A shiny rubber floor chimes perfectly with Nineties modernism (above). Combine colours for an individual look (right), or use lino as a less slippery choice (left)

photographs by Henry Bourne from the flooring book by elizabeth wilhide (Ryland Peteres & Small)

Plant of the moment


By now, many gardeners have hung up their trugs with a sigh of relief and started (or even finished) winding down for the winter. Others, however, are frantically nurturing that elusive concept: late-season colour. Colchicum, also known as the autumn crocus, appears to be a godsend in that it flowers in (surprise) late autumn. However, like many plants that deign to bloom when most have given up the ghost, it is a pale imitation of its spring and summer cousins. It is also known as naked ladies, on the grounds that the pink or purple or white blooms spring up rather obscenely leafless, all shiny and skin-like (the leaves follow on later, in winter and spring). Some of the small varieties, most suitable for rock gardens or alpine beds, are very attractive, but the most common one seen on lawns has a fleshy, translucent sheen, like raw bacon. What's wrong with unadorned drifts of crispy fallen leaves as an autumnal landscape, anyway?


Walls and fences

Nothing makes a garden look more new and raw than a new, raw wall, all stark, angular bricks. Sadly, an old wall, all crumbly textures and moss, is something that money can't buy - it has to develop over years. An old walled garden is one of the most fantastic assets a property can have. The recommended technique for helping new birdbaths and the like to develop a mossy patina is to dollop on natural yogurt, but this is less practical with larger items as yogurt is rarely sold by the vat.

Wooden fences are fine as long as they are well-anchored and well-maintained, which means work (luckily, creosote smells lovely) - a drunken fence swaying in the wind just looks silly. Cast-iron railings were once seen everywhere, from slum terraces to royal palaces. But many were yanked out during the last war, when metal was at a premium, so now they have been elevated to "feature" status and figure on estate agents' details.

Ranch-style wooden fencing is ideal for ranches. Picket fencing is charming in front of cottage-style residences, but has to be kept painted (stick to white for that country feel). Woven wattle panels are even more cottagey - probably too cottagey for anyone who doesn't actually have a thatched roof and roses round the door. Chain interlink fences look fine round breakers' yards and the like. Concrete slab fencing provides maximum security and durability, plus the cosy feel of the prison exercise yard. And there should be an Act of Parliament forbidding the use of "decoratively moulded" concrete blocks.