Our flower bed looks gorgeous in July/August but that's about it. For most of the year it's very bare, not even any greenery (we seem to have to plants that you have to cut back down to nothing in the winter). I think I'm right in saying that you can get heather that flowers throughout the winter so I want to put some of that in but am confused about where. The flower bed in summer is chock-a-block so there wouldn't be much room for the heather then, yet there is loads of room for it outside of summer. Should I just plant it anyway, in between the summer plants, and cut back the summer plants a bit when they arrive so that there is room for it all?
you definitely need some balance - shove it in between by all means, but even if you cut back the herbaceous stuff when it arrives it will just grow back again so you may have to take some chunks of the herbacious stuff out.
There is more to life than heather though. put in some bulbs, some more evergreen shrubs, more early flowering stuff - check the RHS plant finder for good suggestions. Hellebores are ravishing in the winter.
Evergreen shrubs for sure, look at choisya, pittosprorum, euphorbia, hellebores, myrtle, escallonia, hebe, daphne, viburnum, Potuguese Laurel, evergreem honeysuckle and evergreen clematis. I's recommend getting some decent gardening books from your local library and seeing what you like.
herbaceous = plant that flowers in summer and then dies back in winter?
Some good suggestions there for winter colour - will have a visit to the garden centre at the weekend.
So how do people have flower beds which are always full but which have year-round colour? Is the idea to fill it with plants which have year-round greenery (and never die back in winter) but which flower at different times throughout the year? I'd be loathe to lose the summer plants I have as they're gorgeous but the beds are so bare in winter - and if I fill it with winter-stuff then the summer stuff won't have space to grow up again.
well, they don't really - it's all a trick of the eye and a bit of balance. If you are worried about bare beds in winter be less ruthless with clearing in the autumn - most perennials stay looking good for ages. put the perennials (ie herbaceous) stuff between the everygreen stuff. and clematis will grow over shrubs, they don't need trellis. evergreens look a bit boring and green a lot of teh time you know.