Tuesday, December 11

Garden Magazine Reviews - My Top 5

I don't know about you but I like to have at least one subscription to some gardening magazine, especially for those winter blue days. Magazines are the perfect pick-me up especially when I can have a stroll through someone's blooming garden. Ideas from other gardeners abound in magazines and you'll find me jotting down ideas for next spring as I flip through the pages. I wanted to share with you some of my favorite publications and perhaps someone on your list will be getting a gift subscription this Christmas. :)

1. Fine Gardening
I've been a fan for this magazine since it came out in '88, not that I could read in '88, but before I actually purchased my first subscription (a couple years ago) to Fine Gardening I was reading as many past issues as I could get my hands on. The 90's decade of Fine Gardening is, in my opinion, when Fine Gardening was at its prime. I believe Fine Gardening is probably the most informative of all the gardening magazines I have read.

Currently, the magazine is 100 pages long with average magazine paper (glossy cover and thin, slick paper). Photos are plentiful and of good quality. Ads can be found throughout, but they flow well through the magazine so they don't bother me like they do in other gardening magazines such as Gardening How-To.  Fine Gardening comes 6 times a year and is normally around $30 a year, so it is not too expensive.

In every issue of Fine Gardening you will find both edible and ornamental and that is something that really sparks my interest as I don't see that mix of plants in other magazines. I found that almost every gardening magazine has a regular department where they list off some of there favorite plants, but Fine Gardening does it the best in my opinion because they do it by region and they ask gardeners and horticulturalists from that particular region. How cool is it to have an annual Design Challenge where readers can send in photos of their plant design and win up to $500 worth of prizes. Love that. Then there is one of my favorite departments, interview with a gardener. Always like to get to know my fellow flower buds! After listing off some of my favorite regulars I have to say that my favorite part of Fine Gardening are their featured articles. Every article (free-lanced or assigned) is excellent and captivating. I have read some magazines where the articles are well-written but the article is cut short, leaving you hanging there. Fine Gardening does well to include all the information you'd want about a particular plant or garden topic and they have more online. Finegardening.com is a great gardening source and even if you don't have a subscription to the magazine I'd recommend their forum, Latin pronunciation guide, and their free e-letter.

2. Garden Gate
I was given a gift subscription to this magazine and even though it is only 52 pages long, comes only 6 times a year, and is $24 a year, it is one of the prettiest magazines I've read. The photos are exceptional and the watercolor sketches throughout are just gorgeous. They use thicker than average paper which is nice and they actually pre hole-punch each issue to make it easier for storing in a binder. In every issue they showcase particular types of gardens or spaces and give lots of great ideas to make that space a showstopper including a whole garden design, mapped out and everything. Pretty neat. Like Fine Gardening they also have a top plant picks regular feature. I really have come to enjoy it as the photos are amazing.

This magazine, even though it is on the shorter side (only 52 pages) it is isn't cluttered like you might think. I know some magazines that try to fit in as much content as possible, making them cluttered and hard to read. Garden Gate keeps it neat and clean and very readable for lazy Sunday afternoons. Also, one big bonus - no ads!

3. Country Gardens
You may think being this a Better Homes and Gardens magazine it would be chalk-full of ads, I am thankful it isn't. They have plenty of ads but they keep them to the front and back, making it much easier to read. The magazine is about 115 pages (little less than 100 not counting the ads), comes 8 times a year and is only about $20 a year (including their digital edition) - great bang for your buck I must say! I think my only qualm would have to be the paper, but I am probably just picky that way. The paper is floppy so it isn't the easiest to read when enjoying a cup of tea in bed. :)

The photos are more than plentiful, with two-page spreads - love that! The content is interesting, captivating, and nostalgic (and I'm not even 30 yet :). My favorite features in the magazine are getting to know other gardeners and lovers of nature. Country Gardens really does a good job to bring the home, garden, family, and gardener right to the reader. Other great features are the recipes - yum! The Meredith Corporation always seem to share recipes in every one of their magazines and I am more than okay with that!

4. Hobby Farm Home
Yes, this isn't technically a gardening magazine but it does have lots of articles about gardening. But for me, that wouldn't be the reason why I would purchase another subscription, but rather because is so jam-packed with interesting articles that you can't find anyplace else. The editor is a lady after my own heart and it does pretty much cater mainly to women readers, but I am what you call a girly tomboy and I think lots of people will enjoy this magazine for its uniqueness, creativity, and warm country charm. I called Country Garden magazine nostalgic due to its country gardens focus and, yet, Hobby Farm Home is nostalgic in every way and I really enjoy that feeling.

The magazine is beefy, boasting 114 pages (only about 8 of ads with most being relevant to the magazine unlike Country Garden magazine) with thicker than average cover pages.  It comes 6 times a year for around $30, although right now they cut the annual price in half!

I enjoy this magazine for its myriad of different articles in each issue. Where would you find a magazine that has an article about antiques in the garden, how to dye yarn, how to make vintage ice cream flavors, the history behind two sisters and their salsa company, weddings on the farm, decorating with mosaics in the garden, reviving the art of letter writing, and an article about a community class of green woodturning all in the same issue? ......... That's what I thought. No place (other than Hobby Farm Home).

5. Horticulture
I find this magazine somewhat of a combination of all the above magazines. It has a little something for everyone and so I find it always full of inspiration and great ideas. Just the name of this magazine and you can tell it probably will be a bit "brainier" in content than a lot of others and you'd be right. A regular department, "Science Matters" says it all, but they seem to always squeeze in lots of other very informative articles in every issue.  The couple flower profiles they feature in each issue are some of my favorites. You can find flower profiles in every gardening magazine but Horticulture does a better job than most.

Sadly, it's only 75 pages (a few devoted to ads) and the quality of the magazine itself is my least favorite of the five I listed. The cover design is poor in my opinion and the paper is very thin from cover to cover making the magazine very floppy.  The photos are nice with 2-page spreads, but not breathtaking - is that a bad thing? Probably not. The price is great, though - $20 for 8 issues, but I often see it lower than $20.
They also have an annual photo contest and the grand prize is $1,000 cash. Pretty cool.

GENERAL MAGAZINE BUYING TIP: Check your local library or library coop to see if they have subscriptions to a gardening magazine you are interested in. You can get a free preview of it and decide if its actually what you're looking for. Also, I purchased back issues of gardening magazine for only dimes at local book sales. Make sure to check out any book sale event going on before spending $5 on a back issue!

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