Borders and beds which offer colour and interest throughout the seasons are an asset to any garden - from dazzling foliage emerging in the autumn and eye-catching winter berries, to the stunning blooms of summer and bright spring bulbs. Take a look through our tips and plant suggestions for cultivating a rich and lively display all year round.
By Sacha Markin
Where Does The Sun Fall?
Before you plant, think about when and where the sun hits your garden. Focus on the direction of the fences and walls at the edge of the garden, as many of your plants will go there. Walls which face east will get a lot of strong morning sun, while west-facing walls receive most of their sun in the afternoon and evening. South-facing gardens will get sun for the majority of the day, but north-facing areas only get an hour or so of sun, so are good for ferns and other shade-loving plants.
Is The Site Exposed?
If you're keen to grow a certain plant, check what type of growing environment it needs. Even if you have a slightly shaded site, there is still plenty to choose from - just check the plant label. Also look at other elements of exposure such as particularly windy spots, and then completely clear the site of weeds and any garden debris. Have a thorough dig and get rid of all perennial weeds - easily identified by their persistent and bulky roots.
Check the soil by doing a simple analysis test. A do-it-yourself soil test kit, which can be found at good garden centres, will give you the pH of your soil - basically it measures the degree of alkalinity or acidity. Plants won't adopt nutrients unless the soil's pH is within an acceptable range. A reading above 7 points to soil alkalinity, while below 7 says it's acidic soil. Most soils have a pH between 5.0 and 7.5, but if yours doesn't, don't worry. Alkaline or chalky soils will support a wide range of plants, but not garden shrubs, such as rhododendrons and azaleas, which prefer acidic soil.
Always check the plant label for details - if no pH preference is listed, a neutral range will be fine. You may also want to check the texture of your soil - but it can always be improved by adding organic matter, such as good quality compost, which you can make yourself.
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