Karen Platt's Blog

  • Fountains Abbey and Studley Water Garden

    Some gardens just stay in your memory and you grab any opportunity to visit again. Studley is one of those places for me, for it has the UNESCO site of Fountains Abbey in addition to the stunning gardens and deer park.

    I must admit I have never garnered the strength to manage the deer park, as much as I would love to. You might think it's not much of a garden really - just a bit of water, but it's the glimpses, the simplicity that make this garden special for me. Above all, I feel at peace here.

    I remember my father once commenting when I was a child, as we strolled round the abbey, that the monks certainly knew how to choose a spot. The whole site, even though the formal garden is anything but natural, feels at one with its setting. That has always been important to me as a gardener. We might start out buying the plants we love, but we soon learn about what grows in our gardens and if we are fortunate enough, how to borrow a view. There aren't really any flowers in sight here (with the exception of the Ribes by the mill, the Geum was in the plant shop) just the natural landscape with the carved out 18th century water garden. Yet is is easy and pleasing on the eye - 'this green and pleasant land'.

    As always with places associated with childhood, there is a brimming eagerness, an excitement and this place never fails to deliver. The first glimpse, walking through the abbey, thinking of times past, up to surprise view and that sight for sore eyes and then over the top and down through the tunnel, which is very dark and a little scary and out along the water garden. On to the deer park if you have the energy.

    Created by the Aislabies, the site is now run by the NT. Well worth a visit at any time of the year, I visited on 2 April on a warm sunny day with few visitors. I travelled by public transport on the 36 from Harrogate and then the bus from Ripon, which stops at the entrance. Long journey for me, and might be my last visit, but always in my memory. Always a bonus to look around ripon and pop into the Cathedral.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • Dunham Massey Gardens

    I visited Dunham Massey at the end of March and I was very impressed with the gardens. The winter garden is well worth a visit, so pop it into your diary for next year.

    Entering the garden I was greeted by a drift of daffodils and glorious drifts of many different varieties were repeated throughout the garden. In fact bulbs featured heavily but there was ample groundcover provided by other plants too, including Anemone, Erythronium and Cyclamen, forming a handsome backdrop to shrubs and trees. What joy to see Trillium dotted here and there.

    Bulbs included Narcissus, Tulipa, Leucojum, Chionodoxa, Ipheion, Fritillaria and Scilla. The Crocus were over. It's one of the best spring plantings I have seen.

    The mature trees are a joy too, and the young Betula stand is beautiful with the white trunks against the stunning blue sky. I was fortunate that it was one of the kindest days of early spring.

    Pieris, Mahonia, Corylus avellana 'Contorta' and many other shrubs and small trees were looking wonderful but the red Camellia was being commented on most of all. Many were photographing tree bark and commenting upon the pretty flowers of Prunus incisa 'Kojo no-mai'. The small Stachyurus praecox was overlooked but its charm will be unforgettable as it matures. The white Ribes also stands out in my mind. The Magnolia were simply breathtakingly magnificent.

    The star new plant was found in the plant sales shop Muscari 'Peppermint' is a must-have.

    I found the house interesting but not what I expected and this is one NT property where I would recommend visiting for the garden more than the house. The garden is a masterly combination of wonderful plant selection and the know-how of planting, creating seemingly effortless colour, texture and visual impact. The parkland is also wonderful and I set off with the promise of seeing deer. I must admit I was thinking if I see deer, I'll eat my hat - and I had to! See the last photo for discernible antlers. Unfortunately there was no-one around to photograph me eating my hat.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • The Gardens at Cliffe Castle

    Apologies for being so far behind. It is almost a month since I have truly blogged, although in that time I did 2 new book reviews and 4 blogs for the Harrogate Flower Show. So I have not been quiet.

    I wanted to take you back to Cliffe Castle, Keighley. I visited on the same day as East Riddlesden Hall (my last garden visit post) and they make an excellent day out together. About a mile apart, so easy to walk the distance or use public transport as I did.

    This garden is being renovated, due to open in summer and it looks like it will be wonderful. When I visited at the beginning of spring, you walk up the tree-lined hill to the Castle. The specimen trees are underplanted with Crocus and Galanthus (snowdrops), hundreds of them. On the other side of the path, different trees are planted at intervals including conifers and blossom trees. The latter made me think of van Gogh. But the whole display brought to mind Browning's words 'Oh to be in England, now that April is there'.

    If in nothing else, we feel joy in the garden as new buds are formed to burst into glorious colour. The skies so blue. It was a lovely day and I hope to visit again when the new garden opens.

    The Castle is filled with an amazing collection of teapots, minerals, paintings and much more plus the splendour of the rooms as lived in by the family. I found it fascinating.

    In the town is a small public square with municipal planting and I found a wonderful silver birch looking terrific silhouetted against the sky.

    Words and images Karen Platt 2017

  • Harrogate Flower Show from 2011

    Continuing the min-series to showcase the wonderful plants at Harrogate Flower Show, which is on until end Sunday 23rd April 2017.

    Don't miss out - here are some of the wonderful plants on display in 2011

    Words, images copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • Harrogate Flower Show review 2010

    Another in my mini-series looking back on the glorious plants on display and for sale at the Harrogate Flower Show. The flower show runs until 23 April 2017 and makes a great day out for any plant lover. If you have a partner who is not too keen on plants, there is plenty to engage them too.

    I have always found great inspiration at this show.

    Words and images Karen Platt 2017

  • Harrogate Flower Show Look Back at 2009

    Continuing with my mini-series started this morning of the fabulous Harrogate Flower Show - looking back at 2009. There's no better place to buy your plants. I'll let the pics speak for themselves. The show finishes on Sunday - 4 days of incredible plants. Who could ask for anything more?

    Words, images copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • Harrogate Flower Show Retro 2008

    Sadly looks like my health will prevent me from visiting the Harrogate Flower Show that opens later today, so I thought I would treat you to pics from 2008.

    This fabulous show really kicks off my garden year with a bang. Always top quality displays from some of the best nurseries in the U.K. You'll know my favourites by now, Edrom, Jacques Amand, Dibleys and more.

    Do go if you get a chance, the new hall will be open and is terrific. Harrogate is such a lovely town too. This flower show never disappoints.

    Words, images copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom


    The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom, hardback published by Jacqui Small. ISBN 9781910254592, price 35 gbp available in the U.K. through www.quartoknows.com

    Rarely do I find a garden book with such a command of all the elements of garden design, brought together with a master's hand. Behind Jinny's undoubted and well-deserved success lies a philosophy, intuition and know-how that guide her every step. Engaging with the garden on every level, Jinny conducts a now well-rehearsed strategy like a conversation with turns and twists to embrace every possibility and permutation. This beautifully illustrated book shows her skills to advantage with lush gardens that would even beckon the self-confessed non-gardener. Beautiful to look at, this tome goes beyond coffee-table and delves into the potential of garden space. With Jinny, we take the journey to plan and plot, to make the 'landscape' beautiful by striving for its essential character, past connections and how the current owner will connect to the land. She takes us through each essential part of garden design - history, structure, plants, layout etc, revealing the importance of each aspect accompanied by drawings and photos of sites. We gain an understanding of how each key ingredient works. The planning and execution of a garden is like a tapestry of many elements that harmonise perfectly. This is a book that will make you think about your garden space anew. Excellent text and photography. Destined to be a classic of garden design that inspires us all to greater things.

  • The Community Gardening Handbook by Ben Raskin


    The Community Gardening Handbook by Ben Raskin, softback published by Leaping Hare Press. ISBN 9781782404491, price 9.99 available from www.quartoknows.com

    A growing revolution is just what our cities need to bring back a sense of community with a purpose. Neglected plots are being transformed into flourishing growing space that provides fresh food and connections in urban spaces. This book shares Ben's expertise regarding self-sufficiency. It looks at the background of community gardening and acts as a practical guide for running a successful site. Find useful insights into skills sharing, setting up a community garden, looking after it, seed sowing and more. In chapter one the book highlights community gardens around the world. Chapter two looks at planning your own community garden. Chapter three is all about planning and planting your site with useful basic information and seasonal task lists. Chapter Four is a basic plant directory of use to beginner gardeners. What better way to bring communities together than through growing?

  • East Riddlesden Hall

    East Riddlesden Hall is a NT property, situated in Keighley, West Yorkshire. I had long wanted to visit, the 'ruined' wing was alluring. The hall and gardens are easily accessible from the centre of Keighley on foot or by bus, which stops very close to the entrance.

    The best view of the hall is from just inside the entrance, across the lake. It is a Grade 1 building, with fine views over the countryside. The stone from Ilkley Moor has been blackened with age, and there are stories of ghosts. The house has lost much of its agricultural lands, but still sits as a jewel in the crown. Built in the 1600s, the volunteer staff will entertain you with many a tale. Once split into separate dwellings, with many families living in the house, the phrase 'if only walls could talk' springs to mind. The panelled interior and plaster work ceilings are interesting. The house contains some period furniture and is sensitively decorated. I thoroughly enjoyed the interior. There is a craft room where you can sew, and also an excellent collection of embroidery I showed on my textile blog

    Yet the NT website promised an awakening of the gardens and I was a little disappointed on the whole. Yes, there were signs of spring in the hellebores, iris, crocus and daffodils yet there is so much more that could be achieved in this garden for relatively little outlay. The garden is formed of three areas, around the lake and entrance, a formal garden at the back of the hall and another area beyond that. To the side there is also a bird watch. There is also a dye garden and herb garden, but they both looked in poor shape. I now see from the website that there is also a meadow walk with a grass maze (I can just see it in my pic with the espalier, probably far too muddy at this time of year), no-one mentioned this, I saw no sign for it and no path to it- it runs along the River Aire.

    Clematis seed heads were still clinging on the entrance to the formal garden area. Hellebores were found dotted all over in many colours. Borrowed views of the landscape beyond make the garden seem bigger. It is definitely worth a visit to the Hall, but for garden lovers a summer's day might find more plants in the garden.

    I visited in the first week in March 2017.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2017

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