Colourful ideas for all seasons; A few bright ideas can keep your garden colourful all year round, writes FIONA RUSSELL.
INNOVATIVE gardeners are digging up a host of ideas to keep their plots bright and beautiful whatever the season.
Thanks to clever planting patterns, it's possible to keep your garden looking naturally colourful for longer.
And with a wide range of outdoor paints and stains, as well as decorative pots, stones and bark, for sale, there is no excuse for having a drab garden.
Landscape designer Anne MacFie is delighted to see more creativity in our gardens.
Anne, of Glasgow, said: "People are increasingly viewing their garden as an outside 'room', so they want to make it as attractive as possible.
"I am always being asked for ideas to make people's gardening projects just that bit different and more appealing. And when I suggest an injection of colour, whether it's flowers, pots, decking or furniture, most people love it."
Of course, gardens are meant for flowers and plants, so Anne suggests people plan ahead for colour whatever the season.
She said: "Many gardens can look rather bare in the autumn or winter with just foliage and no flowers. But there are plants that add colour during these colder months - it just takes a bit of forward-planning."
For late blooming pinks, plant Echinacea purpurea and for purple hues go for Clematis Jackmanii. Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff will offer red shades into autumn.
Anne added: "Some climbers and trees are also great for added colour outside summer, including all kinds of acers, as well as Japanese creeper (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)."
But having a brighter garden all year round can be as easy as adding a few brush strokes of outdoor paint to items such as wooden fences, trellis and furniture.
You can go for anything from whites and creams through pastels to bright yellows and turquoise.
Meanwhile, coloured stains will give decking areas a lift, while also showing off the wood's natural grain.
Pots and planters can be painted to suit a colour scheme or bought ready-coloured. You can also jazz up the top of a plant pot with recycled pieces of colourful glass.
Anne suggests that gardeners look out for a range of boldly coloured glassfibre pots from online supplier Europlanters.
Bark mulch in a range of rainbow shades and decorative stones can add a bit of fun to your garden.
For example, kids will love blue or pink bark around their play equipment.
If you have a large area set aside for stones or chips, it might be best to stick to a natural palette - but that shouldn't limit your choice.
Grant Thomson, of Glasgow building and landscape suppliers Perfect Timber, reports demand is increasing for granites and pebbles in various shades.
He said: "While people still want natural products, they are much more discerning about the shade or look.
"Granite is great because it comes in lots of colours, including subtle greens, blues, pinks and silvers."
But before budding gardeners go to town with colour, they would be wise to heed Anne's advice not to be overly flamboyant.
She said: "Colour should add interest or provide a feature background - but too much in too many shades will be overwhelming.
"Sometimes, it's better to go for a pastel look or just add splashes of bolder tones here and there."
If you already have lots of cheerful flowerbeds, you should be selective about where else you add colour, so as not to detract from the natural spectacle.
To create a cool and relaxed outdoors space, choose lighter, harmonising shades. A fence painted a powder blue, for example, looks great as a backdrop for beds of purple and pink flowers.
If you're feeling brave, though, try painting a bench bright pink or blue.
After all, unlike flowerbeds, which can take years to establish, it's easy to paint a piece of furniture time and again.
Shades for the autumn
WHILE gardens look at their brightest during the summer, careful planning will give you natural colour into the autumn and winter.
Late-blooming plants include:
Spirea japonica Anthony Waterer
Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff
Lobelia Cherry Ripe
Salvia splendens Scarlet King
Aster novi-belgii Chequers
For yellow or orange
Climbers and trees:
For the best effect, mix flowers with colours closest to each other in the rainbow. For example, reds and oranges work well together. Alternatively, make a striking statement by planting opposite colours in the same bed, such as violet next to yellow. But never mix too many colours together.
PICTURES: www.europlanters.co.uk, www.cuprinol.co.uk, www.annemacfiegardendesign.co.uk
A CHEERFUL DISPLAY: A lick of paint and some late bloomers can help to keep your garden looking good well beyond the summer