Karen Platt's Blog

  • Heritage Pears

    At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park there is a selection of old varieties of pear trees, dating from the 1800s. I know one pear looks much the same as another, but I found them fascinating. This is the pleasure of growing your own fruit and vegetables - you can grow heritage varieties that you cannot find in the shops. Some of them are planted very closely, so closely that the branches are intermingling. They are all grown against a wall. Most of the sculpture park is rolling hills, with very little 'garden' so it was wonderful to come across these fruit trees that I had never noticed on previous visits.

    In order of appearance from left to right, top to bottom, they are

    Pyrus Buerre Rance, Buerre Diel, Emile d'Heyst, Fondant de Cuerne, Laxton Early Market, Le Lectier, Marguerite Marrillat and Marie Louise d'Uncle

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Top 10 Green Flowers

    You might think green flowers are unusual, but I researched thoroughly and produced the gardening book Emeralds, containing descriptions of 1,000 green flowers with over 300 colour photos, design plans and more. You can buy the book at half price on my website, enter 50OFF at checkout. It is the only comprehensive book on green flowers and also contains 500 choice green foliage plants.

    A top ten can only scratch the surface when it comes to plants, so make sure you look at everything available. Check out the book for the best in each category.

    1. Euphorbia - not technically flowers, but I love the effect. Not all are suitable for gardens, being invasive.

    2. A green orchid seems like perfection.

    3. You might shun gladioli, but don't turn your nose up at a green one.

    4. Likewise Chrysanthemums, but green just turns them into a must-have flower.

    5. Primula auricula might be a little specialised but they are so gorgeous and not difficult to grow.

    6. Roses - yes there are green ones.

    7. Nicotiana - an easy annual providing lime green flowers.

    8. Hydrangea - a great green-flowered shrub.

    9. Hacquetia - I just love it.

    10. Strongylodon - the jade vine is an exotic in all senses - exciting, jade pea-like flowers hang down in racemes. Truly glorious.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • 10 Best Tips For Colour In Your Garden

    How to Use Color With Panache

    Incorporate colour in your garden, from a tiny splash to complete borders. Be bold, daring and dynamic with strong colour or cool and sweet with a pastel palette. A strong colouring and paler echo can be dynamic.

    Shock with pink, purple and orange. Lime, gold and orange is good too, so bright and happy. Or play it cool with apricot, peach and pale pink. If you are really shy you’ll love pale lemon and silver or pink and silver.

    1. Avoid the bitty look by planting in drifts. This, of course, is good advice and works best in large gardens. Think of those 100ft borders - brilliant. Smaller gardens need much more careful management of planting to avoid that bitty look. Plant fewer types of plant. Also repeat colours - begin with pale lemon moving into stronger yellow with a hint of blue, into a blue drift and then back to blue and yellow, finishing with pale lemon. Some of the plants can be different on both sides. This brings harmony and rhythm to your garden.
    2. Containers are useful when you only have one of each plant.
    3. It’s o.k. to do monotone. Choose a variety of plants with different leaf shapes, sizes and choose tones carefully.
    4. Remember - colour is PERSONAL. It’s what YOU like that matters most.
    5. If you want lots of colours - try to separate them into different areas of the garden - the pink border, the orange border. Multi-coloured borders can look wrong very easily. You need to inject harmony.
    6. Make any colour appear brighter by planting it with a darker colour. Whites look better against a dark green background. If you have been to Sissinghurst you'll know what I mean.
    7. Bright colours are used more freely in the Caribbean under those heavenly blue skies. However, I still hold they are suitable and necessary to brighten places that have too many grey skies.
    8. Whilst pastels are pale, they still have a bright effect. Pale does not have to be washed out or dull.
    9. Bright colours are essentially associated with spring, but don’t confine yourself to this time of year.
    10. Decide on no more than 3 colours that complement one another. They don’t all have to bright. One bright, one mid tone and one darker tone work well such as yellow, blue and green. Keep it simple. You can always choose from one colour.

    Bright Colours in the Garden

    The use of colour in the garden has changed so much. New perennials have come along and new colorways have been explored. People are still so afraid of color, mention most of those below and you are entering the twilight zone of plants. Go for it. Add impact to your garden. Bright is not just for the shady side of the garden. Be unpredictable. Colour is fun - your garden should be a happy place. Think of accessories to match your plants. Paint those pots in complementary colours, add cushions and seating to match. Bright colours such as orange and yellow are happy and sociable. Let some sunshine into your life.

    The Colour Wheel

    Whilst I believe strongly that a colour wheel used in gardening, leads one up the garden path and astray very quickly, it’s good to balance a warm and cool colour in the garden such as yellow and blue. Warm colours such as gold, red and orange are difficult to use together. Yet, even these, with a skilled hand, can work in a drift. As colour of the plant is unlikely to match the plant label or colour wheel, its trial and error, unless you have seen the combination elsewhere. Even then plant colour can be affected by soil, rainfall and situation. Be prepared to experiment.


    If your scheme is getting too hot or overpowering, introduce a cool colour or white to tone everything down.

    Individual Colours

    LIME - real zest and often a better choice than gold, although the two together are superb. Use it with black or darker greens. See my book Emeralds

    GOLD - garish if all one shade and it does shout. Acid yellow is difficult- there I’ve said it - no denial. Used wisely gold is a gem. See my book Gold Fever

    ORANGE - this is such a gorgeous colour range and one I love in all its tones. I'm thinking toffee, butterscotch, apricot and more. See my ebook Fruit Cocktail

    RED -  whilst it is stand back and avoid the glare, red is lovely. It’s the only colour that has that velvet-like quality apart from my favourite black. Yes, it is best in small doses, but bright red combined with mid or dark green with some dark, near black foliage is stunning. It does not hurt to have a punch, a full stop, an exclamation in the garden - it’s a necessity.

    WHITE - for that just washed look, avoid dirty whites. Even what we consider to be pure whites can be tinged blue or pink. silver foliage is a treat for the eye and cools things down. See my book Silver Lining

    Mixing Colour

    Keep it simple, limit the number of colors and plants. Decide on the degree of vibrancy you want and take the mix from there. Hot, hot, hot or hot and cool or pastel.

    Karen is the author of books on colour in the garden. She is also the author of Lifestyle Gardening her book on garden design featuring styles, plants, tips, advice and more. Visit the website to learn more and order books at half price by using the code 50OFF at checkout. The offer does not apply to ebooks because the price of these is already set low.


  • Top Ten Artemisia

    Artemisia, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, and no wonder for they shine in sunlight. Excellent for creating a silver garden that shimmers all day long. Avoid wet or damp areas, these plants love Mediterranean dry. Deeply cut foliage provides interest. Plants are taken from my book 'Silver Lining' which describes 2400 plants in detail - anecdotes, provenance, cultural notes and 375 colour photos plus garden designs. Available from the website at half price, use the code 50OFF at checkout.

    A. absinthium 'Lambrook Mist'

    A. absinthium 'Lambook Silver'

    A. alba 'Canescens'

    A. arborescens 'Faith Raven'

    A. campestris ssp maritima v humifusa

    A. caucasica

    A. frigida

    A. ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis'

    A. 'Powis Castle'

    A. stelleriana 'Boughton Silver'

    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2015


  • Top Ten Golden Cedars

    Add a splash of everlasting gold to your garden with Cedrus, golden cedars. The plants are taken from my book Gold Fever, featuring 1350 golden plants and over 275 photos. The Top Ten Plants are given in alphabetical order. You can buy the book at half price enter the code 50OFF at checkout on the website

    1. C. atlantica 'Aurea'  graceful and golden, slow-growing conical tree.

    2. C. atlantica 'Aurea Robusta' for burn-resist foliage.

    3. C. atlantica 'Golden Dwarf' for restricted spaces.

    4. C. deodora 'Aurea' allow it to take centre stage.

    5. C. deodora 'Aurea Pendula' for weeping growth.

    6. C. deodora 'Gold Cascade' compact, cascading growth.

    7. C. deodora 'Gold Cone' fabulous and suitable for smaller gardens.

    8. C. deodora 'Gold Mound' clip it to keep it neat and tidy.

    9. C. deodora 'Golden Horizon' prostrate, needs sun for golden colour and protection from winds.

    10. C. deodora 'Klondyke' broze-gold in winter.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Top 10 Gardens to Visit Yorkshire

    I love gardens and often visit them. I just love to see the way different people interpret gardening. Too many years ago I started writing a Yorkshire Gardens book - must get that finished. Meantime, my top ten Yorkshire Gardens in alphabetical order:

    1. Burton Agnes Hall

    2. Castle Howard

    3. Harewood House

    4. Harlow Carr

    5. Helmsley Walled Garden

    6. Newby Hall

    7. Scampston Walled Garden

    8. Sledmere House and gardens

    9. Worley Hall

    10. Yorkshire Lavender

    If you want to find out more about plants and gardening styles as well as garden design, all the know-how can be found in Lifestyle Gardening featuring over 220 gardens around the world, 200 plants and gardens by style illustrated with over 375 sumptuous photographs. Get your copy half price by entering code 50OFF at checkout on the website

    Words, images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Top 10 silver-leaved conifers

    Silver or grey is a gorgeous cool colour to add to the garden. For low-maintenance ornamentals, conifers are a good choice. Firs and pines can gracefully adorn your garden.

    The list is not in order of preference but in alphabetical order.

    For more plants see the book Silver Lining, which describes over 2400 silver plants with over 375 colour photographs. It has full descriptions, notes on growing and how to use silver plants to advantage and garden designs. It also includes tree bark, variegated plants and white flowers and can be purchased on the website at half price using the code 50OFF at checkout

    Abies concolor 'Argentea' for its long brush-like glaucous silver needles.

    Abies koreana 'Silberlocke' for its frosted appearance.

    Cedrus atlantica 'Sahara Frost' for its icy white new growth.

    Cedrus deodora 'Snow Sprite' like freshly fallen snow.

    Picea glauca 'J.W. Daisy's White' for its creamy new foliage which fades to grey in autumn.

    Picea omorika 'Frohnleiten' a silver-needled dwarf conifer.

    Pinus koraiensis 'Silvergrey' for its upright growth clothed in thick silvery grey needles.

    Pinus parviflora 'Arakawa' for its silver-grey needles. The lower branches of this dwarf pine can be removed to reveal the interesting bark.

    Pinus peuce 'Horstmann Dwarf' for its greyish needles.

    Pinus strobus 'Sea Urchin' for its distinctly silver needles on a small dome.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Top 10 Yellow-leaved Acers or Maple Trees

    Yellow-leaved or golden-leaved Acers or Maple trees can add so much to the foliage effect in your garden. These plants grow in moist but well-drained soil in sun or part shade and need shelter from strong winds. Japanese maple cultivars, A. palmatum, cam be damaged by late frosts. For elegance and graceful splendour, these plants come at the top of the desirable list.

    My top 10 Acers is in alphabetical order and not order of preference

    1. A. cappodocicum 'Aureum' for its striking butter yellow leaves. Early foliage emerges claret and turns yellow in summer.

    2. A. negundo 'Kelly's Gold' not as liable to burn in sun as some cultivars and holds its golden foliage colour well, but it does eventually turn chartreuse.

    3. A. palmatum 'Sango-Kaku' vivid coral stems and wonderful golden toned foliage in autumn.

    4. A. pennsylvanicum 'Eryhtrocladum' provides good autumn colour.

    5. A. platanoides 'Princeton Gold' my absolute number one choice for a golden Acer. Fabulous gold leaves just shimmer in spring on red petioles.

    6. A. pseudoplatanus 'Worley' an old but reliable golden cultivar.

    7. A. saccharinum f lutescens needs sun to bring out the best in its golden leaves.

    8. A. saccharum 'Goldspire' offers a column of golden leaves.

    9. A. shirasawanum 'Aureum' is perhaps the best known golden-leaved cultivar known as the full-moon maple.

    10. A. tschonkii bears strong yellow leaves in autumn.

    Extract taken from the gardening book for lovers of gold plants, Gold Fever, which features over 1350 golden plants for your garden. The book includes 275 colour photos, garden designs, how to grow and so much more. There is no other book like it.

    Buy your copy half price today by using the code 50OFF at checkout in the Garden Books shop

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Over The Wall - Chester

    I walked the walls of Chester last week and these are the plants I saw from the wall. Gorgeous trees, a fabulous canal-side garden, plants clinging to the walls and the Roman gardens. There were a smattering of black plants - some of the dark Acers were putting on their greener summer cloaks, so I did not photograph them. There was a marvellous specimen of Ligularia 'Britt-Marie Crawford' in the Roman gardens. If you love Lichen, there is plenty on the wall.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Garden Design - Chatsworth

    In this new series, which started last week, I am looking at gardens to see what can be learned from each one. I am giving design and planting tips too.

    Chatsworth in Derbyshire is the second garden I have chosen. It is a beautiful and vast garden with many areas. Capability Brown came and landscaped the gardens. Recently new areas have been created. It is difficult to look at stately home gardens and take home ideas for your small terraced garden, so most of the ideas are for very large country gardens

    Garden design tips I learned at Chatsworth:

    1. Use that view if you are lucky to have one, Chatsworth is set in acres with splendid views

    2. The kitchen garden is fantastic

    3. If your garden is large enough, you can dedicate an area to one plant - Chatsworth does this with Dahlias and in the rose garden

    4. Incorporate historic garden features such as a maze and a crinkle crankle hedge

    5. Place appealing large containers, statues etc for interest

    6. Have some of the garden hidden from view with interesting walks and paths that meander

    7. Have the most amazing water features that fit in with your setting

    8. Include a sensory garden

    9. Chatsworth has the largest rock garden I know, but if you have space it is worthwhile creating a small area for rock garden plants

    10. Include an arboretum

    Visit Chatsworth

    My gardening book, Lifestyle Gardening has all you need to know to design the perfect garden for you. You can buy a copy here and take advantage of the half price offer by entering 50OFF at checkout

    Words, images copyright Karen Platt 2015

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