Dorset - - Gardens -

The year of colour be­gins in Jan­uary with a few clumps of 12” high helle­bores near the front of the bor­ders. Some­thing like deep­pur­ple atrorubens or deep-red and white-edged ‘Pi­co­tee’, all with droop­ing heads and strong shiny leaves. Along­side, plant pur­ple­leaved heuchera ‘Palace Pur­ple’ or cof­fee-and-cream leaved heuchera ‘Crème Brûlée’, and green-leaved eu­phor­bia grif­fithii with brightor­ange bracts.

Medium height Jan­uary shrubs with colour could in­clude de­li­ciously scented witch hazel hamamelis in­ter­me­dia ‘Diane’ with deep-red flow­ers or sul­phuryel­low hamamelis mol­lis ‘Pal­l­ida’.

Plant bulbs such as daf­fodil, tulip or blue-spired ca­mas­sia qua­mash to flower be­tween your spring and early-sum­mer plants. These will then hide the bulbs’ wilt­ing leaves as they es­tab­lish. For ‘front of the bor­der’ bulbs, opt for del­i­cate low-grow­ing deep-blue iris retic­u­lata, daf­fodil nar­cis­sus ‘Tête-à-Tête’ and snow­drop galan­thus ni­valis. Snow­drops should al­ways be planted ‘in the green’, just af­ter they have fin­ished flow­er­ing.

A va­ri­ety of shrubs, some large, some small but all flow­er­ing at dif­fer­ent times of year, forms the back­bone of any bor­der. These pro­vide sta­bil­ity and com­pan­ion­ship to the short­sea­son plants flow­er­ing around them. A spread of flow­er­ing shrubs will pro­vide a per­fect back­drop for your flower dis­play.

“Fe­bru­ary and March is peak camel­lia time in acidic soil,” said Peter, whose fairly acidic soil at West­ern Gar­dens is ideal for their mag­nif­i­cent col­lec­tion of over 50 camel­lias. “Choos­ing dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties will give you flow­ers seam­lessly be­tween Novem­ber and April.”

For height and dense masses of colour, grow­ing over fences and per­go­las be­tween March and May, ram­bling clema­tis mon­tana of­fers an im­pres­sive dis­play of white flow­ers or if you pre­fer pink try clema­tis mon­tana ‘Eliz­a­beth’. There is a wide va­ri­ety of ‘named’ clema­tis for all as­pects of the gar­den, flow­er­ing be­tween

ABOVE: Helle­borus x hy­brid ‘Pi­co­tee’BELOW RIGHT: Camel­lia pe­ony­form ‘An­tic­i­pa­tion’

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