Dec 1, 2009

Garden Author Threatens Garden Blogger With Lawsuit

In November Fern Richardson, the garden blogger at Life On The Balcony, posted a part of an Email exchange with garden author Karen Platt. If you follow Fern on Twitter or Facebook you probably knew about the exchange before the post went up in the fall.

It started when Fern linked to a post of mine about black garden plants. At some point this past summer someone using the name "Karen Platt" replied to the linked blog post and left a comment that reads in part:

...I worked with Proven Winners from 2001-2005 to set up a black plant range, they took the plants along with their sister companies but never really came up with any payment of any sort, though they still sell the plants and make an awful lot of money...

The commenter goes on to spam the comments section of my blog with a plug for a book and website. Normally, I delete comments on my blog(s) that are self-promotional in nature, because self-promotion is what Twitter and Facebook are for, amirite? Anyway, I left the comment up because I was partially aware of the bizarre exchange between garden author and garden blogger and thought it was kinda funny that it started because of a post I wrote.

What isn't funny is that now the author is threatening to sue Fern Richardson. You can get all of the details in Fern's post: The Great Black Plant Scandal of 2009 (Black Plantergate?)< link opens in a new window.


  1. What I find particularly astonishing is Platt's insistence that she be sourced whenever black plants are mentioned. What, she made up black plants?

    This issue is so silly it's making me remember my 2nd grade playground scuffle with Cynthia Voorhees, who insisted that I copied her when I wore pink shorts under my dress.

  2. Ditto. Fern has a great blog and shouldn't have to be bothered with this nonsense.

  3. This exchange has escalated to byond the bizarre. The sad thing is, Platt's book may very well be fabulous and she could have handled this situation in a much more amiable manner to call attention to her book. There really is room for both in the literary and gardening world, but what it boils down to is this: What Susie says about Mary says more about Susie than Mary.

    By the way, I was supposed to receive a hard copy (as opposed to an e-book) of Platt's book. Though she said she sent it by surface mail, that was five weeks ago and I've not received it yet. I think it should have been here by now and perhaps it will still arrive.

    On my book review site (, I am committed to independent book reviews and try to keep these kinds of situations out of the equation, so if I do eventually receive a copy of Platt's book, I'll review it there. She sent me a link to an e-book version, but I have chosen not to go that route. I far prefer to have a physical book in my hands, especially for gardening books.

    Fern is a great writer/blogger and it's unfortunate that things have taken the turn they have.

  4. Ditto, garden girl's comment.

  5. @Jenny,

    Good points.


    She does have a good blog and I think dealing with some weirdness comes with the teritory of blogging. I mean, anyone can reach out and involve themselves in your life, even in a small way.


    You're a bigger person than me. I had a bad Email experience with a local gardener. Since blogging at Chicago Garden, I've had people tell me that I should get in contact with the gardener I had the Email altercation with because she's "great." This gardener does have a lot of good ideas and information, but there is no way I can forget her attitude and what happened on the internet and pretend we're cool in person.

    @Garden Girl, @Jan,

    I know, right?

  6. Beyond bizarre. I can't even fathom how anyone can believe they have ownership of an entire color range of plants. A specific plant they hybridized - ok, maybe. But a color????

  7. Thanks for your support guys. I admit that whenever I think about the whole situation I second guess myself and wonder if I handled it the best way. I was willing to ignore her when she was just insulting me, but when she started posting negative reviews of the "competing" books on Amazon, I just felt that it was wrong to allow her to continue to march around the internet without someone outting her for the crazy bully that she is. I wish she had bestowed her whacked out emails on someone else, so they would have been the one with the ammo and not me.

    "The sad thing is, Platt's book may very well be fabulous and she could have handled this situation in a much more amiable manner to call attention to her book."

    This is so true. Can you imagine how differently things would have turned out if Karen Platt had emailed me and said "I'm so excited to see that you love black plants as much as I do. I wrote a book on the subject! While I can't afford to send the hardback copy overseas, would you like to review a copy of the eBook version?" If she had appraoched me in a friendly way, and thought of me as an ally instead of an obnoxious blogger who didn't cite her book, things would have gone so much better for her. I give "free advertising" in the form of posts about products and books I like all the time.

  8. Fern has not portrayed the truth in this matter. I did approach her in a friendly way. She tried to sell me advertising space, then tried to present herself as a lawyer who could help me expose Timber. When I politely said no, she said she had already been all over Twitter and told everyone I was a whack job. She also called me a troll amongst other things. I could post her emails here, you would perhaps think twice about talking to her then, but I'm not that low. She's begging for attention. What resulted was in my defence. I have never said anywhere that I own a colour, nor do I own any plants of any colour- the idea is too ridiculous to believe, but it got Fern a lot of support. The idea is ludicrous - I have spent many years doing self promotion for my work and the more people talking about black plants, means more sales for me, whether I am mentioned or not. I sent a cease and desist notice to her and one other blogger, who had copied what was on her site, and that was it. Yet according to Fern I am suing the world of blogger. Makes me think of that great Welsh singer, Harry Secombe, singing 'If I sued the world!" again this is too preposterous to believe. What she has said is sadly actionable. You know there is a saying, if you can't think of anything nice to say, then don't say anything. Kylee, I did send the book, I hope you received it and enjoy it, there were Royal Mail strikes here and the post office is saying 12 weeks to deliver to USA. I have not gained 20 years of popularity on both sides of the Atlantic by behaving like a boorish fool. I do not expect anyone to twist the truth to make themselves appear they have been attacked by me, when they made the first attack. I send out more or less the same initial message to anyone when promoting my book - it is not in my interests to offend people and it is never my intention to do so, but neither do I have t take a load of you know what for asking a blogger if they would like to mention my book. My book has been out since 2000, and this is the first time I have encountered anything like this. I also have a right to fight against a large US conglomeration that has treated me unfairly. Yes, guys I don't have to take it laying down. But you know that saying, once bitten, twice shy. I am deep into my next project, and I find it odd that 5 months on, Fern is still harping on about this. As I said on Graham Rice's blog - I have better things to do.

  9. WHAT?! I did not try and sell Karen Platt advertising space. That is BIZARRE!!!! I am a lawyer. But I did not offer you my legal services. I'm not licensed to practice. I simply asked for your permission (as a courtesy) to forward your email to Timber Press to hear their side of things. And offered to help you publicize your "plight" on my blog if your story could be verified.

    I published direct quotes from your emails. Your own words speak for themselves on this matter. You need mental health assistance Karen. Seriously.

  10. A fine example of our litigious society. It all starts out so innocently. And we never expect a blow until it is delivered.

  11. Patsy--Karen is in England. Thanfully, the U.S. doesn't have to take responsibility for her ridiculous threats.

  12. You insist on misinterpreting, pulling words out of context, making things up and I can prove all this. For instance without saying that I had a legally and binding contract with Proven Winners/EuroAmerican Propagators, you change the meaning of what you state above. But I don't want to get into justifying myself - I have done nothing wrong. I have however, been wronged by two very large American corporations. So you thought it fit to batter me in public for that. Also the most legally accountable thing you have done is to boycott my book - you state you are a non-practising lawyer, but you have deliberately and knowingly made libellous statements about me. As I said I could post the contents of your emails here, including the ones that were so atrocious that I bounced them back to you. What kind of person deliberately launches an attack on a person she does not know, whose books she has not read. Why do you not have anything better to do with your life than to pursue and hound me for five months? I have 12 months in which to start legal proceedings and claim damages for you boycotting my book. You are legally accountable.
    Readers might find Fern's email to me of 29 July of interest
    "Don't push me. I have a post all written out about what a whack job you are, and everyone I've talked to on Twitter already thinks you're crazy. The only reason that I haven't published it is that I'm not really interested in the topic anymore. So really, don't email me anymore."
    This was for asking if she would be interested in mentioning my book, like so many other bloggers have done, often without even being asked. Aren't blogs for dissemination of information?
    It was her emailing me you note.
    and of 22 July
    "we are inundated by people who are always wanting free advertising. Since I sell advertising space on my blog, it would devalue that advertising if authors or product manufacturers could simple leave a comment pitching their book/product."
    I read that as someone selling advertising space, or at least saying if you don't advertise, you don't get on my site.
    Now if Fern wants her over the top, awry emails posted here and elsewhere, so that people can see what you are like - go ahead - continue the conversation because people must be crazy to want to read this nonsense from a blogger who is simply jealous of a successful person and a blogger who has got herself into so much trouble by flaunting the law. So far you have as I stated earlier been served with a cease and desist notice, being an unemployed lawyer you must know what that is - it's a chance to stop the harassment, take down the legally accountable stuff you have posted everywhere and to get on with your life. In other words it's a let out clause Fern.

  13. Ms. Platt,

    I just want to jump in here to make a point regarding this part of your lastest comment: "I read that as someone selling advertising space, or at least saying if you don't advertise, you don't get on my site."

    If she was trying to sell advertising space Fern is well within her right to do so on her own blog. I don't see where she did anything wrong in that case. Just because other bloggers have mentioned your book doesn't mean anyone has to mention your book.

    I think I'm inclined to agree with the picture of you painted by Fern. My interaction with you is limited to the comment you left on my blog, that really wasn't on topic; attacked Proven Winners, promoted your book and website, but seems to be par for the course.

    Perhaps, if you could step back from it all for a moment or have a friend read these emails,comments and the ones that were on the Amazon book reviews maybe you could see how you come off in a less than positive light.

    Let me give you a hypothetical: If I showed up at your house one evening for supper and all I did was talk about myself, my blogs, how many people visit them and how great they were, would I be invited back? Wouldn't you and your other guests who you prepared a meal for be disgusted with my self-promotion at your expense?

    When you show up at a blog and do nothing but talk about yourself, your book, how you were wronged by Proven Winners or Timber Press and/or promote your website, you are like that dinner guest who won't stop talking about himself. Terribly fascinating to one person, yourself.

    I'm not sure how much you interact with the bloggers on your side of the pond and if when you comment there you bring anything to the discussion, but contributing to the discussion or being part of a blog's community goes a long way to promote yourself and your products.

  14. It wasn't like that. I kept quiet about the Timber Press scenario for 8 years. I have had over 100 messages of support. I think your comments should be referred to your friend Fern - her shameful scam about me is interesting only to her and she has gone on about it for 5 months and people like yourself help her. I no longer see too many people supporting her, I think people are getting the message. I just wished to give her a final public opportunity to retract the lies and legally accountable statements she has written and to make amends before she has to pay the consequences of such actions. The only truthful thing she wrote was when she stated all this on her own blog and said
    'It's not my fight but...' and then poked her nose in big time. People interested in the truth don't read this. The point I was making is that she thought there was something in this story for her - advertising money, trashing Timber - anything to get her noticed. A lot of people have a poor opinion on those who take private emails and make them public and in so doing also twist and turn everything to their advantage. Yes, friends have looked and I would not like to repeat their opinion of what has been written except to say that they don't consider it worth commenting at all. You have never heard the full story but you are so willing to judge - neither you nor Fern are my judge and jury. It was about my work I contacted her, nothing else. I have a snapshot of your posts, that's enough for me. I wish you a happy holiday season and hope that you will once more concentrate on writing about gardening instead of trying to trash an established author.

  15. Ms. Platt,

    I'm not judging you, nor am I judging you on Fern's side of the story. My impression of you is based on what I've seen you write on my blog, Ferns and the reviews you left for fellow authors on Amazon. Did anyone force you to leave the comments on Amazon that have since been deleted by their moderators.

    Your reviews of competing garden books on Amazon were (like I said ) par for the course; detail how you were wronged, how you have a book about black plants and how yours is better. The weird thing is that you didn't even bother to hide your identity. You think so little of the kind of impression you're leaving that you signed those nasty reviews with your own name!

    Yes, many people would look down on people exposing the communications that occur in Email. The same people might look down on people talking about contract negotiations between plant makers and book publishers and authors, but here you are eight years after the fact doing just that. Airing your dirty laundry and leaving comments on blogs about what you allege transpired between you, Timber Press and Proven Winners.

    "I wish you a happy holiday season and hope that you will once more concentrate on writing about gardening instead of trying to trash an established author."

    Puh & leaze. Don't pull your passive-aggressive martyr shtick with me. I'm not "trashing" you, you're doing a fine job of that all on your own.

    What you failed to take from my one and only reply to you and your antics on the internet is that I was trying to tell you that you would attract more bees with honey, but you're too self-involved to get it.

    Let me give you another example: Recently, when Anna Pavord was in the states to promote her book, "Bulb," I was given the opportunity to talk to her via the phone. She was a complete delight and very classy and my interaction with her was so positive that I was more than happy to promote her garden book HERE.

    You may want to ask her or her publicists for some advice in how they manage to get people to rave not only about her book but about the woman herself. Hint: it probably involved not badgering people to mention her book and spamming blogs with her URL.

    If you ever publish another book and it is marketed in this country, you'll have an uphill battle repairing the damage you've done to your "brand." I'm sure you'll manage to get some tepid reviews from bloggers who are solely in it for the free garden books, but people who are passionate about garden books may very well remember these impressions you've left. People may forget, but Google won't.

    Happy Holidays.

    My original replies were deleted because of a typo and because I didn't format the HTML correctly. Yes, I do see the irony in starting the reply with stating I wasn't judging her and then going on to do just that, but UGH! some people's kids just make you misbehave!

  16. Sounds like it could be a movie! Adaptation meets Harry Potter meets Basic Instinct. Seriously, MBT, you just gotta shake your head at some of the oddities of the Interwebs. I wonder if Kylee ever got her book?

  17. Jodi,

    Kylee did get the book. She published the review of it a couple of days ago on her blog. Which Ms. Platt hasn't bothered to reply to. Someone posted something positive about her and her book and she has ignored the post and instead opted to continue some internet feud with Fern.

  18. Karen--How can an author--even a self published one--have such poor reading comprehension skills? Not to mention horrendous Ability to write persuasively. You have libeled me several times in the comments section of tgis post alone. I dare you to sue me so that I can watch as you get laughed out of court and then counter sue you and make your life miserable for years. The only one keeping this stupid story at the front of tgardening bloggers attention is YOU and your insane desire to keep it alive by leaving more and more asinine comments.


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