Karen Platt's Blog

  • Walking Chatsworth Estate

    Five years ago today, walking around the Chatsworth Estate, with the sheep, deer, a view of Edensor Church and the house.

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    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Walking Cromford Mill

    It was the epitome of grey, but there was something to celebrate. As it was so cold, I elected for an inside rather than outdoors venue. Driving towards Matlock is a pleasant drive, even with the steep descent into the valley. The scenery is fabulous and I am reminded of Shakespeare's 'This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England' and of William Blake's words for Jerusalem 'England's green and pleasant land'. Blake's 'pleasant pastures' do still exist. This is what people who do not live in England imagine it to be like. Green and quaint, countrified and gentile. Not a garden to visit as such but an area where one can walk and enjoy the scenery.

    Ah but is was greyer than grey and cold, with a northerly wind. Green maybe, but not pleasant. Still I could not help admiring the landscape and wishing I could wake up every day to gaze on such a scene.

    Cromford Mill was Arkwright's Mill but when it closed all the machinery was taken away so there is little left except a display with an annoying over-excited actor's voice-over. The building is still very imposing, but apart from the building itself, what is there now does not reflect the history or heritage of the place at all. The shops are dismal and smell of damp, the cafe is too small even at this time of year it was full by 11.30am and it is all very disappointing. The best shop by far is the quilting shop - that is really good. There is a small plant shop. The spring plants were adding much needed colour and the owner obviously had a liking for Primula. The Ranunculus were looking perfect too. On warmer days there are many walks along the canal and more. There is an estate church, but it was closed. There is another cafe across the road by the canal, a tiny cheese shop and probably the tiniest shop in the world selling canalware art.

    There is some redevelopment of the site, so I hope it improves with a new vision. This has to be the most disappointing venue for a World Heritage Site.

    We were directed to Masson Mill to see textile machinery but we arrived at the wrong time to see the machines working so opted not to go in. There is something akin to an outlet centre here, all smelling very musky. Not at all what I expected, but the setting is fabulous. It seems a shame that the Mills' current usage has not been developed by someone who loves textiles, who could have created an experience for this site that includes the former most prominent cotton mill. As it was the best thing about the venue, apart from the views, was an antiques shop outside the centre across the road.

    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Walking through Longshaw

    There is nothing better for those winter-weary bones than the feeling that spring is in the air. Yesterday was such a day. Tired legs felt energised after the smell of the earth, the visions of stones and branches covered in lichen greenery and a glimpse of sun. Seeing the landscape shake off its russet winter tones and be renewed in life-giving green.

    It was still quite misty when we arrived at midday. There are plenty of trails through the woods and grounds at Longshaw. My favourite is the short walk by the stream known as Burbage Brook. The water was running fierce and fast. I kept an eye out for the little stoat I spotted last time but alas he did not come to say hello. Curlews, stonehatches and adders are amongst the wildlife you might be lucky enough to see here.

    I was fascinated by the twisted branches of the trees, the tracery of winter branches still without spring buds, the misty moors in the distance, the stones speckled with lichen. Higger Tor, the dramatic gritstone on the Dark Peak. It all sounds very Bronte and North Yorkshire not Derbyshire, although strictly speaking, I believe it comes under Sheffield. I love this wild bit of the world.

    I don't know why I had never been in Fox House Inn before, but we had a wonderful and quite healthy lunch there and the food was delicious. It does get busy and it is best advised to book a table.

    Longshaw is a National Trust property that is free to the public with a cafe, shop and toilets, just 3 miles from Hathersage. It also has a kitchen garden.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Raw Food Detox by Anya Ladra


    Raw Food Detox by Anya Ladra, hardback published by Ryland Peters. ISBN 9781849757287, price 12.99 available from www.rylandpeters.com

    This very reasonably priced book contains more than 70 recipes for low-calorie, raw food. As spring comes along our minds turn to warmer days. We cast off winter clothes that hide a multitude of sins and realise we have put on weight. Healthy raw foods not only mean less calories, they mean a slimmer you. A you full of energy. This book presents detox programmes including a 5-day cleansing detox, 5-day glow detox and a 3-day juice detox. It also includes advice on continuing the cleansing programme. The recipes are easy to prepare and a joy to eat or drink. Smoothies for breakfast, light but energising lunches including great salads and dressings, raw food mains, snacks and desserts. It's got everything covered. Adopted as a lifestyle, your skin will glow, your body will feel lighter as if a weight has been lifted and you will have increased energy. This book has fabulous photography that really makes you want to try each and every recipe. Find out all about the benefits of eating raw that have been propounded by many. Find powerhouse ingredients and learn techniques of preparation. Please note 9 of the recipes require a dehydrator and some dessert recipes use sugar or sugar substitutes. An excellent raw food recipe book.

  • 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


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