Karen Platt's Blog

  • Think Colour - Think White

    White can be used to brighten areas of shade and also in combination with silver or with green to create a peaceful oasis. Although I like white plants and am tempted by a white garden, it isn't a whim I have indulged as yet. Be wary of black and white, it might sound good but is difficult to achieve with success since you have to factor in that tricky green foliage.

    White plants are often tinged pink or blue and even the best can be a bit grey. Go for pure whites with a yellow eye if you can and use that yellow eye to link to yellow flowers or foliage. Soften the starkness with grey-leaved plants, which will also add to the yellow areas when in flower as most of them come in this colour range.

    From humble English daisies to rare alpines, spring bulbs to Rhododendrons, your gardens can be as pure as driven snow. It's still quite a rarity, but white foliage is not unknown - have a look at Hostas and Caladiums.

    I wrote about white flowers in my book Silver Lining. If you haven't got your copy yet, it's available from the online shop.

    All images copyright Karen Platt 2012.

  • Think Colour - Think Silver

    Sparkling, shimmering silver is actually a fairly quiet colour in the garden. It is best used to tone down schemes and to unite what might seem discordant areas. Although some flowers are called silver, to my eye, silver is almost exclusively a foliage colour. In fact, it is plain grey but that sounds so boring and silver is anything but boring.

    Silver is not just for silver surfers or those with a blue rinse. It is a trendy, modern colour that suits minimalist planting down to the ground. Think balls of Santolina, silver-leaved Lavandula in tall pots, a silver pear surrounded by purple Liriope. Whether it's silver leaves, silvery white flowers or variegated leaves, silver adds another dimension to the garden.

    It looks superb with white as one might expect and as such this pairing is frequently used in moon gardens. However, I love it with vibrant red and orange, when it really comes alive. It's a natural with black too and purple suits it well. There are lots of options. Many daisy type flowers have silver foliage - think Senecio, Artemisia and these always come with yellow daisies.

    Of course, silver loves dry conditions, it is often killed by winter wet. Excellent drainage is essential for a successful border. Incorporate plenty of grit in the compost and watch out for rotting off. Many silvery plants are hairy and some are soft to touch adding a sensual dimension to the garden. who has not stroked bunny ears? Stachys byzantina.

    My book Silver Lining was the first on the subject for around 50 years and describes over 2400 silver plants with 375 photographs. It also includes plenty of tips and garden design suggestions. It is available in the online shop.

  • Think Colour - Think Orange

    Staying with bright tones, I really love orange. It is often used in autumn plantings along with fiery red and sunny yellow. However, it makes a great addition to the garden year round. If you are thinking yuk, I would not be seen dead with bright orange in my garden, think again. Bright saturated orange, may be hard to take and is often best used with caution but you don't have to go Fanta orange even though there is nothing wrong with being bold.

    Orange in the garden encompasses bronze, toffee, caramel and butterscotch to mention a few. Think all those gorgeous new Heuchera shades and Carex. Whatever strength of orange you choose to plant, it's a happy, warm, sociable colour, so don't leave it out of your scheme. It mixes well with purple and green and simply sets black on fire.

    When I think orange in spring, I am thinking Begonia, Crocus, Gerbera, Lilium, Tulipa and Viola as well as fab foliage.  Glorious Hippeastrum and Kalanchoe brighten my indoor space. When I wrote my book on orange plants, Fruit Cocktail, I included a whole range of tempting shades that come under the umbrella of orange. I've described over 2300 plants, many with sumptuous photos. Get your copy from the online shop now.

  • Think Colour - Think Red

    Is red for danger? Hardly in a garden capacity, yet there are those who are afraid of this dynamic colour. Red is a strong colour and just a little can make a big difference. It's more a colour for summer, especially late summer gardens, when we can allow ourselves a final fling, a firework display.

    In spring, red will mingle well with fresh greens and yellows. You might well prefer a muted red in spring. This often brash colour is quite accommodating as it comes in a variety of shades. Most popular in the garden are bright reds found in tulips to burgundy and muted maroons verging on purples of much popular foliage.

    Red primulas brighten a bed of tulips. Flamboyant Hippeastrums and Pelargoniums make a windowsill look smart. Outdoors you can continue the flamboyant show with red lilies and stands of red fritillaries - the crown imperial. Rosettes of red Sempervivums are cheerful in tufa tubs or gravel. There is little lovelier than red roses that will start to bloom at the end of this season with a foretaste of summer.

    It's easy to create a red foliage bed with Acer, Pieris, Photinia, Berberis, Heuchera, Cercis and Cercidiphyllum to name but a few. Most of these are often referred to as purple, but many are maroon based and will work well together colourwise.

  • Think Colour - Think Green

    Cool green is such a gorgeous colour. I absolutely adore green flowers. Lush green foliage is taken for granted but green flowers are rarer. Use variegated foliage to act as a link when planting coloured areas. For example, green cream variegated foliage can enhance plantings and act as a link between areas of cream to yellow flower plantings. Think chartreuse and lime and use the whole array of green shades of foliage for a rich palette. Green foliage is a natural foil for all colours in the garden.

    Green flowers are still quite rare, however I managed to find over 1,000 when I wrote the first ever book devoted to green flowers. From the amended leaf bracts of one Anemone to the true green flowers of Arisaema, Chrysanthemum, Clematis, Dianthus, Euphorbia and Fritillaria to name but a few, there is a green plant to suit every gardener and every garden situation. There are other greens that are not quite pure greens, the unusual and rather yellowish (when I grew it)  Viola Green Goddess; the to die for Strongylodon macrobotrys - a sea green with a hint of turquoise and the lovely hard to describe green (has been called jade by some) of the not-so-easy to grow (give it lots of sun) Hermodactylus tuberosus. From the humble to the exotic, green flowers can grace your garden and add an extra dimension. If you love the unusual, you'll enjoy growing green flowers.

    Grow green flowers with black, orange, yellow or red. I love chartreuse with purple. Your neighbours will be green with envy and you'll be the coolest gardener in town.

    Get your copy of Emeralds, my book of over 1,000 green flowers plus 500 choice green foliage plants from the online store now.



  • Think Colour - passionate purple

    Purple is a glorious colours. It comes in many variations in the garden, and is often labelled as blue for some reason. Of course, it is connected to blue, but is still distinct and the two should not be confused. The confusion only seems to occur in gardening, not in any other field - fashion or interior decorating for example. Anything from palest purple to deep violet makes a welcome contribution to the garden.

    Purple has the ability to mix with many other colours - if you want vibrant opt for violet, deep pink and orange with a touch of chartreuse. If you love pastels, paler purples look fantastic with pastel pinks and yellows. It looks great with blue and with deep purple, maroon or black foliage.

    Purple is an easy colour for spring as many spring flowers come in this colour range - Anemone, Crocus, Primula, Hepatica, Aquilegia, Allium and so on.

    From discussions with people at shows and other plant lovers - purple is probably the most popular colour. The purple book is almost finished and will be launched soon - watch this space.

    All photos copyright Karen Platt 2012.

  • Think Colour - True Blue in spring

    Blue is one of those very delectable but debatable colours in gardening. True blue is rare and therefore lots of plants are named or described as blue when they are actually a shade of purple. However, sparkling blue does exist and in some quantity, enough to use in the garden to make a real difference. See them in the flesh before buying if you want true blue.

    I have always loved blue. It reflects the heavens. It is perhaps more often found in summer plants than those in spring. Although bulbs come to the fore in spring with Chionodoxa, Muscari and Hyacinthus (all variable in colour), Scilla and Tecophilea, the latter more reliably blue. The blue Anenomes are unfortunately purple. This can work to advantage of course creating a purple to blue border, just make sure you choose purples that are blue-based and not red.

    Look to the alpines including Gentiana. Corydalis offer some of the most stunning blues, remember they are dormant in summer. Pulmonarias offer blue flowers but you will have to tolerate pinks too in most cases. If you are going for the blue-purple theme, you could introduce the reddish purples here.

    Some herbs offer blue flowers too, the best being found in Borago and Rosmarinus. Take a look at humble Myosotis, and the similar flowers of Brunnera (secondary to the foliage). If you love the more unusual Myosotidium will suit. Violas can appear in startling blues. Late winter iris are sometimes still in flower at the start of spring and Hydrangeas can start to flower at the end of spring.

    Don't forget foliage. Hostas can add a bluish backdrop to your plantings, there is more than one blue grass but beware the invasive nature of Leymus. The cedars are amongst my favourite trees and come in blue forms.

    Blue was the second colour book I was writing way back in the 1990s, must get that finished.

  • Think Colour- Going for Gold

    This is the second post in the Think Colour series for gardeners. Today I am exploring yellow in spring. Yellow is another ubiquitous colour in the spring garden. One associated with Narcissus (daffodils) and forsythia. I often prefer my daffodils with a touch of orange. There is nothing like a patch of Forsythia blooms on bare branches against a blue spring sky. I so much prefer to call yellow gold. A touch of gold adds a sparkle to any garden.

    In the spring garden yellow associates well with blue and purple. Think large drifts of strong yellow and purple crocus. I must admit I am not a big lover of yellow flowers, they are the colour I probably plant least of. When I do opt for yellow, I tend to opt for the paler end of the spectrum. I also opt more for golden foliage than flowers admiring golden Acers (maples), golden Sambucus and more gold foliage that is just bursting into spring colour. Remember if you are afraid of yellow and fear it shouts too much, you can find much paler variations that will suit you. I love Primula species, the yellow of Ranunculus (lesser celandine), Rhododendron luteum and so many more. My seating arrangement is opposite my golden bed and there's is nothing I love more than gazing at this happy planting - try it yourself - gold can definitely lift your mood.

    Going for Gold is a great theme this year, with the Olympics being held in London. My book, 'Gold Fever' concentrates on golden foliage with over 1,000 fabulous golden foliage plants plus 100 yellow flowers and 100 variegated leaved plants. It's available only from the online store.

    All images copyright Karen Platt 2012.

  • Think Colour - Perfect in Pink

    Welcome to the new blog series on colour. I shall be taking a look at a different colour each week throughout the seasons and showing some fabulous photos of colourful plants. At the end of all the blogs, there will be (if there is not already) a book on each colour to celebrate the joy of plants. The books will explore far more plants than possible in a blog. Of course, some plants overlap seasons, but I have tried to slot them into their main growing seasons. I have chosen plants that are suitable for many climates. Enjoy colour.

    This week I am celebrating pink in the spring garden. Think Pink. Spring is in the air, the sun is coming up, the soil is warming and shoots are appearing. Spring bulbs take pride of place in most gardens. Spring is renewal, regeneration. A time to celebrate colour. Pink is a wonderful joyous colour whatever the season, but I particularly enjoy it in spring. Its vibrancy seems perfect for spring days, sun and blue skies. It predominates in spring bulbs and goes well with other colours found in spring bulbs such as purple and yellow. However, spring is more than a bulb colour, its generosity can be enjoyed in many plants. Mike Burgess of Secret Seeds once said to me "If it's not pink, it doesn't sell", so it's easy to understand that ubiquitous pink is the colour preferred by many gardeners in the UK and elsewhere.

    When I think of pink in spring I think tulips, anemone, dicentra and much more.

    All photos copyright 2012 Karen Platt.

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