Colour in the Garden

How colourful can your garden be? What are the perfect colour combinations to add character and cohesion to your borders and containers? Following on from her popular blog, Ruby Simpson, Nicholsons Lockhart Garratt Planting Designer, is going to treat us to monthly suggestions of colour combinations for your garden.

If you want to refresh your memory, you can read the full blog by clicking here. Otherwise, scroll down and read this month’s suggestion!

Colour In The Garden: Monthly Focus

Monthly Suggestions


Things are heating up! Everything starts to kick off in May – there’s so much colour, and so many options for a beautiful plant mix! One of my favourite colour palettes at the moment includes soft apricots, pale blues and lilacs with whites, creams and greens. Its so gentle and dreamy, I couldn’t resist basing my May plant blog around it.  


Let’s begin with the gorgeous Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’, a non-fussy, compact shrub that grows to just under a metre tall and bears pretty, white, bell-shaped flowers in May and June. It’s also mildly fragrant, has purple autumn foliage and is very happy in sun or partial shade.  

Syringa vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’ steals the show with her highly fragrant clouds of flowers. Each panicle is chocka-block with tiny, deliciously scented flowers – one of my favourite scented shrubs. As a bonus, she is rather difficult to kill, so if you’re not confident of your horticultural skills, she’s a good bet!  

Viburnum plicatum ‘Kilimangaro’ has delicately layered branches with lacey umbels of creamy-white flowers. This is a large shrub, growing up to 4m tall, but well worth the space if you can spare it. 

Climbers and Wall Shrubs:

Ceanothus ‘Skylark’ is a big show-off and it’s absolutely smothered with little pom-poms of sky-blue flowers in late spring. This evergreen shrub enjoys a slightly sheltered spot and is often grown as a wall shrub, trained up a trellis or along wires on a sunny wall, as well as making a good specimen shrub in a border.  

Clematis ‘Early Sensation’ is a small evergreen climber that requires a sheltered spot in sun or partial shade. Pale lime-green buds open to bright white flowers with lime green centres.  

Good old Chaenomeles ‘Apple Blossom’ (commonly known as ‘Flowering Quince’) is spiky yet beautiful. Its spring flowers are totally gorgeous, and it also has the bonus of green and yellow fruits in Autumn. These are actually edible and in Japan they use the fruits to make a sweet-sour liqueur!  

Perennials and Bulbs:

What a pretty little thing Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ is. It seems to flower for weeks and weeks and is happy grown in partial or full shade! Peachy-pink buds open to white star-shaped flowers – they look like they have been dipped in paint. Once the fluffy flowers are over, the foliage is also rather attractive.  

Centaurea montana is another one of my favourites (I have many), I love the freaky flowers – the more weird-looking the better in my book. If they are happy, which isn’t too difficult to achieve as they aren’t that fussy, they will self-seed all over the place.  

Digitalis ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ is happy in sun and partial shade and is a beautiful shade of soft apricot (funnily enough). You can’t go far wrong with a Foxglove – although they are biennial, they tend to self-seed freely. Do bear in mind that they are poisonous, so it’s best to avoid eating them!  

Iris ‘Jane Phillips’ flowers a lovely shade of lilac-blue, as does Camassia leitchlinii var. cearulea – both look great planted within herbaceous borders as well as planted in swathes through a more prairie-style setting.  

Last but not least, Phlox ‘Emerald Cushion’ bears lilac flowers throughout late spring and early summer. It makes a low-growing, evergreen mound, and despite its delicate appearance is hard as nails, surviving temperatures down to –20. 

Colour In The Garden: Monthly Focus

Top: Iris ‘Jane Philips’, Digitalis ‘Sutton’s Apricot’, Centaurea montana, Deutzia ‘Nikko’ 

Middle: Tiarella ‘Spring Sympony’, Phlox ‘Emerald Cushion’, Viburnum plicatum ‘Kilimanjaro’, Ceanothus ‘Skylark’ 

Bottom: Syringa ‘Madame Lemoine’, Clematis ‘Early Sensation’, Camassia leitchlinii var. cearulea, Chaenomeles ‘Apple Blossom’ 

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


April is a promising month – even those of us who like to hibernate during the chilly wet weather can start enjoying the sunshine in the garden, and what an abundance of colour and beauty April has to offer when it comes to plants! 

But how do you choose a palette of shrubs and perennials for both sunny and shady areas in one garden that complement each other? Well luckily, I have put together a few of my favourites to help inspire you. 


The back bone of the border! Evergreens are essential for winter structure while other flowering shrubs help to add height further back in the border behind the perennials. Osmanthus x burkwoodii is a beautiful evergreen with pretty little white flowers in April and Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ is another evergreen with pink buds and white flowers through most of the winter and into April. The bonus of these two evergreens is that they are both pretty happy in a partly shaded area as well as in full sun!  

Prunus ‘Kojo no Mai’ is a charming shrub, delicately blossoming on bare stems in early spring. Magnolia ‘Susan’ is stunning magnolia with pink tulip-like flowers, but just be aware it likes a slightly acidic soil so will need ericaceous compost added to the planting hole, and be fed with ericaeous plant food. Exochorda macrantha ‘Niagara’ flowers abundantly like Exochorda ‘The Bride’, but has a neater growth habit, so doesn’t spread and flop quite so much. 

Climbers and Wall Shrubs: 

Easy to forget about, but often essential to softening walls and fences, or providing extra cover to help create a garden oasis! Clematis alpina is a lovely climber and has little blue bells hanging from its branches in spring (this climber will need support). Chaenomeles speciosa Nivalis is a wall shrub and can be trained up a wall or fence with a bit of support and pruning, and its pure white flowers open up in spring. 


My favourite bit! I love so many different plants, but generally I find perennials the most exciting. If you have a more shady part of the garden, Epimedium, Pulmonaria, Dicentra (Lamprocapnos) and Anemone blanda are gorgeous shades of pink, blue and white, that work harmoniously and are happy to be planted in a shadier spot. Athyrium nippoicum Pictum is a delicate little fern, happy in shade or partial shade and complements pinks and blues beautifully. Bergenia, Erysimum and Pulsatilla are happy in full sun and in-keeping with the pink, blue and white palette. See my April palette below to get an idea of what they will look like together in your spring garden! 

Colour In The Garden: Monthly Focus

Top: Epimedium ‘Pink Champagne’, Bergenia ‘Baby Doll’, Prunus ‘Kojo no Mai’, Clematis alpina, Magnolia ‘Susan’

Middle: Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’, Athyrium nipponicum Pictum, Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’, Dicentra spectablis (Lamprocapnos), Osmanthus x burwoodii

Bottom: Exochorda macrantha ‘Niagara’, Anemone blanda Blue, Chaenomeles speciosa Nivalis, Pulsatilla vulgaris, Viburnum ‘Eve Price’

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


The year is starting to warm up! Brighter mornings, longer days and a bit more sunshine! We are all getting tempted to get out into the garden and start tidying it up and refreshing areas with new planting.

Although it still feels early in the year and summer feels a long time away, March is a lovely month when you have winter flowers still blooming, and spring flowers beginning to wake up. There are so many gorgeous plants that can cheer us up and I’m going to share some of my favourites with you to liven up your March garden!

Shrubs and Trees:

Prunus autumnalis, or winter flowering cherry tree, starts blooming late in the year and is still going now – gentle pink blossom on naked stems bring a bit of colour to the bare stems of winter. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is one of my favourite shrubs. With the strong rose-like scent of its abundant flowers, it’s a really valuable evergreen to have in your garden. Just make sure it’s in a sheltered spot as it is borderline hardy. Sarcococca ‘Purple Stem’ is a lower-growing evergreen shrub, covered in scented flowers at this time of year! Viburnum ‘Gwenllian’ is evergreen and flowers most of the winter and Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ has pink flowers covering its bare stems during the coldest months! And not to forget Camellias, which are begininng to burst into colour in various shades of gorgeous pink and white. Please note Camellias will enjoy being planted in ericaeous compost – either dig this into the planting hole, or plant them in a pot!


March perennials will brighten up your borders on the darkest days. I have a lovely clump of Helleborus ‘Tutu’ which has been flowering for weeks and she’s still going strong now! I can see her bobbing pink flower heads when ever I glance out of the kitchen window. Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ is a real beauty, and quite happy in shade as well as sun. Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’ is a big show off with bright oranges, pinks and purples all on one stem, while Euphorbia ‘Shorty’, is a reliable favourite, holding its green foliage throughout the winter in a lovely gentle hummock shape, keeping a bit of structure amongst a winter border.

Colour in the Garden: Monthly Focus

Top: Helleborus ‘Tutu’, Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’, Sarcococca ‘Purple Stem’, Prunus autumnalis ‘Rosea’, Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ 

Bottom: Camellia (various), Euphorbia ‘Shorty’, Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’, Viburnum ‘Gwenllian’, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ 

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing

Can we design or build your garden?

Nicholsons specialise in whole garden projects and would like to hear from you if you have a medium to large garden requiring design or construction. Start your process by filling out the form below, or give us a call on 01869 340342

Our team may try to contact you by email. If you have not received anything within 2 working days, please check your junk mail folder.
Colour In The Garden: Monthly Focus
Read our Brochure

Nicholsons is accredited by the following official organisations:

Approved contractors of the Safe-contractor scheme, Nicholsons are also accredited with CHAS and Arboricultural Association. The Company recently won an award as Cherwell Established Business of the Year 2019, as well as Oxfordshire Large Business of the Year awards 2019.

Colour In The Garden: Monthly Focus