Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Surprise! More Rain!

It has been raining for days now and not just a steady drizzle - but torrents with gaps of hazy humidity followed by more rain with occasional thunder and lightening. Loving this rain for the garden after months of drought and a very dry winter. However, it is very de-motivating work-wise. I don't how those folks in Seattle or the UK get anything done!

The July/August issue is at the printer now getting ready for mailing. Meanwhile, I'm grooming the mail list file -- meaning going through the comps and weeding out those that should no longer be on there. Keep: area garden columnists currently employed at local publications. Lose: those folks who I have not heard from in ages. Then I move on to the subscriber list. Add: new ones. Lose: those that have failed to renew.

I don't think I'm totally up-to-speed on the renewal mailing process. It is one of those chores that it is very easy to procrastinate on. I do a postcard monthly to anyone past due or coming up on it - then send an email reminder if I have an e-address for them. Stats have been quoted to me that 20% renewal rate is average and another says it is 37%. I'm happy to report we are more in the 70% range - which is something I should probably be bragging about to our potential advertisers and others. Hmmm, off to write new marketing copy...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Start a magazine?! Are You Crazy?!

Got this "wonderful" story in my email box a few days ago:

Mags to Riches
By Carolyn Hueston
Got a great idea for a magazine? Find out how you, too, can break into this challenging business.

In it were the following quotes:

"In fact, 9 out of 10 new magazines fail, according to Cheryl Woodward, publishing business consultant and author of Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine."

"...of the magazines that fail, 70 percent never make it past their first issue."

"And you can expect to lose money for the first four or five years while you're investing in building your circulation."

With stats like those, who would take the plunge that the headline advises! Well, I did and things are going swimmingly in our second year - though yes, we have yet to turn a profit. We at least made it past that first issue hurdle and actually just sent our 9th to press today. I think that is grounds to celebrate. So on that note I'm off to take an hour and sit in my gazebo with a cool drink and a good book - something I haven't done since last August!

Monday, June 19, 2006

To Kill a Mockingbird?

I feed you. I provide shelter for you. I even given you a pond to bathe and drink from. I keep the cat away from you. This is the thanks I get??!! The non-stop scolding chirps are bad enough, but the worst was the dive-bombing of friends, guests, and UPS delivery personnel that gets me riled up!

A Mockingbird couple moved into the arch I have set as the entrance to my pond. It is covered in Clematis jackmanii and Wisteria vines - making a perfect place for their nest - easy access to food and water. However, this is just 5 feet from a very well-traveled urban sidewalk with constant foot traffic by commuters and nearby college students.

I have not seen a squirrel in my yard for weeks. Other birds are nearly absent as well. A few robins and sparrows have attempted to approach the pond - but have little luck. The worst I witnessed was a turtle dove being jumped on by one of the mockingbirds. He literally jumped on his head! Ouch.

I've had a few close-calls myself - the male especially likes to do a maneuver that is all sharp talons and beak going right for the eyes - he gets as close as he can without actually scratching me. He is not messing around.

So this is my warning who all who drop by or attend my weekly Open Gardens on Friday from 3-6 -- stay away from the pond and keep an eye out for a few feisty birds. I'd bring a parasol or at least a large hat. As soon as those chicks are old enough - they are all being evicted.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bloggety Blogs

So I attended a workshop on blogs a few weeks ago (http://www.beyondblogging2006.com/). It was packed and the speakers were excellent. Yvonne of Lip-Sticking Blog (http://www.lipsticking.com/) was phenomenal. She spoke about woman's empowerment and how woman are the true communicators and that blogging was a natural for our gender. She gave examples of blogs by women in third-world countries and how being online improved their lives. I'm not sure how the men in the audience felt, but she sure stirred my pot up and got me motivated! I was a bit disappointed though in the audience members - most of whom did NOT blog and seemed pretty behind the curb to me. They were mostly corporate PR/Marketing folks either looking for another way to reach and sell to customers. Does blogging really translate into sales? No one there addressed that question. Much talk was focused on getting to the 'influencers' -- those opinion-leaders who can make or break your product. They also talked about keeping up with other blogs to say what people are saying about your company -- good or bad -- and working with them. But the big questions was never asked nor discussed. My take? A blog is a great concept and certainly good for building customer relationships, but as far as actual (ROI) -- return-on-investment, I'd say it is close to zero. Even if that is the case, I still believe in blogs just as a valuable communication tool that has yet to reach its zenith.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Free Plants

One of the perks of editing a garden magazine and writing garden stories for other publications is the surprise boxes of plants delivered to my from doorstep. Pictured here is a recent delivery from Burpee of tomato plants along with a shipment from Spring Meadows of various annuals. The downside to this is finding places in my garden to stick these fun, new items. I'd already bought tomato plants for the season so now have four more I need to find a sunny spot for in my yard. I've already taken over the street-side median strips to set out the annuals labeled as heat, drought, and stress-tolerant. This will be their ultimate test. Now I have my eyes on a strip of land near the railroad tracks that as far as I can tell is maintained by nobody and may benefit from a few additions that I can keep an eye on when I pass that direction on the way to catch the subway. For the rest that I can't find homes for, I'm thinking they'll be perfect for giveaways or prizes to the volunteer reader panel or to the readership in general.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Milestone

I just reordered our Seed Packs - I'm down to my last 3. That means I've given away 1,000 seed packs since last year. Wow! We order custom packs of Eastern Native wildflower mix from http://www.edhumeseeds.com/. Last year I gave the seeds to anyone and everyone we saw at garden events. On the pack is printed our subscription details. However, I believe little new business resulted from the seed pack giveaway and it was virtually impossible to track in any case. This year, we are doing a "get a free pack with each new subscription" deal at in-person events. We're hoping to give them just a nudge of incentive to sign-up right there and not wait until later - which usually translated into never since people easily forget or misplace things in our too-busy lives these days. This also rewards folks who come out to area garden events in some small way. It seems to be working out well and I have had good feedback at the events we've recently attended. Will see how it works this year and maybe change it up again next year.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Gardener's Paradise

Wolfgang Oehme (http://www.ovsla.com/) of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, Inc. is a big name in the world of DC gardens in the way that Placido Domingo is a big name in opera or Steven Spielberg in movies. So when a magazine reader, now friend, called and said the American Bamboo Society (http://www.americanbamboo.org) was holding a meeting which included a you of Oehme's home garden and would I like to accompany her.
Uh, yeah! You bet I leapt at the chance. Well, it did not disappoint -hard to do justice to it in words. But I'm posting a photo here to give an idea of it. He is just a few blocks from downtown Towson, MD, and definitely has developed a little slice of paradise at the Towson Courthouse grounds as well. If you are ever by the Baltimore area, do yourself a favor and get to the courthouse. It used to be just a flat mowed-lawn and boring would be a compliment. Here is a photo of it as it looks now.
Oh yes, the tour also included the home gardens of Paul Babikow (http://www.babikow.com/) and Kurt Bluemel (http://www.kurtbluemel.com/) - both well-known wholesale nurserymen. They have had a tremendous influence on not just what is offered in our area but internationally as well. Kurt was preparing an order for the Biltmore Estate in his greenhouses. He said he mostly sells to landscapers or large installations now. He is not so much into nursery retail centers and the same with Paul whose plant selection catalog would make anyone drool. They also concentrate on the landscape supply business and are strictly wholesale.
I'm still recovering from this day-long excursion to plant heaven and I'm sure I'll be using more photos from this visit in the magazine as well as much background information in future stories on what is in store for DC-area gardeners.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Updates & Catching Up

I've decided to expand the focus of this blog to my garden and not just the garden magazine. I keep getting garden questions. Also, I just feel more like talking about what great things are blooming right now than totally focusing on dry business discourse :-). After all, gardening passion IS why I started this publication. I considered started a second blog just for my garden - but realized my time constraints and that I'd probably ignore one blog over the other (guess which one that would be!) - so better to combine and address all here.
A few folks have asked about follow-up to a few previous posts. Read on for answers.

What Happened to the Tree?
The tree remains are now removed from my front lawn. Still waiting to see which, if any, of the shrubs and perennials recover before pulling them out. I'm putting a crape myrtle in where the birch was and may move some perennials from a side bed to fill in if needed.
How Did Concrete Plaques Turn Out?
The concrete plaques are still looking like grey bricks and are just as heavy. I think the mix I bought was the wrong formula and need to go back to buy something lighter and not so quick-drying.
How was Open Garden?
The first Open Garden went well last Friday (aside from the car-crash ending) and I was able to get a lot done in the yard during it. This week's Open Garden I'll finish setting up my pond for the season. I already have two hardy water lilies blooming this week!
Can You Help with Regional Gardening Magazine Networking?
I'm starting a private discussion list for regional gardening magazine staffers (publishers, editors, etc.). If you'd like to join as well - please email me and let me know what publication you are with. The case study on our magazine a MagazineLaunch.com has attracted a lot of attention from fellow publishers and those who are looking to start a regional garden publication themselves. I think we can help each other and maybe get some kind of ad space bundle going as well that we can offer to national advertisers.