Spring flowering bulbs brighten the garden from when snow is on the ground right through to the sunlit early summer. Here is David Hall's guide to achieving a marvellous display of colour to herald in the new year.
However many books you read or TV programmes you watch, nothing is better to gain inspiration than a visit to a garden open to the public. Here are some of Nathan James Dodd's favourites, where you can see, smell and perhaps buy the plant that you've only seen in a magazine.
Nowhere can be more appropriate to start than Ryland Mount in Cumbria. Even if you can't 'Wander lonely as a cloud', Wordsworth's house and landscaped gardens, with fell side terraces, rock pools, rare shrubs and of course the daffodils, will be an inspiring day out.
Howick Hall in Northumberland, opens in February with a 'snowdrop festival' followed by a brilliant show of narcissi in March and April. Later, their excellent collection of camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons thrive in the woodland garden while tulips are at their best in wild flower meadows.
Mid-April is the best time to visit the Guy Wilson Daffodil Garden at the University of Ulster in Coleraine. Occupying an old quarry with paths leading through beds and drifts of daffodils, the 1500 cultivars, many rare and unusual, have been sourced worldwide.
There is no better location than Plas Newydd, in Gwynedd, for a fine spring garden with a camellia dell, rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias. Designed by Repton and overlooking the Menai Straits, the gothic house is well worth visiting and look out for the red squirrels.
Each February there is the Dingle woodland snowdrop walk at Dudmaston Gardens in Shropshire and later a mass of colour when the rhododendrons, magnolias, flowering cherries and kalmias come into their own under-planted with primroses and daffodils.
Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire comes to life with snowdrops under old oak trees and on the banks of a stream together with bright yellow aconites and mauve crocuses. Daffodils follow in their thousands cascading down the hillsides followed by cowslips, primroses and wild garlic. The 73 magnolia cultivars and Japanese cherry trees flower from late March into May.
In the east midlands, the orchard of Felley Priory in Nottinghamshire is carpeted with thousands of orange, apricot, white and yellow daffodils each spring. And the colour doesn't stop there with tulips, hellebores, peonies, magnolias and snake's head fritillary.
The restored Easton Walled Garden in Lincolnshire is another garden that has organised walks to view the masses of river bank snowdrops in February, there are talks and an indoor display of unusual varieties. Drifts of daffodils and tulips follow later in the spring.
Described as a Cornish garden in Suffolk, East Bergholt Place has a woodland garden packed with camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. There is are also a February snowdrop walk and a well stocked plant shop in the Victorian walled garden.
In Cornwall the sprawling Antony Woodland Garden hosts the National Collection of Camellia japonica with over 300 different cultivars together with many varieties of rhododendron and magnolia, while Caerhays Castle Gardens house the National Collection of the latter in a beautiful setting.
Docton Mill is situated in a beautiful secluded Devon valley where the river bank explodes with daffodils, bluebells and wild garlic every spring, the woodland is carpeted by bluebells and a bog garden boasts candelabra primulas late in the spring. You can also enjoy an award winning cream tea.
Also in the same county, where the moist mild climate favours various tender species, spring flowering shrubs cover the valley sides at Coleton Fishacre. Alternatively, visit Kingston Lacey in Dorset for snowdrops and the National Collection of Anemone nemorosa.
The splendid little steam train comes out of the sidings in March to transport visitors around Exbury Gardens in the New Forest and its Rothschild Collection of over ten thousand rhododendrons, with azaleas. magnolias and camellias, make this a very special spring place.
Spinners, also in Hampshire, has approx. 90 species maganolia cultivars and a large collection of rhododendrons.
In East Sussex, the exquisite Capability Brown landscape at Sheffield Park Garden, together with bluebells and daffodils make a magnificent spring combination. Rhododendrons and azaleas complete the vista.
Finally, a trip to Hever Castle in Kent will be rewarded with swathes of snowdrops and crocuses in March, daffodils decorating Anne Boleyn's Orchard in April with Camellia covered walls and early tulips and violas in the Italian Garden. Spring bedding includes hyacinths, wallflowers and pansies.
When purchasing a Christmas tree, you may or may not be aware that you're continuing a centuries old tradition that was enthusiastically adopted by the Victorians. An artificial tree as Andy Taylor explains is just a modern take on this age old practice.
There's a huge selection of Premier Christmas Lights, and it's no wonder why they are market leaders judging by the variety and innovation that's on offer. This is Andy Taylor's guide to their range of top quality lights and decorations.
Christmas wreaths, swags and garlands might be thought a little old fashioned, but Robert Hall thinks that modern versions of these traditional decorations are a fabulous way to combine tradition with colourful contemporary themes.
This guide by Andy Taylor is all about battery powered lights, a very safe way to decorate your home with festive colour. With low running costs and bright LEDs, batteries may be the smart choice this Christmas.