This Week’s Podcast: The Phoenix of Garden Magazines Rises Again
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I grew up loving magazines more than anything. They were so interactive: you decided whether to go forward or back, and which articles you wanted to read or save for later. But it was the design that turned me on.
Garden Design magazine has been around for a very long time. It was originally a spin off from “Landscape Architecture Magazine,” as the journal of residential design of the American Society of Landscape Architects. I was the editor of Garden Design for a while back then, and it was one of the nicest gigs I ever had.
The publication was sold, and then sold again – and finally, after struggling to get advertising, it closed despite having a loyal following. Advertising supports magazines. Advertisers buy space based on circulation numbers. Gardening periodicals generally live in a space where the numbers aren’t high enough to attract ads for cars or alcohol, but still have to charge enough for ads to make a go of it. If a niche magazine has a built in big-ticket item, like motorboats, it may succeed with limited circulation. Gardening has very few “durable goods” – an outdoor grill, perhaps, or a riding mower.
When you see magazines offered for ridiculously low subscription prices, that’s because they do not make the money from the cover price, they need the numbers of readers to attract advertisers. The magazine, itself, most likely costs a lot more to produce and mail than the amount they are charging you.
A new owner is making a go of Garden Design. This time, readers are asked to pay for what they get and there are no ads. This is a subscriber-supported publication. The new publisher is Jim Peterson and he has brought along colleague Thad Orr as editor-in-chief (above). Thad is the guest on the podcast this week. The subscription rate is reasonable for these four quarterly issues, and the magazine is also available at some specialty retail outlets. You really get your money’s worth.
I don’t know how they do it. The spring issue has 140 pages of in-depth articles; for example, there is a huge 16-page piece on Seibert & Rice and the terra cotta containers they import from Imprenata, Italy. The article features the artisans who create these masterworks (above, left), some of whom have been making flowerpots for generations. The magazine features long articles on high-end gardens (for example, above, right, “Healing the Shoreline”) with beautifully printed color photography. There is some inspiration for doing it yourself with succulents from the guru Debra Lee Baldwin. There’s a feature on ferns that includes a foldout identification guide. A special section comprises interviews, profiles and advice from leaders in the native plant and the naturalistic design movements. And that’s just some of what you’ll find in the spring issue.