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?
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Garden Design was always great for hardscape and furniture ideas IMO, but alas, that one has recently died.ReplyDelete
I was a Fine Gardening reader for several years, but now I find I don't really enjoy reading about gardens that much. I think I'd rather do than read.
Ha! Very good point, Alan...I remember when I had big projects planned for the garden, there was certainly less time (or desire) for reading about them :-)Delete
I have cut back on my magazines ... hoping for a new computer and will go digital. I sorely miss Gardens Illustrated and the English Garden although I still have all my old copies to look through again. Fine Gardening is a staple as well as Organic Gardening. I used to receive Garden Design as well but always felt I was an uninvited guest at someone's cocktail party.ReplyDelete
I've toyed with that idea as well...going digital, especially since space in our tiny house is at such a premium! I love that description of Garden Design...I think perhaps neither of us was on the guess list ;-)Delete
I enjoyed your review of how you read and use English gardening magazines as it's not easy to relate. My interest in magazines has waned so much in the last few years that I usually only pick one up if it's recommended or I know the garden like Jenny's (Rock Rose) garden in Southern Living recently.ReplyDelete
As you say, Pinterest and blogs have made it easy to file and reference online.
It's so true, Shirley...the world has changed recently, and print magazines definitely struggle in the face of so much free content online.Delete
I think you've talked me into Gardens Illustrated. The cover you feature is gorgeous!! I regularly get Horticulture (for the educated gardener), Garden Design (for the rich garden lover who wants to hire a designer to do it all) and Garden Gate (down-home gardening) from my dad after he's finished with them. Though I guess I won't get GD anymore now. I also pore over the White Flower Farm catalog. Their layout and photos are the prettiest of the many catalogs I receive.ReplyDelete
OMG...you definitely owe it to yourself to give Gardens Illustrated a try...it's gorgeous!Delete
'...dark days before Pinterest..' Scott, that has to be the best line :) Thanks for this delightful post. My gardening magazine has only been whatever Sunset has in it, so I am quite appreciative of the review. Fine Gardening sounds right up my alley. Cheers, JenniReplyDelete
Oh yes...I should have mentioned Sunset as well...always a good source for inspiration!Delete
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It's so true, here in the PNW, our climate is so similar, that it's much easier to apply the lessons from Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden...it's probably more frustrating in other areas with more extremes in temperatures!Delete
Thanks for the reviews of your favorites. I've often wondered which ones would be worth the subscription money. I occasionally pick up Fine Gardening, and have liked it, so maybe I'll get a subscription.ReplyDelete
It's always a good idea to subscribe, if you can...you save so much $$$ off the cover price...although some of them are still quite expensive.Delete
Like others have mentioned, I gave up the magazines a while ago. Between the blogs and friend's gardens lately I get all the eye candy I can handle. Fine Gardening was my favorite but I was finding alot of repetitive basic material geared towards new gardeners. One of my favorite FG features now is the Garden of the Day blog posted by editor, Michelle Gervais. You can subscribe to a daily e-mail. I just watch for it on Facebook feed every morning. Real gardens designed and maintained by real people-rarely disappoints.ReplyDelete
Oh yes, Sue...I love the Garden of the Day...always a treat...and I agree, there's nothing quite so inspiration as seeing the gardens of real gardeners!Delete
I packed all my GI and ' Food Illiustrated ' and had it shipped with our things when we moved here from the UK. That Carol Klein Cottage program was on the BBC last year..which is why I think you should have ' my private network' !!!ReplyDelete
OMG, Linda...you know I want it!!!!Delete
Hi Scott, when Loree gave us a copy of Fine Gardening, it immediately went up amongst one of our personal top gardening magazine list :)ReplyDelete
That's awesome, guys...glad to know an American magazine is up to snuff, so to speak ;-)Delete
Did you know that you can check out back issues of Gardens Illustrated from the HPSO library? It's my way of getting the bling without spending the bucks.ReplyDelete
Ahhhhh....that's so good to know...I'll have to look into it at the next meeting...I'll make sure to bring a sturdy bag ;-)Delete
I get GI, but if I'm honest I rarely ever actually read it - I still have Feb to read and March has arrived. Tempted to cancel it, because really they're just flower pr0n and do look very pretty, but realisitally unobtainable in most cases as even their 'small' gardens are usually quite sizable.
Ha...that's so true...and one of the things I laugh about...when they mention that a garden is "tiny" and it's still usually the size of a city block....I'll show them what "small" really means!Delete
I also like Groei & Bloei and De Tuin but the only problem is that these magazines are only in dutch...Best from London James GuzzReplyDelete
Uh-oh, so I guess I'll have to brush up on my dutch, huh, James?Delete
I'm in the process of cutting back on my garden magazines. I do get Fine Gardening, which I'm going to keep. I also plan on continuing American Gardener, which is put out by the American Horticultural Society, and Chicagoland Gardening, just because it is regional. I've been reluctant to subscribe to English garden magazines because their conditions are so different from here, but now I think I will check out GI.ReplyDelete
Regional magazines are always the best bet, aren't they, Jason...geared toward your particular climate and conditions. I totally think the similarities between our climate and that of England make the British mags seem more accessible to me.Delete
I am going to miss my hand-me-down copies of 'The Garden' from the Royal Horticulture Society. A customer at my last job always brought me her copies when she was through with them. She is very British, has a large attitude, and loves dogs and gardens as much as I do.ReplyDelete
OMG, Les...I've heard of that one...but never actually seen a copy...I'm sure they are something to treasure! I'm glad you found a generous benefactoress ;-)Delete
While I loved Garden Design I'm consoling myself at the loss by realizing now I can afford to subscribe to Gardens Illustrated again!ReplyDelete
What's that saying, when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window? Yes...I may have watched The Sound of Music the other day.Delete
I'm still kicking myself for waiting so long to subscribe to Fine Gardening. When the last issue arrived my mail carrier actually handed it to me and I screamed, "Yay, Fine Gardening!" and he laughed so hard and told me I was weird.ReplyDelete
Hahahahaha...that's like when I grab seed catalogs from the mailman with that maniacal look in my eyes. OH, and 90% of the time, I'm in pajamas ;-)Delete
You've sold me! I was going to subscribe to Fine Gardening, but now I have to try all 3.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this overview!
Oh Scott, you are a neat-nick aren't you? That first photo of your magazines all lined up on their shelf, prim and proper-like had me shamefully comparing them to my vintage garden mags, stacked haphazardly in 3 wicker baskets that my cats routinely sleep on when they aren't biting at the edges of.ReplyDelete
Anyway, I used to be a diehard fan of FG magazine but like so many, these days I'm much more inclined to get my inspiration from the Internet. Blogs and Pinterest never fail to disappoint me. Plus they're free. But every now and then the neat-nick bug will bite and I'll clean up the brimming baskets. But only after thumbing through the glossy pages and writing down a few redux ideas.
Uh-oh...I have a feeling you'd feel VERY disappointed if you saw the rest of my house, Grace...that might be the ONLY tidy corner :-D I agree...it gets harder and harder to justify expenses...especially with so much free content...but I still like the shot of excitement magazines give me ;-)Delete
I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I have cancelled all of my gardening magazine subscriptions. I get most of my ideas online.ReplyDelete
Nothing to be embarassed about...sometimes I think I may be a little crazy ;-)Delete
I am always looking for new sources of inspiration and ideas. My local library has a very expansive magazine selection so I will look at back issues before purchasing. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
That is such a great idea...I need to check mine out as well!Delete
Thumbs up for Gardens Illustrated, fine photography, good quality paper, overall a pleasant magazine experience. It's one place where we can see at least a few gardens, though I think it's published in a highly political environment, and isn't really a fair representation of the garden world. I think the writing on the gardens is usually pure fluff, just a bit of text to arrange the images around, but it's the best we have, and I'll certainly continue to subscribe. Fine Gardening I find too "how too." It's very narrowly focused and really for beginning gardeners. It's sad what Horticulture has become, a shadow of its former self. Low quality paper that's barely better than newsprint, directionless usually. Though I'm being critical, I also hate to do it because our garden magazines are dieing. I hope the new cyber mags become a success. Leaf and Into Gardens have a lot to offer. I hope they and others become financially successful.ReplyDelete
It's very true, James...none of these mags have a lot of "Meat" to them...mostly aspirational, I'm afraid. I find that anymore I turn to blogs for thought-provoking material...but these magazines fuel my need for beauty. I've not been impressed with Leaf as of yet...and hadn't heard of Into Gardens...will have to check them out :-)Delete
I just wasn't getting to all my subscriptions, so I gradually stopped subscribing to everything but Pacific Horticulture. Now that it's so beautifully updated and refreshed, it's downright exciting to get every other month!ReplyDelete
Oh, and I get Sunset - gotta have my left coast fix but aside from a few articles I think their garden coverage has gotten significantly worse - it's mostly about how not to garden. Meh.
Jane I'm glad you said that about Sunsets gardening coverage, I thought it was just me that felt that way. I'm still bummed over their trashing the Fresh Dirt blog...loved that!Delete
That makes me sad about Sunset, Jane...although, I admit, I haven't bought an issue for several years! I think Pacific Hort is better, for sure, but still too Cali-centric for me. Still, it gives one hope that they are trying to improve!Delete
I get Fine Gardening and don't know the other two at all. Funny isn't it? One would think we ALL would know ALL the gardening mags. I get Horticulture and Carolina Gardener and include Southern Living in part as a gardening magazine. I do like the State by State mags for regional information.ReplyDelete
I think Regional Mags are the way to go, if you have one, Janet! We sort of have on in Pacific Horticulture, but it's, unfortunately, often focused on California and leaves the rest of us out :-(ReplyDelete
Just curious as to why you deleted my post on BBCs Gardener's World magazine? Is this a sponsored post from a competitor? thanks!ReplyDelete
Hi Skykomie! Actually, that's weird that you mention it...I thought you had deleted that comment (it says deleted by author). I wonder if my page got hacked??? I had you comment in my email, however, so still responded to it (above). I think it's definitely for us here in the PNW to apply things we see in British pubs to our gardens...it's a bit harder for the rest of the country, which doesn't have such mild weather...lucky us! :-)Delete
You might want to try Garden Gate sometime. It's my favorite, but after all this I do want to take a gander at some GI.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing!
Gardens Illustrated is lovely but for $90 a year/subscription they should come water my plants for me.ReplyDelete
"Fine Gardening I find too "how too." It's very narrowly focused and really for beginning gardeners. It's sad what Horticulture has become, a shadow of its former self. "ReplyDelete
Couldn't agree more..
Just stumbled across this post and it's really interesting to see how real gardeners feel about gardening magazines. Thanks Jason for mentioning The American Gardener magazine, for which I am an editor. We're always curious how we measure up so here's my offer: anyone who wants to try a free sample, absolutely no strings attached (that means we won't even keep your contact info to bug you later about subscribing), then email your name and mailing address with "freebie trial" as the subject to firstname.lastname@example.org. All that is asked in return is an honest review - tell us what you like and what we could do better.ReplyDelete