PERFECT PLANTS to make any garden blooming gorgeous; Whether you've got a tiny space within a paved area or a huge lawn and dozens of flower beds, shady or sunny, you don't need to just stick to the basics to make it look fabulous. Try these great alternatives, whatever kind or size of garden you have...
If your space is mainly paved or concreted, you'll need containers of varying sizes to create a riot of colour. Remember, large containers are easier to look after than small ones, and try to buy your compost in bulk to reduce costs too.
FUCHSIAS - pendulous, bellshaped flowers.
NEED... Welldrained compost in sun or part shade.
SMALL HARDY HEBES - pretty flower spikes from midsummer to autumn.
NEED... Welldrained compost in plenty of sun.
PANSIES AND VIOLAS - brightly coloured flowers with faces!
NEED... Sun or part shade.
SWAN RIVER DAISIES OR BRACHYSCOME - white, purple or blue daisies with yellow centres.
NEED... Sunny, sheltered spot.
PELARGONIUMS & GERANIUMS - brightest shades of red, orange, pink and white.
NEED... Sunny spots and very well drained compost.
BEGONIAS - white, pink, yellow, orange or cream, can be very showy.
NEED... Fairly well drained but moist compost in shade.
Whether your garden is pretty well all in the shade due to nearby hedges or buildings, or it's just a sun-free corner you're looking to fill, shade-tolerant plants win every time. Try these ones out for lots of colour.
BUSY LIZZIES OR IMPATIENS - summer bedding, seriously colourful but loves shade.
NEED... Any good soil in shade or dappled shade.
WALDSTEINIA TERNATA - bright yellow flowers and pretty foliage on spreading plant.
NEED... Well drained soil in part shade or sun.
ELEPHANTS' EARS OR BERGENIA - evergreen often bronzy foliage and pink/white spikes.
NEED... Semishade, not too fussy about soil.
LEOPARD'S BANE OR DORONICUM - yellow daisy-like flowers on herbaceous perennial.
NEED... A moist, rich soil in a lightly shaded area.
CORYDALIS - A carpet-forming perennial with dainty foliage and elegant flowers.
NEED... Well drained fertile soil in part shade.
WOOD LILIES OR TRILLIUMS - white, pink, maroon or greenish yellow flowers.
NEED... Moist acidic or neutral soil in shade.
If your garden has areas of wet or boggy ground, especially in shade, it would be easy to think plants would not survive, but get the right ones and you can have a gorgeous display! There are different levels of moisture, from just moist to full-blown bog, and you need to get the right plant for the right level.
ASTILBES - ostrich plumestyle flowers in pink, white, red, or purple.
NEED... A rich, well-fertilised moist soil.
MARSH MARIGOLDS OR CALTHA PALUSTRIS - yellow buttercup flowers, kidneyshaped leaves.
NEED... Moist soil, sunny spot.
DODECATHON OR SHOOTING STARS - nodding flowers in pinks, on tall stems.
NEED... Moist not wet soil in sun or dappled shade.
ARUM LILY OR ZANTEDESCHIA - white spathes with slim, yellow, plume-like flower spike.
NEED... Moist or boggy soil, in sun or part shade.
DAYLILIES OR HEMEROCALLIS - large, showy flowers in a range of colours, each lasting just a day.
NEED... Moist soil in sun.
CARDINAL FLOWER OR LOBELIA CARDINALIS - spikes of scarlet flowers.
NEED... Moist to boggy soil in sun or part shade.
MIMULUS OR SCARLET MONKEY FLOWER - yellowthroated, orangered flowers.
NEED... Moist, fertile slightly acid soil in part shade.
If your garden has a chalky or alkaline soil, it can seem like a nightmare as everyone just tells you about the plants that won't thrive there - and how their leaves would turn a sickly shade of yellow if you did plant them. But there are plenty of gorgeous plants that are in their element in a chalky soil.
GOLDENROD OR SOLIDAGO - hardy perennial with gold flower spikes.
NEED... Welldrained yet moist soil in sun or part shade.
MALLOW OR SIDALCEA - pink or white flowers like hollyhocks on a herbaceous plant.
NEED...Welldrained and wellfed soil in sun.
GALDIOLUS - seriously showy flowers in brightest shades.
NEED... Sunny, welldrained soil.
DICENTRA OR BLEEDINGHEART-PLANT - heart-shaped white or pink/ white flowers.
NEED... Welldrained moist soil, sun or part shade.
BORDER PINKS OR DIANTHUS - rosette-like flowers in many shades, and spicy perfume.
NEED... Welldrained, fertile soil, sun or part shade.
CAMPION OR SILENE SCHAFTA - semi-evergreen perennial with pale pink flowers.
NEED... Welldrained fertile soil in full sun.
VALERIAN - clusters of tiny red or pinkish or white flowers on a herbaceous plant.
NEED... Welldrained soil with plenty of sun.
5 summer essentials
Summer is when our gardens really come into their own, but it brings its fair share of challenges too, from drought to unwelcome visitors. Don't despair: a little bit of careful maintenance at the right time will help you nip any potential hazards in the bud...
(1) Clear the damage
Frost damage was much more widespread than usual this year and if trees and shrubs are showing signs of dieback or damage as a result, grab the secateurs and get pruning. Cut back to a good-looking, healthy bud and they should keep growing happily.
(2) Layer on mulch
It's amazing just how much good a two or three-inch layer of mulch can do when the weather hots up. It acts like an insulating layer and helps to keep the moisture in the soil - but for it to work as well as it can you'll need to pile the mulch onto well-watered soil.
(3) Feed the flowers
Make sure that flowering plants are kept well-fed over summer. They use up a lot of energy and if you can give them a flower - or even a tomato - plant food, the extra potash will help to encourage more healthy growth AND a plentiful supply of flowers.
(4) Do a Chelsea chop
This classic gardening tip really works. About now (at the end of the Chelsea Flower Show), chop back the flowering stems of herbaceous perennials that have flowered. This will stimulate them to produce new stems bearing more flowers a little later in the year. It'll also help to keep the plants looking good and compact rather than developing an ungainly, leggy shape.
(5) Fight for your fruit
As soft fruits start to ripen, they start to attract garden birds. So to make sure there's plenty left for YOU to eat, protect it.
Drape fruit netting over bamboo canes, topped with upturned flowerpots to hold in place. Or buy a 'cage' like those sold by GardenSkill www.gardenskill.co.uk.