Karen Platt's Blog

  • Not everyone is a plant nerd

    I admit to being a plant nerd. It's not that I have to have the latest plants, it's that I desire the ultimate desirable plants, the unusual. Some plants leave me cold. I am convinced I shall never have my dream garden for it would cost far too much. As another garden show opens with its lure of new plants, what are the British public planting?

    Last month I took a train journey and on the way I had to spend almost an hour in the middle of nowhere waiting for a connection in Lincolnshire. What to do? Have camera, will take plant pics. I walked the streets and photographed front gardens.

    The British public, if this is a typical example, is not very adventurous with plants. The gardens mainly belonged to bungalows, so I am guessing the occupants were over 65 and retired. Many still plant in single plants, spaced neatly around a lawn. Not a drift to be seen. Colour is usually a jumble. The plants are cheap, cheerful and reliable. No-one is going out on a limb. No-one is taking a risk. At least most gardens were neat in this area, none were uncared for.

    Reliable trees, usually planted on the very edge of the garden include Fagus (beech), Betula (birch) and Eucalyptus (eucalypt) with smaller gardens, if they have a tree always plumping for Acer (Japanese maples). The predominant flower colour is pink, the predominant leaf colour and backdrop colour is green with one or two exceptions. In style, there was a balance between shrubby borders and herbaceous borders and a few potted plants.

    From the round border with vibrant colouring colouring provided by oriental poppies surrounded by a herbaceous border with Geranium, Sisyrichium and Phlomis, to the Weigela, Hydrangea, Lavatera and Ceanothus shrubby borders, I guess this is a fair cross-section of what the British public plant. I am seeing more Phlomis than I used to. Lots of roses were in evidence, both hybrids and shrubby rugosa types. Petunias and Viola, potted Pelargonium, Argyranthemum and Lavandula were providing summer bedding. Yet there were one or two surprises, it was nice to see the golden fuchsia as well as the obvious choice of F. 'Riccartonii', one garden had a handsome pink-flowered Hebe, someone had been bold enough to plant a dark-leaved beech as a shrubby hedge and also plant the dark-leaved Corylus next to a blue conifer offering a striking combination.

    There was one shining star for me and it is the first time I have seen it outside a show garden or magazine. Leycesteria 'Golden Lanterns' looked absolutely fabulous - a must-have. There was also a fine example of Choisya ternata 'Sundance' often so poorly grown in the U.K. What's it like in your neck of the woods? Are people more adventurous with their plantings?

    Catch up with colour and how to use it in my fabulous colour books online

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • Buxton Pavilion Gardens

    In April this year I visited Buxton Pavilion Gardens, the indoor garden was wonderful with so many plants. Primula, begonia (in leaf and flower), Abutilon in every colour from white to deep red, Ranunculus tightly furled and perfect, Cyclamen, Pericallis and so much more. Foliage backdrops included Dicksonia, Cycas, Monstera, ferns, Araucaria cunninghamii and more making a wonderful green wrap around the vibrant colours of the flowers. A little foliage colour was added with scented leaf Pelargonium and Tradescantia. Poinsettia were still exhibiting colourful bracts as well as Caladium. Plants as diverse as Hydrangea, Anthurium and Hyacinthus had made their home here. Having a bad hair day as always was Allium 'Hair', a curious plant, but I love it. Clivia and Justicia (the shrimp plant) added further exotic touches. There was even a banana growing up against the window.

    Outdoors there were planters of spring bulbs and further along golden Spiraea growing underneath the conservatory windows, rather badly pruned I thought. Opposite at the edge of the pavilion gardens were Magnolia stellata and Pulmonaria (lungwort).

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • 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

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    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.

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