The annual March gardening issue of Martha Stewart Living is a much-anticipated event in my house. It is, I believe, as close to a perfect gardening magazine as we have in the US, but more on that in a minute. First, if you have the magazine, turn to p. 147 and look at that perennial border at Digging Dog Nursery. Have you ever seen anything more delicious? Makes me want to just hand my credit card to them and say, "Send me everything. No, wait. Send me three of everything." Lordy.
OK, back to our magazine situation, which has been a topic of discussion here and abroad lately. I am still in mourning over the demise of White Flower Farm's glorious publication The Gardener, which tried to make a go of it without advertising and just couldn't stay afloat. I also love MaryJane's Farm, even though it only comes out when the farmgirls can find the time. Also, it's more of a magazine on rural life, but there's enough gardening to satisfy me. And of course, the UK's Country Living is great fun, as are many of the other UK magazines, although they're expensive and hard to find.
Which brings me to my point. Why doesn't Martha roll out a gardening magazine of her own? Imagine if they took the format of the March issue and just did that 12 times a year. Keep the recipes, the garden-themed crafts and decorating, and just pack it with gorgeous photos, interesting plants, cool gardens, etc. Editor Margaret Roach and garden guru Andrew Beckman have started a blog to go along with their new satellite radio show "Homegrown;" I sent them a note and told them this very thing.
What would your ideal gardening magazine contain? Here's my vote: (and a note to garden magazine editors--if you're out there, read the comments! Your readers are speaking!)
--It's got to be all organic. The chemical companies don't need any help peddling their poisons. Give us some research, some methods, some techniques.
--It should go beyond the basics. There are lots of resources for beginning gardeners to learn about "easy, no-fuss container plants" and other such drivel. Martha's great strength is that she's willing to be sophisticated, to show her readers a complicated recipe or a rare plant. Give us something we can work with--something we can reach for!
--At the same time, it shouldn't be snobby. Garden Design is well-done, but the whole thing feels out of my price range.
--Longer articles! I'm tired of short, bland articles that really just take up space in between the photographs. Come on, there are interesting, enlightened gardeners around the world with something to say--let's hear from them! Run book excerpts. Run four-part articles. Have interesting ideas. Be funny. Stir the pot.
--Find a better way to handle regional information. I appreciate magazines that include garden tips from different areas around the country, but the whole thing feels a little forced. Can't it be better integrated? For instance, an article on lilacs can include a sidebar about the Descanso hybrids bred for areas that don't get cold winters.
--Beautiful photos and illustrations, of course.
--Let's have a little farm life. Chickens, goats, bees, root cellars, barns, etc.
--Cooking? Decorating? Crafts? Collecting? Garden parties? Garden fashion? Sure, why not? I'm up for a little "garden lifestyle" stuff.
What do you think? What are garden magazines doing right, and what's still missing?