Unsurprising, but still sad

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A few years ago, I was offered about ten years worth of Garden Design magazines if I paid for the postage to get them to me. The two boxes came and I put them in a closet, intending at some point to unpack and shelve them somewhere I could easily refer to them. They’re still in the boxes.

The fact that I never found it necessary to open the boxes or read the magazines that occasionally come across my desk at work is not why Garden Design will be folding after the April issue. According to Adweek, the title (owned by Bonnier Publishing) only sold 189 ad pages in all of 2012. I know that’s not good. The city/regional publication I work for (distributed mainly in Western New York) sold at least four times that many last year, and such national publications as Cosmopolitan and Architectural Digest sell well into the thousands. It’s that simple. I’ve heard people talk about how Garden Design ought to have covered this or that, but the problem isn’t the content. It’s the fact that the businesses who should be buying ads in garden magazines aren’t.  Apparently, the magazine’s readers will be offered a substitute from the other titles Bonnier offers—I guess I would take Saveur. (A healthier choice would be Outdoor Life, but who am I kidding.)

It’s expected that Bonnier will be shutting down more titles in the years to come.

Even though I have not read it recently, I paged through Garden Design more frequently in the years I first began gardening. It seemed hipper than most of the garden titles on the newsstand, and there were often essays by writers I admired. The gardens usually seemed well beyond my abilities, but that was OK. They were interesting, sometimes beautiful, and often fun. I think Garden Design must have been one of the few publications for American landscape designers to showcase their best work. As friend and co-publisher of the digital title Leaf, Susan Cohan, says, “We need American publications that reflect our diverse economy, interests and regions and we need to embrace those that show us the best of design outside at every level.”

That was apparently not much of a priority for Bonnier. Not surprising when the news is handed down from someone whose title is “chief content officer.”

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on February 12, 2013 at 7:33 am, in the category Everybody’s a Critic, Ministry of Controversy.

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  1. 1st May 2015 at 8:41 am —

    Garden Design was always a source of inspiration for me, not only for the gardens being showcased, but for the hardscape, structures, and especially furniture. There was always such a great collection of furniture in every issue — including the ads — but it was always really high-end stuff. Unobtainable for all but the very few gardens where budget was not a concern.

  2. 6th March 2016 at 7:42 am —

    Your comment perfectly describes my experience with the magazine over the years.

  3. 17th April 2016 at 12:28 pm —

    I agree with Susan; while I loved the magazine in the mid-90s, they’ve drifted away from their efforts to be more diverse in an attempt to be cutting-edge, forgetting both that much of their readership couldn’t afford to emulate the designs they presented, and that the gardening world extends beyond California. While I liked the modernist styles they often presented, I always knew when the new issue landed in my mailbox that it would be more of the same, and I never felt the excitement or urgency to read it that I used to feel. I hope that I can find an alternative publication that will provide me with design inspiration. Any suggestions?

  4. 3rd November 2016 at 12:17 am —

    I’m really bummed out about this. Whether it was the design, or the photography, or a combo of both, GD did an amazing job of showing spaces and how people lived in them. I hate photos of sterile, empty spaces that you see in other shelter mags. If I could convince my clients to pose, they’d be in my portfolio shots.

  5. 11th November 2016 at 12:51 am —

    I’m all for picturing people in their gardens. But GD’s ‘garden party’ photo essays were some of the most inauthentic images I’ve ever seen. They made me laugh out loud. I always wanted to shoot a parody in my own garden featuring real gardeners with chipped fingernails, muddy-kneed jeans, T-shirts with the arms cut off and beverages served with beer-can cozies. (Instead of GD’s designer duds and fine wines.)

  6. 15th November 2016 at 2:35 pm —

    I stopped reading Country Living for the same reason. Prop Stylists took over and every photograph was so blatantly staged………..

  7. 18th November 2016 at 2:27 pm —

    The print side of garden magazines is dying. Why buy the magazine when their content is usually available online, at no charge?

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Unsurprising, but still sad