Garden Blog

  • Seasons - Winter

    Poor winter. It always comes too early and leaves too late. What it is about winter that we cannot get over it too quickly? Winter has only just begun (officially 21st December) yet we start immediately looking for signs of spring.

    So let me say a few words in praise of winter. The white landscape blessed with snow or kissed by frost that is necessary to kill off bugs and to give plants a rest. The tracery of bare branches against the sky. Frosted leaves that look so pretty. Berries clinging to shrubs to provide much-needed food for birds. Those bright cold days with clear skies and low sunshine that seems to glow.

    If you do have deep snow, knock it off the branches of shrubs and trees to alleviate the weight, but leave it elsewhere as insulation. Make sure plants like Artemisia and Achillea are dry at the crown to prevent rot. Often we dislike winter because we have not planted for the season. Try to make space for a few handsome winter shrubs such as Hamamelis, Chimonanthus or Parrotia. Hellelbores will provide colour, cut back the leaves to reveal those blooms and I always find Ranunculus provide a welcome winter drift with their small yet interestingly coloured leaves. With the right winter plants, you will not wish winter away so quickly.

    Each season has its purpose. Appreciate the winter artistry of nature. Embrace the rest from digging, cutting back and deadheading. Yes it is cold, and it is my least favourite season. I am a hibernator. Yet if spring comes too soon, frosts will only kill off the plants with their tender buds. So enjoy the season, for what it is. Rest for the plants, a time to plan and re-adjust. It rarely pays to sow seed early either, these too just take longer to grow and later sowing often catch up with earlier ones. Sow something different, there is so much to try.

    Enjoy the silhouettes, the sunrises, the photo opportunities. Relax and plan what to sow and how to sow it. There's never been a better time than now.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • When Autumn Leaves Turn To Gold

    I dillied and dallied and autumn turned to winter too fast. One moment the leaves were turning to glorious colours and I was thinking, wow I must do an autumn post. However I was wrapped up in my new book Woven Textiles of Tunisia, and suddenly it seemed that autumn had vanished.

    To be fair we have still only had one night of frost (although I might have escaped a couple of nights at the beginning of November as I was in sunny Greece), but one night last week changed the landscape of the garden from dazzling colours to silvered and nipped with frost, plants limp and reeling from the cold. Those blazing fiery hues of autumn leaves fell to the ground and became brown and wizened and often wet and soggy. I had been astonished to see asters, cornflowers, red hot pokers, verbena bonariensis and rudbeckia still going strong to the end of November.

    One is reminded of the eternal cycle, the return to earth, the renewal that follows. But for a while it will be frosty photos. So I recall the beautiful colours of autumn. I particularly love the rusty colours of Taxodium.

    You can enjoy year-round colour with my gardening books

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • The Greening of Cities

    Coming from Sheffield, one of the greenest cities in England and having just spent a week in Athens, Greece, I was struck by the lack of greenery in the city. Once you get out of Athens itself, there is beautiful scenery and I know the Pelopennese bursts into flower each spring, but Athens would be a much nicer place if those rows upon rows of concrete apartment blocks greened up their balconies let alone the roofs.

    Occasionally you will pass the wondrous waft of jasmine scent, occasionally a few orange trees, or a splash of bougainvillea. I have no idea how many apartment blocks there are in Athens, but they are endless and far too few have any greenery at all. I know there are restrictions in the U.K. on having plants on balconies in some apartments - check your lease - but such restrictions are rare overseas.

    I passed two parks regularly, both with a forlorn, almost uncared for look about them, not welcoming with nary a flower in sight. One redeeming feature in the city is the National Gardens, around the Parliament building. Visit in daytime only.

    By the Acropolis Museum is a beautiful garden space, but the only one I saw. There are trees growing up the side of Lycabettus Hill too. However, I want to make a gentle plea to Athenians to green up their city. Be proud, be happy, love green.

    Words and image Karen Platt 2016

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