IN THE past I have found myself guilty of creating plant palettes and combinations that are so heavy on the cooler shades of blue, white and silver that the overall effect runs the risk of diluting itself into a tasteful harmonious oblivion, writes TOM ATTWOOD. In situations like this it is the stronger colours of certain flowers which are invaluable, they are the visual jolt and reference point that can bring a group of plants to life, even if they are simply huddled within the confines of the smallest border or grouping of pots.

Don’t be afraid of using bright, bold colours. I like red, it has its place but when the opportunity presents itself, I like to drop it into a scheme. I’m not only talking about flowers in this instance. The red colours of leaves are great as they are a terrific background colour which brings out the varied colour shades of neighbouring plants. The dark red of the smoke bush (cotinus coggygria) has leaves that are formed from clusters of many individual leaf sections and the overall effect is very attractive. A useful shrub to use as it can be coppiced (cut back to a stump) every season to keep it compact and producing an abundance of new healthy growth. Another shrub with good red colouring to the leaves is physocarpus Diabolo; this is not a shrub that would be cut back as hard as the cotinus but you can reign it in and in fact doing so is a good technique as it will develop fresh growth and as with most plants (especially roses) it is that new growth which will produce a healthy crop of leaves and flowers.

For red flowers look no further than the lupins. Why a flower so magnificent as a lupin is not more popular, I simply can’t fathom. Yes, in isolation they might for some be perversely large and crudely unsubtle but married with a range of plants they deliver an injection of colour that is full of energy. For the last two years, we’ve grown lupin My Castle in the girls 'jungle garden' and they now form magnificent stands of multi-headed coloured spikes three feet tall that are so joyous when the general background at this time of year is focused on texture and more subtle colours.