Karen Platt's Blog

  • Top Ten Late Perennials

    Late perennials are such a joy. They provide colour at a time when it is so needed when everything else is fading fast. Combined with ornamental grasses, they can really shine. They might come into flower as early as July or even June, but they have staying power and will last until the first frosts.

    Where frosts occur, dig up the tubers of Cannas and Dahlias, clean and store frost free to set into growth again the following year.

    Think the last days of the setting sun, a frivolous party of colour to go out with a bang. Brilliant colours to vie with flaming sunsets. The embers of dying fires. Swathes of glorious perennials in gentle or bold colours. Think Piet Oudolf.

    The images are not in any particular order and there are two dahlias. I could have chosen so many more. Salvias are a favourite but often flower so late that the first frosts nip them before they have got started here in the north.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

    1. Aster

    2. Sedum

    3. Eucomis

    4. Echinacea

    5. Perovskia

    6. Dahlia

    7. Rudbeckia

    8. Canna

    9. Achillea

    10. Helenium

    I've got your colours covered. Whether you love black plants, green flowers, gold or silver foliage, orange flowers and butterscotch foliage, lavenders, tulips or iris I've written the garden book for you. Just now there's half price on all printed books when you enter 50OFF at checkout


  • Plants and Flowers in Lincoln

    A trip to Lincoln revealed plenty of evidence that autumn is on its way. Leaves were falling in the gentle breeze. Large conkers were hanging from branches; seed pods and berries hanging down, the late summer light shining through leaves as well as the decaying process.

    September always has one foot still in summer and late summer perennials were still providing colour. Echinacea planted with Echinops and Perovskia, making a dream threesome. Pink Asters found a colour echo for their golden centres in Achillea.

    Large containers were planted up in the city centre with flamboyant petunias and other basket-type summer annuals such as Bacopa and Fuchsia. Bedding was dotted around the city with Pelargonium, Rudbeckia, Solenostemon (Coleus) and Diascia interspersed with silvery Senecio and Ricinus (castor oil plant) taking pride of place. Zinnias were evident in oranges and reds - the hot late summer combination.

    Private gardens are always a source of inspiration and I found a Ficus carica (fig) and a lovely combination of Cotinus and Rudbeckia as well as a Hibiscus. A beautiful Buddleja peeped over a wall.

    At the Old Bishop's Museum I discovered a contemporary garden planted with rows of trees, dahlias, roses, acanthus and lavender as well as a vineyard. I also visited the Arboretum and took many images of trees.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • London Out Of Sight


    London Out Of Sight, paperback published by Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 78-1907317965, price 9.5 available from www.blackdogonline.com

    Explore green spaces in London and find calm amid one of the busiest capital's in the world. Find lesser known spaces where you can chill from the busy office or shopping spree. The book is split into Central, North, East, West and South London with around a dozen spaces in each category. Each section starts with a map, showing the spaces and nearest tube stations. Descriptions include access information, entry fees if applicable, historical facts and notes on plants. The varied spaces include church grounds, conservatories, walled gardens, parks, city farms and community gardens. It is beautifully illustrated throughout.  If like me, you often have an hour or two on your hands waiting for a train, or interview, with a copy of this book you could be contemplating life in quieter surroundings. Repose, relax or discover and learn. Encounter ancient trees, plants, biodiversity, wildlife, gravestones and sculpture. Who would not want to find time to treasure the open heaths, ancient woodlands, shared gardens and green spaces of London? As an avid gardener, I was surprised to find that I have only visited four of the spaces in the book. That's something I must amend. Highly recommended. Excellent for those who work in London and those who visit.

  • 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

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