshy leaves provide year-long interest. Creating a display like this will take one to two hours.


What you need


Selection of houseleeks (Sempervivum) and echeverias – read the plant labels carefully to check that the ones you choose are fully hardy. Sempervivum arachnoideum, S. tectorum and Echeveria elegans – and their numerous varieties and colour forms – are some to look for.


  • Large stone terracotta or ceramic container with drainage holes at the bottom.
  • Gritty compost, such as that sold for cacti.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Selection of seashells.
  • Fine gravel or grit for a topping.
  • Trowel.


1 Line the container with broken crocks for drainage, then fill it nearly full with gritty compost.

2 Carefully tip the rosettes out of their pots – the leaves can break off easily, so handle very gently – and plant them in the compost, leaving room for the shells.

3 Top up the compost with the fine gravel or grit – allow for at least a 2.5cm (1in) layer. Then pile up the shells around and between the succulents.

4 Water moderately, then follow the plant label instructions for subsequent watering. Position the container in full sun and bring into a sheltered area during winter.


As an alternative to seashells, try pebbles or cobbles of various shapes, sizes and colours. These plants also do really well in rockeries or on the top of drystone walls.


It can take quite some time for a houseleek or echeveria to flower – and when it does, that rosette dies, but it is quickly replaced by new ones. The leaves of some varieties change colour in summer, turning from green or silvery grey to red or bronzed.


Deadhead flowers as they wither (they usually appear in summer). Remove any withered or damaged leaves.



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book featuring simple projects, with
easy-to-follow instructions, to add
beauty to any garden.

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A Splash of Colour and Instant Curb Appeal in 4 Simple Steps


A Splash of Colour and Instant Curb Appeal in 4 Simple Steps

Garden centres are filling up with beddings plants and we can finally say goodbye to winter on Sunday with the official start of spring.

Celebrate the new season by creating a splash of colour at the front of your house.

For just a few pounds and a few minutes
you can give your home instant curb
appeal with some gorgeous flowers.

In this feature from our Seasonal Garden Ideas book we show you show.


Playing a Supporting Role

A single giant pot with a very large plant can look a bit stark – surrounding it with smaller containers holding a variety of colourful flowers will soften the overall effect.

Buy a bedding strip of pansies, and several pots of white narcissi in bud in March for flowering in April and May.

Planting one pot like this takes less than an hour, but if you want to surround a large container with many smaller ones, allow an afternoon for the job.


What you need


  • Bedding strip of six to eight blue pansy (Viola) plantlets.
  • Six white Narcissus ‘Petrel’ in bud.


  • Terracotta pot.
  • Soil-based potting compost.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.
  • Extra terracotta pots, if required, to surround the planted container.

1 Line the terracotta pot with a layer of broken crocks for drainage.

2 Start filling with compost, then ascertain the right height for the narcissi by placing them in their pot on the compost – the rootball/bulbs should be about 4cm (1½in) below the rim of the terracotta pot.

3 Position all the narcissi, spacing them out as evenly as possible, firm in by twisting each one slightly, then top with more compost.

4 Plant the pansies in the same way, positioning them around and in front of the pot. Firm them in, finishing with a final layer of compost. Bump the pot gently to settle the plants and compost, then water thoroughly.


The beauty of this arrangement is that when the pansies and narcissi have finished flowering, you can replace the whole pot with another display. With the wide range of narcissi and pansy colours available, you can choose any number of variations on this theme – or go for something completely different.


The pansies may well flower a lot longer than the white narcissi. In this case, cut down the narcissi stalks when the flowers have withered and allow the pansies to continue on their own.


Deadhead the pansies regularly to ensure a long and continuing display of flowers. If the narcissi start bending over (in high winds or rain), support with thin bamboo canes and soft string ties.

Seasonal Garden Ideas if available for just £3.99 at http://www.dairydiary.co.uk/gift-books.html



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