My initial response to the launch of “365 Days of Colour in Your Garden” at the end of 2015 was to ask myself whether gardeners really need another book on colour. Surely the subject has been amply covered by the likes of Percy Thrower (“Colour in Your Garden”, 1987), Penelope Hobhouse (“Colour in Your Garden”, 1995), Andrew Lawson (“The Gardener’s Book of Colour”, 1996) and Christopher Lloyd (the brilliant “Colour for Adventurous Gardeners” in 2005)? Perhaps, but what Nick Bailey attempts to do in this new book is help us to achieve the ambition of many a frustrated gardener: non-stop colour, all year round.
This is Nick Bailey’s first book and already an Amazon best seller. Little wonder with a front cover that proclaims exactly what’s in the tin. Jonathan Buckley’s thrilling image of rainkissed vermillion hemerocallis floating in a pool of vivid greens and blues sets the very high standard for this book’s illustrations. Showstoppers include an image of Achillea ‘Terracotta’ mingling with Aconitum carmichaelii Wilsonii Group (end of post) and the airy blooms of a mauve thalictrum flirting with wine-red dahlias. There is not a bad photograph in the book.
As Head Gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden, Nick Bailey has plenty of experience when it comes to maintaining interest in a garden 365 days a year. He begins by explaining the science and nature of colour and how to combine different shades and hues, which is stuff many experienced gardeners will already be familiar with. However, quickly Nick gets into the main section of the book which describes a range of choice plants to cultivate for continuous flowers and foliage from early spring until late winter. This is very much a selection of the author’s favourites rather than a comprehensive list, but Nick clearly knows a good plant. I was pleased to see he had included Rosa ‘Bengal Crimson’, a rare rambler which never stops flowering in Central London.
I am rather less convinced by the need for the “Growing for Colour” section which sits between spring and summer: this does not strike me as the right place, even book, for a practical gardening guide and its presence spoils the flow. A section on how to extend the season of different flowers by choosing species and cultivars that bloom at different times might have been truly brilliant had it extended beyond 5 subjects: geraniums, clematis, narcissi, tulips (shown above) and roses. The chapter “Perfect Pairs” is sure to offer even the most adventurous gardener inspiration to try new planting combinations.
Naturally, it being mid-winter, I flicked straight to the back to see what Nick Bailey recommended to brighten our darkest days. Acid yellow Luzula sylvatica ‘Aurea’, Cyclamen coum, Iris unguicularis, Correa ‘Dusky Bells’, Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ and Acacia dealbata gleemed back at me from the glossy pages; proof that, with a little careful planting, your garden need never be dull.
“365 Days of Colour in Your Garden“, published by Kyle Books, is available from good bookshops now. For more book reviews and recommendations, click here.