Karen Platt's Blog

  • Think Colour - pink in autumn

    Ubiquitous pink still spreads its charm in autumn (fall). When all else might be fireworks, pastel pink can create an aura of calm. Yet, at this time of year I am more likely to go for the stronger pinks. As a gardener you always have a choice of tone, often too much choice. Anemones often take pride of place. Cosmos is still going strong as are Hemerocallis.

    One word about autumn, I am much more a spring and summer photographer, rarely venturing out much after October when I go into hibernation until February, some years I prefer to stay in hibernation until April, but this is usually impossible owing to obligations. This year I shall make some attempt to be an autumn and winter photographer too. However, many of the photos in this autumn section are of plants that are essentially summer plants that venture to overstay their welcome. In truth, they have a last finale, a final fling in early autumn. When the first frosts come, they are nipped in the bud. These include annuals and tender perennials that love the warmth such as Canna, Dahlia, Salvia and more. If you have been a tidy, diligent gardener and trimmed certain plants back after flowering earlier in the year, some will repay you with a second flush of flowers at this time of year such as Dianthus and hardy Geranium. Others, of course, are decidedly autumnal such as Colchicum, the autumn crocus.

    Photos and text copyright Karen Platt 2012

  • Think Colour - Summer combinations

    Here are some of the plants that I find work well together in summer. This is the time when our gardens always look their best, so there is only a small selection here but there is still lots to try out.

    No matter where you are gardening, follow the right plant, right place theory and you cannot go far wrong. Place darks against lights and look to the plants themselves to provide ideas for colour combinations. You can choose bold colours or pastels for the look you want. My stand at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2005 proved that black plants can work successfully together. In 2003 I created a black and gold garden at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and at the San Francisco Garden Show. My books have many more examples of plants, available in the store. They help you discover a world of colour and to see colour in the garden in a new light.

  • Think Colour - Black in summer

    You might think summer is not the time for black plants. However, it adds a dark dimension that I think all gardens need. Furthermore, many black plants need the heat of summer to start turning their green leaves to black. Many black foliage plants look at their best in summer. Allow them to form a backdrop for sunnier coloured flowers.

    Many summer flowers can be found in near black such as Hemerocallis, Penstemon, Lathyrus (sweet peas) and so on. However the best blacks in summer are found in foliage such as Sambucus. One still needs to remember that black is no more than an umbrella term for the darkest plants in horticulture.

    If you love black plants, check out our online store for the 3rd and 4th editions of Black Magic and Purple Passion, The 100 Best Black Plants and more.

    Images copyright Karen Platt 2012

  • Think Colour - White in Summer

    With the update to the Seed Search in full swing, I thought I'd get this done today. I'll revert to Sunday hopefully on 5th August.

    Nothing is as pure as a drift of white in summer. However, it's a tricker colour to deal with than many think. It needs a solid backdrop and nothing suits it more than green. White flowers against golden foliage as in Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus' look stunning. Black and white is stark and you have the problem of unwanted green foliage. I would therefore always choose green Buxus hedging, lots of white flowers with some golden foliage.

    Few flowers are absolutely pure white, they often have hints of pink or blue but one of the best for being pure is Cosmos, and there is a seed variety called 'Purity'. Again, the yellow centres of many white flowers can be picked up and echoed in yellow flowers or foliage. Under blue skies, there's nothing better than a white border or garden.

    Photos copyright Karen Platt 2012

  • Think Colour - Silver in summer

    Silver just shimmers in summer, there isn't really anything grey about it. It is so cool for the modern garden and suits concrete, steel and tin, all the accessories of the uber urban garden. It's a wonderfully calming colour in the garden, where you can chill after a hard day. Sophisticated and chic. It looks great with pale silvery blues as in Festuca glauca and this is a colour that can be picked up in any garden accessories when planting silver. It's a lovely foil in a white garden. I quite like to be daring and plant it with red. Many silver foliaged plants have yellow flowers (many of them belong to the daisy family such as Artemisia and Centaurea), the daisy flowers of Senecio (Cineraria maritima) and Artemisia or Tanacetum can be picked off if you don't like them and in this way you can just enjoy the foliage.

    I am short of photos for some reason, maybe I didn't complete my search through my 15,000 plus pics. However, if you love silver plants, you'll no doubt have a copy of my book, the most comprehensive of its kind, 'Silver Lining' describes all the silver plants you'll ever need with lots of photos. Available in the store now. It also includes fab white flowers, which are often described by some as silver.

    Images copyright Karen Platt 2012

  • Think Colour - Think orange in summer

    Warm and social, hot and spicy, bright and cheerful - it's orange in the garden. Orange plants are sunny year round and are often featured in 'hot' borders or in the 'sunset' border where they liven any planting. Not quite as daring as red; not trying to outdo the sun like yellow, orange sits comfortably in the garden.

    It's a perfect companion to lime green and chartreuse, mingles with red and yellow for 'hot' borders and comes in wonderful tones to set your mouth watering. If you like to be daring, try it with purple. Think peach, apricot, butterscotch, toffee and more. There's even foliage in this colour range. Think bright and bold Thunbergia, Tagetes and Lychnis. Subtle Achillea, Brugmansia and Digitalis. Some of my favourite summer plants in this colour are the clear orange Hemerocallis, Crocosmia (C. masoniorum being a real favourite for its upward facing blooms), Helenium, Kniphofia, Papaver, Eshscholzia and Canna to name a few.

    If you love orange plants, don't miss my book on orange flowers and foliage - Fruit Cocktail - available from the online store.

    Enjoy this week's photos, copyright Karen Platt 2012.

    N.B. Next week's blog on Silver in summer will be posted on Sunday, then we are back to Monday postings.

  • Think Colour - think red in summer

    Why not be dashing, daring and bold? Why are people afraid of strong colour in the garden? Some say use red and other bright colours only in small quantities. This is because it attracts the eye and what surrounds it pales in to insignificance. However, I long for glorious red and would not shy away from a red border.

    Red, like most colours comes in a multitude of hues from red hot to subtle pink, at the other end it turns into wines and burgundy. Rich sumptuous colours. I love clear red, the kind you find in Hemerocallis 'Christmas Is'. This kind of red goes well with green, orange and would you believe it - purple. For a touch of sensual velvet, there is nothing like a deep burgundy. Pinks seem to find their way into every garden and have been discussed in separate blogs.

    Celebrate bold colour in your garden, it will chase the rainclouds away.

    All photos copyright Karen Platt 2012.


  • Think Colour - think green in summer

    Green is so calm and peaceful and so ubiquitous that we might forget the fabulous green flowers that we can grow in our gardens. Green flowers can disappear against green foliage. It's therefore a good idea to grow them against golden foliage or in the white garden. The latter is where I would be inclined to place them. They complement a yellow planting and can echo the green eyes of some daisies. A quiet zone where you rest is also a suitable growing place for green flowers. Think zen. Think cool, calm, collected.

    Green flowers are available in everything from chartreuse through to dullish mid green. Sometimes yellow flowers are described as green, but the greens I choose are definitely green. Think the champagne cork effect of Alchemilla mollis' green flowers. The beauty of Zantedeschia. The quiet grace of Galtonia viridiflora. The punch of Nicotiana 'Lime'. If you have not tried green flowers yet, now is the time to do so.

    My book, 'Emeralds' is available in the online store. It was the first book ever written on green flowers and remains the most comprehensive of its kind with over 1,000 green flowers and over 500 choice green foliage plants.

    All photos are copyright Karen Platt 2012

  • Think Colour - think purple in summer

    Purple is one of my favourite colours in the garden. It is used freely by many designers. It's a colour few seem to object to. I have been working on my purple flower book for many years and it is almost ready to launch.

    Summer conjures images of masses of bellflowers, campanula gracing the rock garden and the the border. Whilst purple clematis adorn walls with panache. Herbaceous borders are full of Aconitum, Eryngium, Geranium, tall spikes of Delphinium, Lobelia, Penstemon, Salvia, Verbena and more. Is there anything better than lavender for edging? If you love lavender you will love my very comprehensive book on the subject available in the online store.

    It is a difficult colouring in some genus - purple roses, purple daylilies do not exist in large numbers. Of course, you can search the internet and find lists of purple flowers, but when you click you are confronted with anything but purple - many flowers chosen as being in this colour range are blue, pink or even red. Burgundy is often classed as purple - it is a wine colour and therefore red.

    True purple is regal. There is no colour more stately. I often think bearded iris are a good measure of colouring - they seems to contain most pure colours. They sit on the fence between spring and summer and make a wonderful transition into the glory of flower power that is summer.

    Photos copyright Karen Platt 2012

  • Think Colour - Think Blue in summer

    Blue conjures visions of drifts of bearded iris, Ceanothus and that most startling of blues Commelina coelestis or C. tuberosa Coelestis group as it is now supposed to be called. If you are interested in plant name changes and what they are - find out what plants used to be called and their current name in my book Plant Names available in the online store.

    Blue is quite rare and since so many plants that are called blue are actually a shade of purple, it's rarer than you think. However, there are some good blues out there is summer such as Delphinium, Salvia and the annuals such as Centaurea and Nigella and even some blue foliage found in Hosta and some grasses such as Alopecurus and Festuca amongst others. One of the clearest and most sought after blues is the lovely Meconopsis, best grown in cool climates. The rare Tweedia caerulea is also sought after for good reason.

    It's a beautiful colour to include in any garden and is reminiscent of blue skies, whether they are present or not. It blends well with lemon and orange and the bluer purples as well as pink.

    Photos copyright Karen Platt 2012.

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