There is no better way to brighten a garden or balcony than by adding colour, and the easiest and quickest way to do this is by planting quick flowering annuals.

Annual plants are those that live for just one season, after that they will need to be replaced. They grow quickly from seed or they can be purchased as seedlings or advanced flowering plants.

Flowering annuals can be planted in pots, baskets or window boxes to brighten verandahs and balconies. They can be planted amongst existing shrubs or used as a border to highlight hedges or garden beds.

Some flower in spring, some in summer, some in autumn and some in winter. By changing the varieties through the year you can add splashes of colour that will define the changing seasons. You will always find something wonderfully colourful, no matter what the time of year. There are varieties for all seasons and all aspects, from full sun to shade, tall ones, short ones compact ones or trailing ones - the choice is yours.

For colour throughout the summer months plant multi-coloured petunias; bright yellow or orange French marigolds; trailing verbena with heads of white, violet, scarlet or peach flowers; sky blue lobelia or the drought tolerant vinca. These are just a few of the all-time favourites that you will find amongst the huge range of annuals available.

Where the garden is in semi shade, wax begonias that flower non-stop in white, pink or red with a choice of bronze or green foliage; scarlet salvia; impatiens in all colours from white through to hot pink; or the rainbow coloured foliage of coleus will create wonderful patches of cheerful colour.

Once the days begin to cool in autumn the sun-loving varieties can be replaced with deep blue cornflowers, scarlet poppies, pink snapdragons, English marigolds or the all-time favourite, pansies.  The huge heads of pink or violet flowers of cinerarias, brightly coloured polyanthus, violas and primula will bring life to the shadier parts of the garden.

A decision has to be made to either sow seed, to buy seedlings in punnets or for instant effect, ready flowering plants. To grow from seed is the cheapest way, but care and time are needed.  If you buy seedlings most take up to 10 weeks to flower and mature.  Alternatively an instant display can be created with potted ‘bloomers’.

Before planting, make sure that the soil is prepared. Turn it well and add some compost or cow manure together with some all-purpose slow release fertiliser. If you are filling containers make sure to use a good quality potting mix. Add some water crystals to make sure that your seedlings don’t dry out.

Always choose healthy plants or seedlings that have been grown and kept outside. Leggy or overgrown plants will take a long time to recover, and if they have been kept inside they will certainly suffer from transplant shock and may only have a 50% chance of growing.

To give your seedling the best start, water them with liquid seaweed fifteen minutes before planting out.

Always remove the spent flower heads to keep your annuals flowering, this way you will extend their life. Once they are allowed to set seed they will think that their job is done!