One of the most obvious ways of creating a garden that stimulates the senses is with long-season, layered planting that keeps the colour and interest going all year.
Bulbs are invaluable for this. Early-flowering snowdrops, scillas, Anemone blanda and muscari look cheerful carpeting bare earth. Use them to underplant and interplant still-dormant summer perennials and shrubs such as peonies, hostas, geraniums or deciduous ferns that unfurl as the snowdrops die back. Later, narcissus, tulips and alliums add colour while you’re waiting for summer-flowering perennials. Avoid planting bulbs too close to emerging perennials that might get swamped by the foliage. Alliums work well coming up through the fresh growth of ornamental grasses, behind evergreen shrubs that hide the dying foliage.
As well as using long flowering stalwarts such as Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’, Geranium ‘Rozannne’ or G. ‘Anne Thompson’, use perennials to flower throughout the seasons: hellebores for winter, brunnera for spring, geum for early summer, roses and phlox for summer and so on. Several plants can even share a space, so you might cut back the leaves of aquilegia for example to make way for gaura or Verbena bonariensis. And sow a few annuals such as cosmos or tagetes to pop in for colour as well as encouraging the self-seeders such as foxgloves, honesty and forget-me-nots.
Try to use trees such as cherries and almonds in your garden for early blossom, along with shrubs such as exorchorda and camellia, while ceratostigma (plumbago) with its electric blue flowers and rich autumn leaves will keep the colour glowing. Euphorbias such a E. characias wulfenni and E. mellifera add spring zing and structure. Other plants for interesting foliage– often as important as flowers - include melianthus, sambuca and cardoon.
Finally, coat your verticals in flowering honeysuckle and akebia, followed by clematis for all seasons. It takes thought and time to create a garden with continued colour, but it makes pottering around the garden with a cup of tea all the more enthralling.