Thursday, February 21, 2013
Where do we gardeners get our inspiration, our motivation, our information? Of course, there are many sources; designers, books, other gardeners (and, of course, bloggers).
When I was a kid, my grandmother gave me a dozen or so back issues of Horticulture and Organic Gardening. I can't tell you how many hours I spent looking through those magazines...imagining a time when I'd have a place (and garden) of my own. In short, they were a huge source of inspiration for a budding young gardener. Oh, and yes, I still have them ;-)
Over the past few years, I've sort of settled into buying 3 gardening magazines fairly regularly; Gardens Illustrated, The English Garden and Fine Gardening. Each serves is own purpose, and rarely do I feel let down by their content. I've dabbled in the past with other Mags (Horticulture, Organic Gardening, etc), but never felt I got much out of them...and Garden Design (which recently closed down) always left me cold.
First up is what I consider the "Gold Standard" of gardening magazines, Gardens Illustrated. It seems only fitting that it's a British publication, after all, the Brits seems to live and breathe gardens. GI is always beautiful to behold. It's slightly oversized and always feels luxurious. When I pick one up, I feel like I'm treating myself to something special.
One of the regular sections that I look forward to each month is the "plant picks" section. One or several gardeners/garden designers picks around a dozen or so plants that they think are particularly worthy...and they are usually appropriate for whatever month the magazine is published in. So, in February, you can all but guarantee they will gush over Snowdrops...and in June there will likely be at least one Rose. Still, they usually feature new (or slightly unusual) varieties of whatever plant they are promoting. I doubt a month goes by that I don't add at least one of their recommendations to my wish list. I especially love when they add a few old-fashioned plants to the list...so often, gardeners seem to focus on the newer, bigger, more unusual, and we forget about older varieties, which are often supremely garden-worthy.
Of course, the "meat" of gardening magazines will always be the garden profiles...and GI rarely disappoints. I can almost always guarantee that I'll spend a while gazing at the gorgeous photos of amazing gardens. In this way, GI is equal parts aspiration and inspiration.
Over the past year or so, GI has started featuring a spread of various vignettes within the featured garden, breaking them down. I love this new approach, as before, sometimes I had a hard time guessing exactly which variety of Allium a certain garden was using. Also, while few of us could hope to replicate the grand estates that are regularly featured, we can easily take these smaller designs and modify them to fit our gardens.
Another regular feature in GI is the plant profile, wherein a single plant family is explored. Even when they feature a plant I don't care much about, I usually read these, since the person who is writing about them is usually quite passionate, and I'm fascinated by the things that attract people to certain plants.
Of course, the biggest drawback to reading a British magazine is that they mention a lot of "Must-See" things that are in England. It can be a bit frustrating when they mention they are holding a seminar with Tom Stuart-Smith or Noel Kingsbury in June...so hurry and sign up...sigh.
Next up in my magazine love-fest is Fine Gardening. FG is a great hybrid of the flash and glamor of Gardens Illustrated, and the more practically-minded Organic Gardening.
Fine Gardening's strength is the mix of these two qualities. Yes, they are going to show some beautifully designed gardens...but they'll help you realize those ideas yourself too. Above, was a cool feature they did on creating an allee using Oakleaf Hydrangeas...sign me up!
The article has fairly detailed instructions on how a regular gardener, with a little know-how and elbow grease, can pull off the look on their own. They also dedicate a portion of the article to maintenance, something which is obviously necessary, but often overlooked.
Another feature of FG that I look forward to each month is their "Regional Picks" feature. I love it any time someone has ideas that are sensitive to the regions we live in...especially since America is such a vast country...with far more climatic differences that England...we have a vastly different array of conditions we must take into account.
Of course, it wouldn't be a gardening magazine without some serious eye-candy.
Luckily, with Fine Gardening, again, we get a breakdown of exactly what plants are featured...so helpful, especially for novice gardeners.
Rounding out this trio, we have The English Garden. Now, while I enjoy it quite a bit, I have to say, at least to me, it's probably the weakest of the bunch. It doesn't have quite the polish of Gardens Illustrated, nor the practicality of Fine Gardening. What it does have, without fail, are tours of gorgeous gardens. This is pure garden porn...and I really think of it as visual stimulus. Especially in those dark days before Pinterest, it was a source of inspirational images.
The English Garden's specialty is, well, features on various gardens...again, I think it's great for getting ideas for different plants to try, interesting combinations, and just general inspiration.
Aside from the tours, there are also a slew of regular (and sporadic) features...like this article by Carol Klein (who I absolutely adore...if you have a chance, look for her Life In a Cottage Garden on YouTube...it's fabulous).
So, there you have it, a trio of magazines I always look forward to each month. Do you have any favorite gardneing mags...if so, what...do you have any recommendations, have I been missing out on any great ones?