Fine Gardening

This is the time of year when avid gardeners get cranky and bitter. 

We are forced to clean up our garden for winter (lest we get stuck with the thankless job in the spring). It's cold, things are dying, and it's not pretty.  We are filled with regret over the expensive plants that didn't do well. Even the ones that flourished don't look so good right now.  It's enough to make you wonder, how do gardening magazines survive year-round?  Who is going to buy one in November with an eye toward next spring's plantings? 

The editors of Fine Gardening must understand the psychology of gardening folk, because the cover shot on the current (December) issue sucked me right in.  Gorgeous amber Mexican feather grass is contrasted with lavender and purple fountain grass. Ahhh... let's just call it eye candy for the beleaguered.

Despite the somewhat pretentious-sounding title, this is a down-to-earth gardening magazine.  Yes, you can find all the fancy Latin genus/species names in every article. But there's also basic advice that non-master gardeners can appreciate. The cover story blurbs are good examples: "Choosing the right container" and "The truth behind common garden myths" are targeted at gardeners of all skill levels. The headier "Learn how to design with plant textures" is written by a designer but includes principles that could be applied to any garden.

Unlike many magazines where the reader-supplied content section is painful to read, one of the most useful sections in FG is "Tips." It is entirely written by readers who send in a paragraph detailing how they've made their gardening experience more fun or solved problems in the yard in an easy and economical way. "Product Reviews" is also written by readers and includes pros and cons for each item along with prices and where-to-buy information.

The cover story, "New and Unusual Grasses," which induced me to buy the magazine, really spoke to me because I've struggled considerably with grass (please hold the '60s jokes). I love the look of it but can't seem to find varieties that do well in my urban garden. The article was more of a pictorial, with large photos that really showed off the grasses' color and dimension in contrast to other plants. Each specimen has a handy "news you can use" box with info on which gardening temperature/climate zones the grass is adapted to and what soil conditions it prefers. 

Geographically, I'm "northern challenged," so the zone information is key. Obviously, not everything will survive the winter in my snow-buried yard.  It's pretty disheartening to fall in love with a picture of a plant only to discover that, sorry! -- no dice in my climate.  It's enough to make us want to move to California, where it seems you can grow just about anything. 

Toward the back of the magazine, however, are "Regional Reports" in which one of the stories (in this case, "Shrubs for Fall") is expanded to include a page of examples of what works best in each area of the country. So those of us in cold climates can quickly flip past the Southeast and California pages before we start salivating and whining.

I've still got to finish cleaning up my garden. But in the meantime, with some prodding from Fine Gardening, I'm starting my list of expensive plants to buy (or is that kill?) next year.


Published by: The Taunton Press, Inc.

Frequency: Bi-Monthly

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