Karen Platt's Blog

  • Heirloom Plants by L. Harrison & R. Warner


    Heirloom Plants by Lorraine Harrison & Ray Warner, hardback published by Ivy Press. ISBN 9781782403173, price 18.99 available from www.ivypress.co.uk

    Heirloom seeds are dear to my heart and that's why I featured them in my book the Seed Search. In fact Ray Warner's seed company, Thomas Etty Esq, was featured in it. This book is based on their seed lists of heirloom plants, giving information, detailed profiles and cultivation for many heirlooms. Growing heirlooms contributes to biodiversity. Although there are laws governing the registration of vegetable seed, many heirlooms are not registered because they are not deemed to be commercially viable - in other words, they would not sell enough packets of seed. Gardeners are therefore presented with a limited variety of unusual veg. With heirlooms you can enjoy something different. These varieties have often been passed down through seed saving from generation to generation. This book is full of heritage vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. It also has good historical notes. Grow something interesting today.

  • A Winter Walk

    There is nothing better than a bit of sunshine in winter. Days can be so grey and wet. As soon as the sun comes out I like to go for a walk.

    As the sun came up this morning, it was clear that it was going to be ok for a while. I decided on a rather long walk uphill to the Botanic gardens. They were looking neat and trim, all the hedges had been cut and a lots of the borders tidied. I was searching for purple plants for my new book, but no luck except for one iris unguicularis hiding amongst its sword-edged foliage.

    However, I took about 100 photos outdoors and in the glasshouse. The light beyond coming over the hills was beautiful and very inspiring. The tracery of bare branches was simply entrancing.

    Hellebores were looking good, snowdrops were just beginning to open. I was saddened to see the darkest hellebores had disappeared, theft from the gardens has been a problem for years - the maroon and pink ones are still there and the green ones increase year on year but people obviously filch the dark ones.

    The ridge and furrow glasshouses are in need of a paint. I hope they are not going to be allowed to fall into disrepair after they were rescued and renovated by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

    I'd love to see more purple in the garden. Who's in charge of planting?

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • My Gardening Year 2015

    Highlight of my year was definitely my trip to Madeira. This is my kind of garden paradise. Unusual plants, palms, cycads, tropicals, and fabulous flowers even in December. The gardens are simply fantastic. They are also easily accessible by public transport. My guide to the gardens of Funchal including the low-down on plants, detailed guides to gardens and my itinerary will be out shortly.

    Writing is always ongoing and on my to finish list I still have the purple flowers and blue plants books. So 2016 should be a bumper colour year. I have other plans for new books too so stay tuned.

    I have also been developing my gluten-free range of foods, which I am looking forward to launching soon along with a cookbook.

    This year I have launched the ultimate last-minute garden Xmas gift - you can purchase ebooks up to Xmas Eve and have them delivered to any email on Xmas morning.


    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Garden Made by Stephanie Rose


    Garden Made by Stephanie Rose, softback published by Roost Books. ISBN 9781611801743, price 16.49 available in the UK from PGUK

    This book is sheer delight for any gardener who loves to craft. 40 down-to-earth projects will keep you busy all year round. Enjoy creating personal and individually crafted items for your garden. You'll see mini photos of all the projects arranged by season at the front of the book. Get closer to nature, involve the kids, have fun and create practical gifts or items for your own garden. Beautiful photography enhances this book. My favourite project is the felted acorns, so colourful and lovely. The bug hotel is a close second. This book has a wide variety of projects with broad appeal.

  • Top Ten Plants for Berries

    At this time of year, there is nothing better than the sight of bright red, orange or even yellow berries. Apart from looking attractive, they provide much-needed food for birds. Berries provide birds with antioxidants. Pyracantha and Sorbus are among those that provide yellow berries as well as the more obvious colours. Hedera, if not clipped back, will produce black berries whilst Callicarpa produces bright purple berries. What are the best plants for berries? Apart from the obvious summer to late autumn fruits, here's my top ten.

    The list is in no particular order.

    1. Ilex (Holly)

    2. Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan)

    3. Cotoneaster

    4. Pyracantha

    5. Viburnum (Guelder Rose and others)

    6. Rose hips

    7. Crataegus (Hawthorn)

    8. Berberis (Barberry)

    9. Cornus species (Dogwoods)

    10. Callicarpa

  • Silent Beauties by Leendert Blok


    00004037.tifSilent Beauties by Leendert Blok, hardback published by Hatje Cantz. ISBN 9783775740371, price 39.55 available from www.hatjecantz.de

    This book has a sumptuous cover, that looks and feels like silk. It shows an image of old florists' tulips. Such is the photography throughout the book, taken from 1920s photographs. It is of interest to gardeners and photographers alike. The original edition was published in France by Xavier Barral in 2014, and the reproductions of the original images have been made in France. There is a short introduction by Gilles Clement expanding upon the work of Blok and of flower art in the eyes of 1920s photographers such as Karl Blossfeldt. Blok was a pioneer of colour photography in the Netherlands. He experimented with panoramic formats and new techniques. Some of the images are small, single flowers, predominantly tulips. In the groups of flowers, the tulips are arranged their bent stems having purpose and reminiscent of Blossfeldt's work. Sometimes the name of the tulip is given, but no other information. Since many of these tulips are still grown today, it would have been an idea to include a little information. Narcissus also feature in the book as well as Dahlias, Hyacinthus, Iris, Gladiolus, Muscari, Allium and Eremurus. These photographs represent the advances in new technology, new beginnings and discoveries and this is a wonderful book that shares the recording of these plants.

    Images courtesy of and copyright www.hatjecantz.de


  • Garden Design Solutions by Stephen Woodhams


    Garden Design Solutions by Stephen Woodhams, hardback published by Jacqui Small. ISBN 9781910254028, price 25.00 available from www.quartoknows.com/brand/1026/Jacqui-Small/

    In the introduction of this book, Stephen talks about the 'communication and language of gardens' and I immediately felt an affinity. Garden design is all about choosing the right materials, hardware and plants to suit a given lifestyle and purpose. He shares the details of garden design. The book is divided into chapters Planning & Designing, Scale & Proportion, Textures & Surfaces (my favourite bit), Features & Focal Points ( a failure of many gardens), Garden Rooms, Planting plus resources and index. The book, like a garden, is a journey through contemporary garden design. Discover the essentials of putting together a garden design, no matter what you want from it, or where you live. This book with its many examples, sound advice and practical solutions will provide you with the possibility of creating a stunning garden. It shows many examples of design, answers to questions such as layout, levels, irrigation, lighting and so much more. It's filled with fabulous illustrations and gardens you'll love.

  • Top 10 Tulips

    This is very hard for me to choose just 10 as I love tulips more than any other bulb. I tend to be guided by my love of colour and not by the tulip types. I am not particularly attracted to the fringed types but I adore the parrots. For almost 2,500 Tulips with almost 200 photos, get yourself a copy of my ebook with fabulous photos and descriptions from the website

    In no particular order:

    1. Tulipa 'Black Parrot'

    2. Tulipa 'Black Hero'

    3. Tulipa 'Princes Irene'

    4. Tulipa 'Rococo'

    5. Tulipa 'Monsella'

    6. Tulipa whittallii

    7. Tulipa 'Vivax'

    8. Tulipa 'Maytime'

    9. Tulipa 'Apricot Parrot'

    10. Tulipa 'Ballerina'

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Little Bites by Christine Chitnis and Sarah Waldman


    Little Bites by Christine Chitnis and Sarah Waldman, softback published by Roost Books. ISBN 9781611801774, price 17.99, available in the UK through PGUK

    My first reaction was 'wow I'd like to eat that', but this book is aimed at children to wean them off packaged snacks and fill them with goodies. At the same time teach them to share those goodies, because you WILL want to tuck in too. 100 great vegetarian snacks for all the family. Good food habits start at home and this is an excellent idea to educate your child's palette, tastes and get them involved in cooking too. The book feels good, looks good and does you good. It's full of homely photos, great ingredients and recipes. You'll also find great ideas for cutting the cost of produce - buy in bulk or join a local gardening community. There's an essential cupboard list and a favourite produce list. You can see at a glance if recipes are gluten, nut or dairy free to help with any allergy sufferers. There's also information about how and why the food will be good for you. You can also see if they are baby friendly. The chapters are split into seasons and the recipes are well, mouth-watering. I love Asparagus fries (would never have thought of that), Yogurt-Granola Cups (but too much sugar), Leek Fritters, all those strawberry recipes and that's just spring. Inventive, tasty and good for you - who could ask for more?

  • Top Ten Autumn Leaf Colour

    The leaves are changing colour. Brilliant buttery golds, glowing oranges, stunning reds, burgundy, russets and browns and purples abound. They look fantastic against blue skies. Many beautiful Japanese maples turn red; the autumn foliage of purple types can deepen. It's mainly deciduous trees that are affected. They need a winter rest to conserve energy because there is not enough sunshine to produce chlorophyll. The reds appear as they are trapped glucose in the leaves. For gold colouring it is hard to beat the conifers as temperatures drop. It's not just trees but also shrubs that colour up. Even hardy perennials such as Geranium can colour up well too.

    I've always wanted to go to Westonbirt at this time of year, but have to content myself with street trees and trees in local gardens. If there is an arboretum near you, trees and shrubs at this time of year are a stunning sight.

    Not in any specific order

    1. Gingko for gold

    2. Acer, Japanese maple for red and orange

    3. Cotinus - the purples turn red, the green leaved ones turn orange

    4. Rhus typhina - the spectacular stag's horn sumach is a real favourite - it's not just the colour, but the way the leaves line up along the branches - golds, oranges. Surplus suckers are easily removed and this is worth growing.

    5. Vaccinium - reds

    6. Quercus - the oaks turn a golden brown

    7. Cornus - the twiggy stems can be vibrant red or yellow and last all winter

    8. Amelanchier canadensis

    9. Liquidambar styraciflua - try 'Worplesdon' for a magnificent autumn crimson display

    10. Ash - Fraxinus americana 'Autumn Purple' will give reddish-purple colour in September.

    Golden autumn foliage is featured in my book Gold Fever, buy online at half price by entering the code 50OFF

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015


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