Colour Wheel

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Don’s colour wheel

Imagine a stylish, colourful feature as a centrepiece in your front yard. Much as you place a beautiful vase or painting inside the house to create a feature, you can create a living piece of garden jewellery outside. Don showed in easy steps how to plant a wheel of colour in the garden using annuals, or bedding plants.

The designs

The basic idea is to make a structured pattern out of small hedging plants (this is called a parterre) so that even when the colourful annuals are removed, the attractive design remains. For the colour inside the pattern you can use pansies, violas, petunias or even herbs or good-looking vegies, such as ornamental lettuce. We designed three circular patterns, two with a 2m (6′) diameter and one with a 3m (10′) diameter, and used a pre-formed concrete edging to define each colour wheel and add dramatic impact.

Putting the edges in place and preparing the soil

Set out the edging in the centre of the lawn to see how it looks. Then use a sharp spade to cut the outer edge of the circle. Make the cut slightly bigger than the shape itself, so that you have room for adjustment later on. Remove the concrete edging and cut out all the grass. (Tip: use the grass you remove to repair bare patches in your lawn, or just knock off the soil and throw the grass into the compost.) Lay the concrete edging on a bed of sand about 1-2cm (3/4″) deep. Level the edging and ensure that the overall shape is satisfactory. If you have a clay soil, begin your soil preparation by forking in some gypsum. Next, fill the area inside the circle to just below the top of the edging with a mixture of premium quality garden soil and potting mix. Incorporate the mix into existing soil to avoid drainage problems.

Marking out the design

No matter which design you select, the method for laying them out is similar for each.

Place a stake in the centre of the circle. Check its accuracy by rotating a string line, which is loosely tied to the stake, around the outer circle. Use the string line at various lengths to measure out your design and mark the segments with water-based marking paint. Wheel 1, the star pattern, has a diameter of 3m (10′). Wheels 2 and 3 have a 2m (6′) diameter. Mark out the inner circle. Wheel 1 has a radius of 400mm (16″). The radius of wheel 2 is 460mm (18″), and the radius of wheel 3 is 280mm (11″). Now use string to set out two diameters at right angles. (Measure the entire circumference and divide by four: the second diameter should be one quarter of the circumference around from the first.) Mark each line with marking paint. For wheels 2 and 3, mark out another two diameters, giving you eight segments in all. For Wheel 1, to construct the next six diameters, keep halving the arcs between the previous diameters. Mark each diameter with paint as before. You will now have eight evenly spaced diameters. Mark every second diameter 600mm in from the outer circle. To create the star design, draw a line from where one unmarked diameter meets the circumference to the 600mm mark on the next diameter, then back to the next circumference/diameter intersection, and so on all the way around. Paint the star outline and scuff out all non-essential lines.


Plant the permanent hedge using box, dwarf lilly pilly or any other low-growing evergreen shrubs following the marked lines. First plant the inner circle then work outwards. When the plants are all in, tidy them up if necessary with hedge clippers. Fill in the circles and segments with annuals and your colour wheel is finished, except to give it a good watering.


Edging: we laid out our wheel with reconstituted sandstone, a pre-formed concrete with a sandstone finish. It is made in 50cm (20″) lengths in light yellow, light pink/brown, or light grey. Availability: Elegant Garden World, 40-44 Lisbon Rd, Villawood, NSW; phone (02) 9723 1088; fax (02) 9723 1086. They supply Australia-wide from direct orders (add freight charges) or an order from a local nursery. Cost: 2m diameter surround is $263 (add freight charge if interstate); 3m diameter surround, $466 (if interstate, add freight).

Sand: coarse river sand for bedding edging is around $5 for a 30kg bag from nurseries or landscape suppliers.
Soil and preparation: premium quality garden soil (organic garden mix) is $45 per cubic metre or $5 for a 30 litre bag.
Marker paint: Quik Mark is a water-based inverted marking paint. Available in four lead-free fluorescent colours, it is manufactured by Krylon and stocked at selected Mitre 10 stores for around $14 for a 340g (12oz) spray can.

Hedge plants

Any dwarf hedging plant can be used. We used a new lilly pilly called Acmena smithii ‘Hedgemaster’. This small-leaved shrub is due to be released nationally next year, although from October small quantities should be available from Swane’s Nursery, Dural, NSW. Phone: (02) 9651 1322.


Our scheme uses different coloured pansies (named varieties are listed below). However, any low-growing annual would be suitable (for example, replant in late spring with petunias for a lasting summer display).

Floriana pansies: available in NSW, ACT, VIC, SA, TAS.
Bloomers cost $7.95-$8.95 (200mm or 8″ pot with four plants), seedlings $3.25-$3.50 (eight plants to a punnet) and colour pots $2-$2.50 (100mm or 4″ pot with one plant).
Pansy colour selection: Delta Yellow, Rose, Citrus, Luscious Purple, Luscious Red, Luscious Blue, Luscious Yellow.

Newports pansies: available in NSW, QLD, ACT and nationally from Woodlyn’s Nursery, Vic, Falgs, SA, and Gladalan, WA.
Bloomers cost from $3 (1 plant), punnets $3.95 (6 to10 plants).
Pansy colour selection: Bingo Denim, Bingo Lace Cap, Bingo Yellow, Winks
Red/Yellow, Scarlet O’Hara.

Herbs and vegies

To plant out a herb garden in your colour wheel try the following plants:

Oakleaf lettuce, Red Coral lettuce, Salad Bowl lettuce, Purple Oak Leaf lettuce, radicchio, variegated thyme, golden oregano, variegated oregano, variegated mint, spring onions. We used 100mm (4″) pots from Renaissance Plants, from $3 a pot available Australia-wide.

Further information

Our story was filmed at Swane’s Nursery, 490 Galston Road, Dural, NSW. Phone: (02) 9651 1322.

Designed by John Happ, 3rd Dimensional Designs, 31 Wentworth Road, Strathfield, NSW, 2135, phone: (02) 9744 2658.