Think Colour

  • 2017 Colour of the Year - Green

    When it comes to the garden, green is so ubiquitous, it is the colour we do not even think about. It is relegated to backdrop, ever present but hardly registering on the visual scale as eyes fix on highlights of colour as if they are popping around a pinball machine. The backdrop fades into nothing but a blur, necessary but not the main feature. Yet the wizard of the garden is green - especially when it comes to flowers. For green flowers in the garden are used as rarely as those sought after blacks and blues and can provide stunning colour.

    My research led me to find over a 1,000 green flowers for the garden from exotic orchids to common garden annuals you can grow so easily from seed. Whilst I love Paphiopedilums, I realise that not everyone would want to grow one, but even the kids can sprinkle a few Nicotiana seeds and enjoy lime green flowers.

    I have a preference for lime green or chartreuse and many of the flowers are in this colour range. If there is one plant I must mention outside this colour range it is the jade green Strongylodon, the plant that sent me off on my research. One I would gladly buy a heated greenhouse for if I had the space and money. Be bold and plant it with purple and a dash of orange or go all out for green and red. Whatever you plant, make 2017 colourful and include a few greens in the garden, even if it is just adding a few lettuce, potager-style to the border.

    Discover a whole new world of green flowers for your garden and some choice variegated plants, there's 25% off now until stocks last

    Words, images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Planting Black Plants


    The black and white theme take great skill. If 'black' is not usually black, 'white' is just as often not pure either. Here are some tips for planting a good black and white scheme.

    1. Keep the planting and design simple to allow the strong colour to take maximum effect.

    2. Choose darks that keep their colour reliably over a long period of time. All black plants have chlorophyll and some black plants are green in spring when they first appear or gradually lose their blackness and become green in summer.

    3. It is best to choose whites of a similar tone but darks are best in varied tone.

    4. Do you want whites that appear blue, yellow or pink in your scheme.

    5. Think carefully about siting. Darks are often at their best in a sunny site. Even when their green counterparts will appreciate shade, putting black plants in shade is usually the best way to turn them green.

    6. Think carefully about the green foliage and stems.

    Try black and white Alcea (hollyhocks), Aquilegia (columbine), Lilium (lily), Lathyrus (sweetpeas) and more. Black Ophiopogon plansicapus Nigrescens and white Liriope and Hosta.

  • Planting For Colour


    Colour can be used to create mood in the garden. It can also make a space look larger or smaller. Think of how colours react with one another, how they look with your hardscaping. Here are some ideas to consider to use colour effectively in your garden.

    1. Silver and gold plants reflect light and are useful in small gardens.

    2. Shade is the place to plant blue.

    3. Use gold in spring or autumn in temperate gardens and in midsummer in areas of strong sunshine that can take saturated yellow. It looks so good against blue skies.

    4. Orange is often best used in small quantities, it really as an attention-getter.

    5. Red is another attention-getter.

    6. Autumn is a great time for a hot border - reds and oranges through to yellow. The dying embers of the season.

    7. Black is a great highlight that makes other colours seem more intense too.

    8. Think about colours that recede and advance. Blue recedes, red advances. Dark colours also advance whereas pale colours recede. Dazzling, saturated colours advance.

    9. Don't be afraid of one colour borders, incorporating the hues, shades and tones of one colour.

    10. Decide on a theme or mood - soothing, cool, dramatic.

    Our full range of books on gardening with colour is available online

  • Pic of the Day

    Short of time this week and last, well since August last year as something is taking up time which should not be doing so. It is unfortunately, circumstances out of my control. Instead of the usual blog, today it's a pic of the day.

    From next week, I am hoping to start a new plant blog with beautiful photos to share with all of you. This will be launched every Monday and have a special weekly offer, so stay tuned.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2013.


  • Think Garden Colour Think Pink Echinacea in Autumn

    Echinaceas are such wonderful plants. They create an interesting display with great flower shape and colour over a long period into autumn. These herbaceous plants have become a mainstay of many colourful gardens over the past decade. Much breeding has been done, but you might still prefer the simpler flowers. I do love the new colours but pink is still on everyone's list.

    Easy to grow, handsome plants that will just keep giving. Incorporate Echinaceas into your borders and you'll not regret it.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2013. I have not written a book on pink yet (think that would take the rest of my life as every plant seems to come in pink - but I have been thinking about doing it - someone stop me please), however I have written on black, green, orange, white and yellow plants and purple flowers is almost ready to launch. You can see my books here.

  • Think Colour - Think Black Plants in Summer

    Summer is so wonderful for so many reasons - blue skies, warmth and above all bountiful gardens. It's the time when the black garden comes to life. Some leaves will fade in heat and show a paler or greener colour yet others know when to turn the show on and become even darker still. Amongst those that love the heat and make a great summer show are Aeonium 'Zwartkop' and Ipomoea in its many dark varieties. You can make a gorgeous foliage show of black plants, and because the tones are different and you'll choose different types of foliage, it really works.

    Today I have chosen black Iris. Some of these are truly black so forget the saying that there is no such thing as a black plant. Irises are one of the most fabulous flowers and once you get hold of an American catalogue like Schreiner's Gardens, you'll be drooling at what is known as the rainbow plant. Yet black suits it perfectly - it is the classic little black dress and tuxedo of the plant world, ready to dazzle. Schreiner's have introduced the best range of black iris over the years. Tall bearded iris have the pick of the crop. Plant them with the rhizome just showing proud of the soil and let them bake. They hate being overshadowed and need plenty of heat and sunshine. Iris chrysographes is one of the few naturally dark plants, but even this has been selected to produce 'black' forms. Iris iberica ssp iberica is one I always think of as 'monkey face' more brown and white, but the blotches are near black.

    I have written a number of black plant books. 'Black Magic and Purple Passion' is in its third printed edition, just a handful of copies left. The 4th edition is now available with many plants not included in the 3rd and is available as an ebook only. I have written an ebook on Black Iris and also on 100 Best of Black Plants. These are all available here.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2013.

  • Think Colour - Think White in Summer

    Pure, bridal, what is better than white in summer? Give it a background of green and white is super cool. Difficult to photograph well, white is a still a superb colour for the garden and for bouquets. Pure white is not easy to find, so expect a hint of colour - usually blue, green or even pink or yellow. A contrasting edge around petals serves to render the whites even whiter.

    Since Lilium regale is one of the highlights of my summer display, not only for its fabulous flowers, but equally for its scent, I have chosen to share white lilies with you this week.

    If you are growing lilies, beware of the pollen as it does stain. Choose from different lily categories to have a long season show. Do choose the most scented varieties to thrill your nose as well as your eyes. Enjoy.

    If you love white flowers, don't forget your copy of Silver Lining as this plant book features white flowers. If you love gardens and garden design, enjoy a copy of Lifestyle Gardening too. You can buy these books here.

    Words and photos copyright Karen Platt 2013.

  • Think Colour Think Silver in Summer

    I love silver plants, silver shimmers all year round. Allow it to harmonise plantings and act as a go between colours that are clashing.

    I've chosen to highlight Celmisia this week. These alpines are beautiful with their often spiky leaves. They look great even without flowers. They grow well in pots with attention to drainage. Celmisia spectabilis has broad leaves but they are silvery on the underside and quite green on top. However, many Celmisias have very narrow and truly silvered foliage.

    If you love silver plants, take a look at Silver Lining, the most comprehensive book on the subject that describes 2400 silver plants. You can buy a copy here.

    Words and images copyright 2013 Karen Platt.

  • Think Colour, Think Orange Roses in Summer

    If one plant is the must have in summer, it has to be the rose; symbol of eternal romance. Orange roses are symbolic of friendship too. They are perfect for a place to socialise and can form part of an outdoor entertaining area or a formal garden. I know some gardeners shun orange, red and yellow, but there are peachy and apricot roses too that are worth seeking out. In fact roses exist in all orange hues from a mere touch to deep saturated orange. Be bold and daring with colour and combine your orange roses with purple. For those who like to be conservative, mingle with yellow.

    I love this joyous colour and it really does suit roses. I love climbers on swags, ramblers around doors, hybrid teas in the border in informal plantings. Don't crowd the roots of roses, they are shallow rooting plants and you don't want to be digging around the crowns. I like to buy bareroot roses in November and heel them in if the weather is bad. One of the hottest debates in the world of gardening is do you bury the union or not? Burying the union stabilises your plant. Don't bury it too deep. Prepare your soil well too. Divas, are they? I'm not sure I could live without roses. Prune well and your rose could last a long, long time. They are one of the longest living plants that give so much in the way of flowers. Isn't something that gives so much, worth a little extra effort?

    Words and images Karen Platt copyright 2013.

  • Think Colour - Think Red in Summer

    Papaver Red Poppies

    The epitome of red plants in summer must surely be the poppies. I love poppies and daring red suits them to perfection. Of course, they have their association with the men that lost their lives in the war for Poppy Day, but fields of poppies never make me think of blood. More a warm glow, a dash of bright colour and joy.

    Immortalized by artists, red field poppies are a less frequent sight than when I was young, owing to pesticides. A field of poppies is a breathtaking sight especially under a blue summer sky. The field poppy is Papaver rhoeas. The poppy normally chosen to grace our gardens is Papaver somniferum - the annual with large flowers in single or double form. Must say I personally prefer the singles, more graceful and yet they have more impact than all those fussy petals found on doubles. I never knew this but it is the milky latex that contains the opiates found in opium and codeine. Poppies sometimes have a black blotch of thumbprint at the base of each petal. The seed heads themselves are very decorative.

    I don't have a photo but Mecomopsis puniceus - the red Himalayan poppy is very choice.

    Wherever you plant them, they will catch the eye - that's why people hate red in gardens - it is so noticeable. I love red.

    Whatever your favourite colour, take a look at my garden books on colour here

    Words and images Karen Platt 2013

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