Platt Attack

I have always had a fascination with black and purple plants, no matter whether the colouring was in the flowers or the leaves. That's why I bought Alternanthera dentata, purple ornamental sweet potato, "Hello Darkness" Iris, and many other plants.

A few months ago, I read Fern's expose about black plants and her experiences with their "inventor," Karen Platt, on Life on the Balcony. I don't know Platt, I have not had any personal experiences with her, but after reading many blog posts about her (and some on her own blog, although she had literally just started a new one when I first started writing this post back in March, and all of her old posts seem to have been deleted), I don't feel too bad mocking her a little bit. Make your own judgment, however. Since I read Fern's post, every time I see a black plant, I chuckle--I don't remember Platt's name, usually, just the name I have for her in my head, which doesn't bear repeating in a public setting.

So, imagine my surprise and glee when I found a Leptinella squalida "Platt's Black" at Garden District the other week! It's provided to the plant store by Jeepers Creepers (which is apparently just a marketing program by Valleybrook--these business things confuse me). I barked out a laugh and took out my camera, drawing the attention of a young couple who were asking the staff questions about landscaping. They came over to me as I was taking photos and asked what was so funny. I explained Fern's story to them and pointed out the variety name on this plant. I had never actually expected to find plants named after Platt, but I guess it stands to reason that they would be.

None of "Platt's Black" variety plants that I found were actually patented (which means you can probably mass-propagate and sell sell sell with no legal issues!). I did, however, only find two plants with that appellation--the L. squalida and Phormium tenax, New Zealand Phlax. The one patent I found that mentioned "Platt's Black" was in this patent for P. tenax "PHORD1," which says P. tenax "Platt's Black" has a brown leaf colour (not black!).

But, both of these "Platt's" plants are more probably named after Graeme Platt of Platt's Nursery in Auckland, New Zealand, a source from Valleybrook told me when I asked where the variety name came from for L. squalida (Graeme is definitely the Platt of the P. tenax, it being one of two plants he bred and commercialized, but the jury's still out on L. squalida). I can't find any evidence that the two Platts (Karen and Graeme) are related, but it makes me happier that a plant selector/occasional breeder was honoured with variety names, and not the, er, less wholesome option.

I don't know this woman, as I have said. I can imagine that her compilation of black plants in the book she wrote, "Black Magic & Purple Passion," is expansive and helpful. But if I were a plant marketer, I wouldn't name my varieties after authors who go monkey-nuts on their audience.

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3 Responses to Platt Attack

  1. One of my followers has a daughter that is doing a "Goth Garden" for a challenge to get kids in the garden, I think the majority of her plants are of the black or dark purple variety! p.s. love the seed bomb idea!

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  2. Valleybrook is one of my favourite suppliers (that I've even been fortunate enough to be able to visit). They also do Rock Stars & Hort Couture on top of their Heritage Perennials. Just a little plug for one of my favourite growers!

    Anyway, also a big fan of dark leaved plants, interesting to read about Ms. Platt though.

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  3. Haha, yes. I too have a name for her that I shouldn't repeat in public every time I see a black plant.

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