Here’s What Garden Writers Are Doing Very Well

Okay, after two days of ranting about all the shortfalls in garden books and magazines lately, I think it’s only fair to talk about some of the things I do really like–because there are some (not that you’d know that from the last couple of posts.)

And as for the time-honored criticism of “oh yeah?  If you can do it better, why don’t you?” let’s get that out of the way right now.  With respect to books, I surely don’t have any idea if I can do it better.  I’ve never tried.  Writing books is hard work, and I’ve long felt that I don’t have anything new to add–certainly that much was obvious from Friday’s post.  I do have an enormous amount of respect for the hard work that authors put in–you didn’t see me disparaging their work, just the fact that there wasn’t anything new under the sun.

Even with respect to the magazine articles, it’s not as if the writing was bad.  I was really questioning the judgment of the editors (and really, editors of 3 different magazine collectively decided to run articles on edging.  How could they each know that their colleagues were going to run pieces on the same topic?)  Perhaps I’m questioning my own sanity and wondering whether I need quite so many magazine subscriptions after all.

I do write for a magazine and a newsletter and the reason I don’t write for more of them or write more often is that I find writing on ridiculous deadlines like that to be so uncreative.  When people ask why I blog, I tell them it’s so I can get important information out to readers in a timely manner.  That can’t happen when you write for magazines.  I was writing my spring article in early December.  I hadn’t even put up my Christmas decorations yet and here I was putting together a piece about “don’t go out into the garden too soon or you’ll ruin your soil structure.”  Craziness.  That’s why I don’t write much for magazines.

One of the things I enjoy most in all of the magazines I subscribe to are the Editor’s letters at the beginning.  They always give me an idea of what’s to come–sort of a “Coming Attractions.”  They also help give me a feel for the folks behind the scenes at the various magazines.  It helps put a human face on a sometimes impersonal business.  I remember one particular column in Fine Gardening by Steve Aitkin in which he composed a haiku for every article in the magazine.  Not only was that amazingly clever, but it was really a tour de force that I’ve never seen before in any type of publication.  Kudos to Steve!

I also enjoy the sort of “Last Word” type columns at the end of each of the magazines.  They vary in content.  Organic Gardening’s is always by Maria Rodale.  Fine Gardening has recently been running interviews with different experts in the plant world.  Horticulture  and American Gardener have more of a folksy, first person essay.  But all of them are interesting and well done.

And I never fail to read the “Gardener to Gardener” type tips, as well as the “Suggested Plant for Your Region” (as well as for everybody else’s region, for that matter!) to see what I can learn.  And quite often I will pick up a handy tip from someone else, or learn about a new plant, or cultivar, or plant that may not be hardy for me, but that I may want to try as a houseplant or in my sun porch–you get the idea.

Because I do so many speaking engagements, it always helps to keep these tips filed away in the memory bank.  You never know when they might prove helpful to someone else, if not to me personally.

So I don’t suspect I’ll be giving up the magazines anytime soon.  I’ll just have to skip the repetitive articles–or rant about them!

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