Thursday, December 29, 2005

Predecessors Update

I posted a few weeks ago about searching for previous publishers of DC-area gardening magazines and books. Well, thanks to some blog readers and sleuths I've located one: M. Elaine Evans. She co-authored a Gardener's Directory soft-cover book for the DC metro area. We chatted by phone and it turns out that her co-author, Suzanne Judy, has retired and moved out of the area. Elaine says the directory had only one printing of 3,500 copies and all are sold. No plans on updating it or doing a reprint. She says the undertaking was quite a bear and definitely was a two-person job. After doing the directory, Elaine ran a garden travel service for about seven years -- organizing trips for professionals and serious gardeners. She now runs Delightful Gardens, a garden design firm. She can be reached at 703.812.4628.

The former publisher of Grandiflora magazine, Donna Williams, has generously sent me a couple back issues of that former area gardening magazine. It is intriguing and took in in-depth approach to each issue's cover topic. I'll try tracking down the rest of the back issues at the local garden libraries - Smithsonian, Brookside, Green Springs, etc. There was a total of 10 issues from 2001-03 of Grandiflora MidAtlantic Gardening magazine.

This search has also led me to another publication I need to track down - Dig. This one was supposedly more recent and was published out of Columbia, MD, for the DC area. I know of a Dig magazine in the pacific NorthWest, but never had encountered this one. Will have to keep "digging."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Few Updates

Feeling a bit guilty over the long holiday break in this blog, although after visiting a few others I see that I'm not the only one... Well, my "break" was spent getting our Jan/Feb 06 issue to the printer and sending out advertising solicitation letters. Then there is the whole finalizing of the upcoming Seed Exchange we are hosting at the U.S. National Arboretum on January 28. Those details had to be done in order to go into this issue. Finally, we had the last minute holiday gift subscription rush that is a bit time-consuming as we do custom gift cards.

Now I can start focusing on 2006 planning and goals. I'd like to take the luxury of sitting down for a day or two to go over our progress, accomplishments, and ways to improve from 2005. However, my guess is that the goal-planning will be squeezed in between other upcoming projects as we can.

I did get a day or two to spend Christmas with the family. My mom and I went up to Ellicot City, MD, to visit the home of Mary Ellen Shaeffer. She is an accomplished craftswoman, to say the least, and holds an annual holiday open house for friends and generously also includes a few area garden clubs. Here are a few photos I took there. Every room is filled with decorated trees and holiday vignettes. Aside from elaborate embroidery, holiday decor, stuffed animals, quilting, etc., she does dried flower arrangements and magnificent corn husk dolls. Which are not generally my taste, but hers are so impressive and so life-like, I may need to change my mind! These photos are posted at such low-res they really don't do her work justice. If you want to see them at high-res, just drop me an email and I'll send a few off to you.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Predecessors

I finally caught up with the editor of Grandiflora, a MidAtlantic regional magazine that ran for 10 issues - from 2001-03. I had heard great things about the publication, but was never able to track down a copy or locate the brains behind it. Today I was reading the latest issue of HortResources Newsletter, that one of our book reviews from the magazine was reprinted in, and another book review by a Donna Williamson caught my eye. I noted she was a Virginia-based writer and wrote her a short email of praise for the review. She wrote back and mentioned she used to be the publisher of Grandiflora. I hope soon to get a look at a few of their back issues. I'm very curious to see how we compare and contrast.

There are others are still trying to track down. I can across a "Gardener's Directory -Washington DC & Metro Area" at a used book store. (I volunteered the past several years for the ones run by the Friends of the Library in Montgomery County. I had to stop this year due to the hectic publishing schedule, but hope to get back to it soon.) It is written by M. Elaine Evans and Suzanne Judy. It is copyrighted 1995 to the Gardener's Directory Press. This book is a terrific resource and a lot of it is still relevant. Most of it are list of local resources for various things like pick-your-own-farms, plant societies, area gardens to visit, and much more. I've been scribbling all over mine and would love a fresh copy and to find out if they plan any future updates. They did a fantastic job and I would love to meet them to chat.

Two people I'd really love to have a long conversation with are Becky and Joseph R. Pomponio. Here is what I know about them. They published a magazine called "Washington Gardener" in 1984. (I have issues 2-4, would love to have all their issues -- anybody got any others?) I'm not sure when it ceased, but I believe it did not last through its second year. They published out of their home in Bethesda and had an ambitious schedule of 12 issues per year for a subscription rate of $11.95. The cover price was $1.50. The postage must've cost them a pretty penny as the printed on some fairly heavy paper stock.

I ran into their former editor at a nursery this summer. Our conversation was brief. She said her "office" was their kitchen table and that they "lost their shirts" doing the publication. She had not heard from them in years, but said she'd try to track them down and give them my card if she was successful. The funniest part of our conversation (to me, not to her) was when I said, "When I chose the name of my magazine, I had no idea there had been a previous one. It wasn't until I went through the process of trade name registration that I saw it had been registered in the state of Maryland over 20 years ago, but was marked as 'lapsed' and 'unclaimed' so was available again for usage." She exclaimed indignantly, "It has NOT been over 20 years." I said, "I have a few of the issues dated summer of 1984." She said that couldn't be right and I could see the "I feel so old now" look glazing over her eyes so I did not pursue it further. Believe me, I've had a few of those moments myself. A hazard of being Gen X and socializing with those much younger than yourself! In any case, it was great meeting her.


One of the writers for our magazine's first issue, Susan Belsinger, was generous enough to get me those three back issues that I do have of the "Washington Gardener." She had written for them too and had kept them in her files. I've scanned the June 1984 cover here for nostalgia's sake. Every once in a while I'll run into someone at a garden event who sees our signage and says they subscribed or remember "the old Washington Gardener." So you see DC is not a town of transients. A lot of those die-hard gardeners back then are still digging in the local dirt now. Maybe one of them will be able to point me towards the Pomponios or the "Gardener's Directory" authors. I know we'd have lots to talk about.

There is one other preceding publication that I'm aware of -- People, Plants & Places -- which had a MidAtlantic version of their magazine for about 2-3 years. I believe their last issue of that was Fall 2004. They continue to publish their original magazine, the New England version and have also now launched their TV show in HGTV. I have yet to catch it as it airs Sunday at 7:00 am and unlike the rest of their schedule doesn't rerun several times a week. I do have all the back issues of the local version of the PPP mag, though I have yet to get a chance to do more than scan through the pile. I've also been in contact with a lot of their ex-writers and staff. From what I have gathered so far I can see that PPP had a very different editorial focus than ours and obviously covered a larger area (with majority of stories on PA, NJ, and NY gardens), but still had the same written-by-local-gardeners-for-local-gardeners mission as we do which I heartily applaud.

Some day when I have a few more spare minutes I tell the stories about the writer solicitations I get from all over the USA and as far away as India and Africa. For now, I've think I've gone on enough to hold this blog through much of the holiday season. In case I don't get a chance to post again before January 1, have a wonderful rest of your 2005!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Grow Your Creativity

I'm in love with Miranda July's site for sparking creativity and for a different perspective on reality.

http://www.learningtoloveyoumore.com/index2.php

Especially love #36 for its relation to gardening :-)

Best of all it is free.

Please spread the word...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Native Plants No-Nos?

I spoke to the head of the DC Chapter of the Native Plant Society today about helping out with the "native plants" table at the seed exchange we are holding this January at the USNA. We were looking for a few volunteers to staff this staff (there will be 5 others - annuals, perennials, edible, etc.) and help sort the seeds for trading as attendees come in. Then assist in the trading itself just to keep things orderly. Nothing strenuous and hopefully fun afternoon for all. I offered a few of the local Native Plant groups the opportunity to participate and to put our their information, membership applications, and such.

Her reaction to the request was polite but a definite "NO." Their position is not to support native plant sales or seed trading. Further, they do not encourage planting of natives out of what occurs "naturally."

This is as extreme a position as I've heard taken so far on natives and I'd thought they were getting pretty authoritarian and intolerant about some of their policies already. Since some of their members run native plant nurseries and native seed companies, I thought this was an interesting direction to take.

Personally, I sympathize with their cause and the general idea of preserving natives. Wondering though with this new policy, are they advocating that natives not be used in home gardens? Or are they saying let everything go back to nature and have no gardens? What happens when the native plants fail to take over and more and more exotics move in (as happens in most experiments)? Do they just keep stripping the land and reseeding or hope that a few natives will fight it out? Somehow I think these theories need to be explored and thought through a bit more before implementation.

I think their is a balance we can strike in our own gardens between "exotics" and "natives" and it is up to each individual gardener to find their own path.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Frozen Treat


It is way too early for this February weather! While shoveling this morning, I took a few shots of my plants in this few inches of snow. Here is a photo of my rhododendron bush that is right next to my front door with a late blossom fully encased in ice.

This is a low-res version, but I'll post a high-res one to our yahoo group shared files area along with a few other snaps of frosted fooliage.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Coming Up For Air

Just a quick note to say the holiday crunch is on at the same time as trying to get the January/February issue in layout, proofed, and to press by the 20th. I knew it'd be crunchtime, but I guess I was still underestimating things. I even attended a workshop this week on "getting organized for the holiday season." Umm, I think I could've taken those few hours spent at that session and actually baked some cookies, sent out cards, and put up some decorations. Wasn't a total waste, the workshop was hosted by a local Women Business Owners (WBO) group, so I at least got to meet some of them and decide if I'd like to join. I'm in so many groups now though, I think I need to set down, rank them all, and start thinning them out to concentrate on just a core few. Another task to add to me growing 2006 "to do" list.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Getting the Word Out

Getting the word out on the magazine is at times frustrating. Even though we've had small pieces about it printed in the Washington Post, Northwest Current, and Washington Examiner as well as numbers of local garden club newsletter, list serves, and online -- we've been on radio, TV and live events -- it still feels like we are not breaking through and reaching our prospective readers.

Trying to think outside the box I decided to scrap the holiday postcard mailing offer I'd scheduled to send out this week, instead we are placing a small ad in the Washington Post's Home Section on 12/8 and 12/15 and then a slightly different version on 1/5/06. (There will be no Home section on 12/22 and I figured 12/29 was not a big readership time.)

Calculating the direct costs, we will need to get 134 new subscriptions in from this to break even on the ad purchase. Since this is our first attempt at placing an ad in a major daily newspaper, it is hard to gage if this is an easy goal to achieve. I'm actually hoping to get in more like 500 new subscribers and anything over that will be fantastic.

Our best promotions so far have been mailing a complimentary copy of the magazine to the subscriber list of a now defunct magazine: People, Plants & Places. They discontinued their MidAtlantic version over a year ago to focus on their NorthEast region publication as well as on their new HGTV show. Their previous subscribers obviously overlapped with our targeted audience -- only wish their list had been bigger - about 3,000 in DC, MD & VA and surrounding counties in PA, DE, & WV.

We'll see if this newspaper promotion makes sense. I figure local garden readers are looking at this -- and they are our primary prospects.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Planting Seeds for the Seed Exchange

I've been busy these past few days soliciting seed packs and door prize donations for the upcoming Seed Exchange we are hosting at the U.S. National Arboretum (http://www.usna.usda.gov/Information/index.html) on January 28. This task is a bit awkward for me as it is outside my comfort zone or past experiences. We are giving sponsors some great publicity (listings in the Washington Gardener magazine, web site, and at the event), but it is hard to know what is appropriate to ask for without overstepping.

Still I must be doing something right. So far we have gotten a generous seed pack donation from D. Landreth Seed Company (www.landrethseeds.com) and pledges for items from W. Atlee Burpee (www.burpee.com), Thompson & Morgan Seedsmen (www.thompson-morgan.com), and Gardener's Supply Company (www.gardeners.com).

BTW, if you'd like to donate seed packs or door prize items for the event, you can contact me at editor@washingtongardener.com. I'm trying to get all donors in by December 10 so I can give them publicity in our Jan/Feb issue of the magazine.

By my calculations, with an entry fee of just $15 our seed exchange attendees will walk away with goods worth far more than that fee -- aside from that they are getting educated by the great speakers we have lined up and of course the seed trading amongst themselves.

Now I'm starting to worry about the limit of 125 attendees in the USNA main auditorium. That puts a constraint on the size of the event -- which is good and bad. Manageable for us at our first venture, but if we want to grow it in future years we may need to look at hosting it at other area locations.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Products Without Inventory or Investment

We've introduced a new calendar to our offerings. View and order it at:
http://www.cafepress.com/washgardener.38799618

All photos were taken in the great Washington DC area. Some are from famous gardens, others from backyards. Some professionally landscaped -- others more homespun. We wanted to keep a variety of images to inspire and amuse you throughout the year.

I really just wanted to make the calendar as a nice promo or gift item to order for our company, but if others enjoy it and order a few that is a great side benefit.

I've been singing the praises of Cafepress.com for a few years now. I love them! What are they? A web site that allows you to put a design on various products - tshirts, mugs, mousepads, etc. and you can order just those you want and have them within 2-3 days. Your "customers" go to the site and order exactly the size and style they want. No need for you to invest anything but your time to make and upload the initial design. You carry no inventory stock -- so you are not stuck with 50 size "M" tshirts in yellow when all your customers want pink in size "S." The product prices are not the cheapest but they are good quality and have stellar customer support.

I started using them with a club I'm in and think they are great for family reunions and such. This is ideal for small companies and entrepreneurs just starting out. When I began last January, it was simple to design polo shirts and hoodies to wear at local gardening events. Tote bags were done as contest prizes and buttons as promotional giveaways. I've added other items that I thought our readers might enjoy as well.

I'm working on a few new designs to add to Washington Gardener offerings -- some logos incorporating DC landmarks with flowers -- experimenting really with what is immediately recognizable. Hmmm, how would the White House look sprouting flowers?

If you decide to give www.Cafepress.com a try, please tell them "WashGardener" referred you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Partnerships

Much of my time lately has been devoted to two exciting partnerships with area gardens. The first one is a Seed Exchange coming up on Saturday, January 28 at the U.S. National Arboretum. We hope to make this an annual event. I'm working closely with the USNA (http://www.usna.usda.gov/) staff to develop a great afternoon -- expert speakers, fantastic door prizes, and of course, seed swapping. We'll even have some seeds culled from the USNA grounds to share! I had the brain-stirm for this event last summer while attending the Mail-Order Gardening (http://mailordergardening.com/) conference in Orlando, FL. I was trying to think of an activity the magazine could host for our readers. What was not already offered in the area? What would be of value? What time of year would be best? I thought of the in-person seed exchange while talking with a few seed companies and realizing that it is rarely done face-to-face. We're very excited about this and will have more details and a registration link up in the next few weeks.

The other big partnering event on the horizon is Hillwood Gardener’s Day. They had one this year in June, but are moving it up in 2006 to Saturday, April 29. Hillwood Museum & Gardens (http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/) is a must-see for area gardeners. If you take a look at the gardens section of their web site, you'll see why. We actually did a "Daytrip" article on them in our May/June '05 issue. I met yesterday with their staff and their enthusiasm is contagious! For this upcoming event they want to make it a day for real "dirt-in-nails" gardeners to come and learn. We brain-stormed several workshop topics and ground tour themes -- such as walks on the grounds pointing out the use of natives. We'll be helping promote the event and assist with programming They are thinking of adding on a plant sale as well and I'll be there at a "meet -the-editor" type set-up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

In The Online News & Links

Fun to get a bit of press from other press. Here is a recent clip about us http://dc.about.com/od/media/a/WashGardener.htm.

Also getting more blogging links from DC area bloggers. Any DC-area gardeners with blogs out there? If so, we'll gladly add you to our links here.

We've recently updated our Media Kit and are in process of an ad campaign. To view the PDF file of the kit, go to:
http://www.washingtongardener.com/index_files/advertise.htm.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Gardening Events Still in Season

Even though it is the end of the traditional growing season in our zone, it is still busy with local gardening events. (My excuse for not posting here that much this past week or two!)

Of course the big news is the Titan Arum at the U.S. Botanical Garden (USBG) blooming now. I've been keeping the list serv discussion group ( sign up at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WashingtonGardener/) updated daily on the progress since I got word last week of its impending stinky debut. I'll post photos of the opening progression to the list serv group later today as well. If you go to the USBG (http://www.usbg.gov/) in person, also check out the "sLowlife" exhibit -- interesting theories and point-of-view on plant life. Lastly, while at the USBG, you'll want to see the holiday train display. All of the buildings of the DC mall were created in miniature using plant materials such as cedar leaves.

Also happening is the Brookside "Garden of Lights" display in Wheaton, MD (http://www.mc-mncppc.org/parks/brookside/). As a sponsor of the event, I attended the preview night last Friday with several other invited groups and had a great time walking through the displays and viewing the indoor mum show (which ends this Sunday). Even though it was a bit chilly, it really does put you in the holiday mood. Started me thinking just how I could do some more creative lights in my own garden to take advantage of a few focal points and features. I especially liked their "gold fish" and "sea creature in the ponds and the "lightening" storms outlined on tall trees. This display does not include your typical holiday symbols, but instead focuses on plants, insects, and other natural creatures. It was also nice to be walking through it, rather than driving as other area park displays do. I'll be back again on December 17 with an information table on the magazine -- hope to see many of you there!

Monday, November 14, 2005

MultiTask

As most busy DC professionals are, I'm always looking for time management tips. Somewhat related to that, I'm also interesting in simple living movement and getting rid of unnecessary clutter in your life both literally and figuratively. So I was toying with both trends and thinking of how I could apply them to gardening and maybe write an article or two on the related topics. So I googled "multitask" to see if any inventive folks out there ever do multiple gardening chores at once at how it worked. I got this definition:

multitask: n. Often used of humans in the same meaning it has for computers, to describe a person doing several things at once

Huh?!? Isn't that a bit backwards? Wasn't the human concept first starting way back from the caveman days when mom's propped their infants on one hip while gathering berries with the other? I wish I could locate this poor techno-soul and straighten their head out. If anybody out there needs a more simple life and a bit of green plant exposure it'd be him/her!

Anyway, got any garden time-savers or multitasking tricks? Send them my way!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Several Irons in the Fire

Good thing I enjoy multi-tasking! I've been spending the last few days revamping our media kit. Meanwhile, have several projects simmering including a partnership with a local TV station, nailing down the details for our first annual seed exchange at the US National Arboretum this January, planning a couple garden tours for the local Takoma Horticultural Club, and designing a subscription postcard mailing for the holidays.

Hope to have much more to report on those first two items (TV partnership and seed exchange) in the next few weeks, but don't want to 'jinx' anything. You know the theory that the more you talk about something, the less likely it is to happen? It is as if you are sucking the energy out of the idea by giving voice to it, instead of just doing it. I think that runs counter to being able to fill this blog with the (often boring) background details of magazine goings-on. I'll have to find that balance as I go. How much to tell up front and how much to hold for later...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

This Time of Year

Time for a rant. I hate this time of year. I hate it being dark by 5:00 pm. I hate the falling leaves drowning out my flower beds. I hate the cold winds that blow when I'm trying to clean out my pond. I hate the 1,000s of acorns that I'm constantly stepping on, sweeping aside, picking out of pots, etc. I hate the thought of that coming hard frost that will kill all my still-blooming annuals. I hate everything turning the same muddy brown and sallow hues.

Okay, I've got that all out now. Really, autumn has its few good points but I'm a summer person. Love spring too, but it is so fleeting here that I hardly get to experience it! Seems like we are moving towards only two seasons in our area instead of four - with a few brief transition days inbetween. I either am in sleeveless shirts or bundled up -- not much chance to wear the wardrobe choices I'd like.

For gardening, it is tough to deal with short fall days. I'm glad I'm working from home now and can get in the garden in the early afternoon. When I worked for others, I never saw my garden during daytime except on weekends. I had to squeeze in the time to get bulbs planted, beds cleaned out, leaves raked, etc., which makes it more like chores than pleasure.

Maybe we gardeners should join with the farmers in opposing daylight savings time (http://www.standardtime.com/). Maybe we should start a movement to set the standard work day from 9-5 to 7-3 like construction workers and other outdoor careers.

Maybe we should push for a national or regional "gardening day" every month or quarter. Yeah, that's it! A day when everyone can stay home and devote to get their gardening chores done. Those without home gardens can volunteer at parks, churches, schools, etc.

All right, back to reality and what we can do here and now. How do you fit gardening into your busy life, especially during these shorter days?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Meeting Readers

Yesterday was so nice out that I held a yard sale. I'd been planning one since last April and this was the first Saturday morning I've been home and weather cooperated. What was interesting was the number of people who came by just to ask gardening questions. Many were unaware of the magazine, but had watched the evolution of my corner from all turf to all garden beds over the past five years. Lots of compliments as well which is gratifying.

A few did mention reading this blog, the magazine, or visiting the web site. A pleasant surprise! Sometimes when your write/edit at home and put things out their on the web or send out the magazine that it is just going out into some big abyss and you never hear any feedback -- good or bad. Working from home is fairly isolating that way and you never know if what you are doing is a hit or miss or even going in the right direction.

The only scheduled event I have left this year to meet readers (and potential new ones) at is the Brookside Garden of Lights in Wheaton, MD. I'll be there on the eve of Saturday, December 17 with a table and hoping to capture the last-minute-gifts crowds for magazine subscriptions for area gardeners.

I'm thinking of doing a local market as well in the next few weeks -- like Georgetown Flea Market or Eastern Market on Capitol Hill -- if the weather stays as pleasant as it has been. Will see how things pan out schedule-wise.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you on your thoughts about DC area gardening, our publications, this blog, whatever...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Blooming Away



About once a month I try to go out in my garden and take photos just for my own records as to what is blooming, when, and where. Occasionally the shots show up in the magazine or enewsletter as well. We've been having nice, mild weather so I took a break from paperwork today to go out and get some November shots.

Here, at left, is my Rhododendron PJM that blooms reliably spring and fall. Quite a color combination when the leaves start turning as well! I've had it for 5 years and gets beaten up every winter when sheets of snow/ice fall off my roof during late Winter, but it keeps coming back and is doing pretty well. I checked the tag in my garen journal today - not bad for a $14.95 Home Depot purchase!

At right is my favorite Chrysanthemum -- Sheffield Pink. I got it as 2" rooted cutting at a plant exchange from an elderly gardener who had started it himself. I'm not a big mum fan, but I love the peach petals that resemble a classic daisy and the fact that it is carefree. No pinching back and I neglect it horribly! I've had it 3 years -- divided it and moved it once. It has bloomed more than ever this year and I think is happy in its current location so I'll leave it be for awhile.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

On the Radio...

In addition to several other projects I've got going, I've been "appearing" pretty regularly on WMET's Garden Gurus radio show. The show is hosted by a local garden center, Behnkes Nurseries, and airs on Saturday mornings from 8-9:30am. (They recently changed time slots -- it used to be 9-11am). You can listen live on 1160AM if you are in the DC area or tune in via the Internet link on their web site from anywhere.

One great feature is the archived shows on the WMET web site. I like to listen to the shows I've missed because I was out of town or at some gardening event. Many times I call into the show to talk about where I'm at that day and other local green events, earning me the nickname of the "Garden Gurus' Roving Reporter."

Doing the show is fascinating to me as I've never been a big listener of talk radio, so most of it is new to me. Seeing it behind-the-scenes makes you really appreciate all the effort that goes into it. The "live" aspect is probably the most daunting. I've learned that having written notes works best for me -- even if I don't end up using most of them. It is good to have something to fall back on -- nothing is worse on radio than dead silence!

The most fun aspect is the calls from listeners -- you never know what they will ask. They can lead you astray into a whole different topic and the show takes on a life of its own. The time flies on the show and I'm always shocked when it is over so quickly.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Discussion Group Started

A new subscriber asked if we had a discussion forum and we didn't - but we do know! :-).
To sign-up, go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WashingtonGardener/
It is free, easy, and you can sign-off it at anytime, if you wish.

It is open to anyone, but obviously the overall subject is gardening in the greater DC area. I plan on sparking conversations every once in a while with probing questions, controversial subjects, and fun games. I'm hoping to get a nice level of participation in the group -- a steady stream, but not so much that people's email inboxes are flooded.

Personally, I'm addicted to list servs and am on many -- from writer's groups to the neighborhood association to my church's young adults group. Most are easy to keep up with just a few notes a day. I have left two this year that were just getting to be too much to keep up with. One was the bordering town's list that kept getting 100s of posts a day on people fighting over politics. It was actually fascinating reading, but I had to get off it so I could reclaim that hour or so it took of my life every day! The other was DC WebWomen, I plan on rejoining it at some point. Most of their technical issue posts did not pertain to me and they also had frequent off-topic posts on women's work issues that I found thought-provoking, but again too much on a daily basis and something I'll need to "find the time" to get into again.

If the Washington Gardener list ever got to that point, I'd consider splitting it into different subjects or areas, but for now I'm getting ahead of myself. I will just set back and see how it grows...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Carved this one on Saturday afternoon and saved the seeds to toast (yummy) plus set aside a few seeds to plant next year. They may not come up true-to-form but it is always interesting to see what results. In any case, squash are so easy to grow not much is lost by trying.

Off to plow through some emails and catch-up on paperwork (ad billing, author payments, press releases, etc.) It is such a gorgeous day out that I may play hooky instead and go out to put in some bulbs and add a few extra decorative items to the yard for the wee trick-or-treaters.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

New Issue Out

Yippee! The Nov/Dec issue is now in the mail to our subscribers and I have a quantity of extra issues available for purchase*. I love the little guy on the cover -- he just has so much personality. Lee Duer of the Wild Bird Center in Waldorf, MD, took the cover photo and the bird photos inside this issue. He is a person who truly loves what he does for a living and has a real affection for animals. Being a huge animal-fan myself, it is easy to assume everyone else is as well. I'm always shocked when I meet people and they say they "don't like animals" -- what does that mean??!! My brain just does not process that concept. What specifically about animals is the problem? Was there some childhood trauma? I just don't get it. I suppose the same thing goes for gardeners when we encounter folks who have no affection for green things. In my head when I meet animal or plant "haters", I always think, "Oh, they'll come around... eventually."

*You can purchase the individual copy by sending a check or money order for $4.99 to: Washington Gardener, 826 Philadelphia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910. Or better still take a year's subscription (6 issues) for $18.00. You can also subscribe via Paypal on our web site http://www.washingtongardener.com/. Remember we do gift subscriptions too and custom gift cards!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wild or Wonderful?

Today I had an email from a former coworker who said she drove by my house and offered her friend's services with machete to cut back my bushes. I declined with thanks. To me, my weeping cherry, wiegela, ground cover roses, and fosythia are a great screen from the traffic and quite tidy. I'm careful to cut anything back that may encroach on the sidewalk. Some areas I'd like to actually see getting fuller and more filled-in. Through her eyes, I suppose I'm cultivating a jungle out there. She is from Jamaica and probably is used to a more strict "British" control of nature.

It is amusing to me to see how people on garden tours react to different style gardens. Some opinions are so strong! You'd think the visitors thought the gardener was trying to deliberately insult them with their garden style! I'm not big into tropical plants or vegetable patches in the front yard, but you don't see my scolding the gardener for doing it. To each his own.

I appreciate formalized beds of boxwood and roses, but just can't see doing that at my own place. My tendency is towards a more "plant it and let's see what they do" attititude. I love to "forget" about something and weeks later get a nice surprise. Overall, its a cottage garden, but secretly more like 100+ indivudual plant experiments.

Where you see wild, I may see wonderful. Perception truly is reality.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Frost Warning Tonight for DC Area

I think the close-in DC area should be fine, but would just advise keeping an eye on things - as local weather predictions have been way off these past few weeks. For those in Western Maryland (who already got a foot of snow yesterday!), this may be a bit late to save the last of your tomatoes, annuals, and tender perennials.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Blueline Bye-Bye

What is a blueline? For those not in the printing/publishing industry, it is a proof of a publication just as it will be printed. Just a few years back, it literally was an impression of the printer's plates or film using pale blue ink on creamy coated paper stock. It always gave off a formaldehyde-like odor when I unwrapped one -- very distinctive and not unpleasant actually -- like the mimeographs of some of our school year memories. Nowadays, the "blueline" can range from a photographic full-color composite or just a black-ink laser print out -- depending on your printer's equipment and your budget. In any version, the blueline is your final, final proof prior to printing. It is your last chance to make any changes or corrections.

Beware: any changes made at this stage to the printer's proof costs $$$. I strive therefore to give the printer what I consider the final version. The only time I make changes is if I catch a serious typo or a color headline turns out muddy or unreadable. Those were the two minor changes I made to today's blueline delivery for our Nov/Dec issue before calling for printer pickup this afternoon. Once the blueline leaves my hand, there is always a few minutes of anxiety -- What did I miss? What glaring typo will pop put at me from the front page when the delivery is made? I could go over it 100 times and still miss something -- such is life, I try not to dwell on it as it is literally now "out of my hands."

On a side note: I've worked in the past with people who viewed the blueline as a fluid document. They used it as their actual proof piece -- waiting until this point to actually read through all the copy. Then asking for a 2nd or even 3rd blueline version to view these edits, which of course further delays the printing date. Maybe it is the frugal frump inside of me, but all I could see when they did this was $$$ flying out the window, not to mention the time wasted by all involved in preparing the publication and now the printer's staff putting in the corrections as well. Just all-around poor planning and a sure sign that these people are not suited for an editorial position, IMHO.

I wanted to also talk about the joy of unwrapping the blueline and the eventual printed copies. It is always so different from the version I had done in layout on the computer and printouts. Oh, all the same words and photos and page elements, but it just looks so much sharper, brighter, and better than I had envisioned. That is always a nice surprise.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

One Proud Kitty

Not me. My cat, Chantilly! She is about 12 years old and brought home her first real kill. She's presented me with moths and cicadas before, but this was her first "big game." It turns out that what I thought was a mouse hole near the base of my bird feeder was actually a vole. I have not noticed any plant or root damage in the gardens (yet) - so I think this guy was a relatively new addition.

Of course, I then had to heap much praise on Chantilly and give her extra treats. All the while pretending I was not thoroughly revolted by the stiff carcass on my backstep and figuring out how to dispose of it. My answer: several layers of plastic garbage bags and the construction dumpster down the road.

On a lighter note, the morning was spent putting in bulbs (donated by the Takoma Horticulture Club) and perennials (donated by various parishioners) at St. Michael's Church in downtown Silver Spring, MD. It was a cold, wet morning, but the rain held off as a light drizzle and we got everything in within one hour. Thanks to all who came and helped out! Can't wait to see over 200 daffodils in bloom next April along the church's rose border. I'll take pictures next spring and post here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Health Eating Out The Window

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."
-Dori, Finding Nemo

This was my mantra this week. Okay, not "swimming" but "finish the magazine layout," finish the magazine layout." Now, it is safely deposited at the printer and I have a small window of breathing space before the blueline arrives.

I told everybody I'll be free "after the 20th" so what happened? I'm booked solid with all those postponed activities for the next 11 days -- such as community meetings, volunteering to do the church garden clean-up, visiting elderly friends, etc. When will I find time to update the subscriber mail list? Attend to my own garden? Go grocery shopping?

Did I mention I've been living the past 3-5 days on bologna sandwiches and ramen noodles -- not because I can't afford food, but because I just haven't gotten a chance to buy anything fresh. Last night, I took a break to attend the Takoma Horticulture Club meeting and brought a bag of candy corn to share. Then I consumed several donut holes. Now I feel the consequences -- sluggish and sugar low. You'd think at 37 I'd know better!

New goal: BEFORE the next magazine deadline, stock up on fresh fruits, veggies, etc. and make several meals that I can freeze in advance and heat-up as needed.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Monthly Enewsletter Sent Out

Washington Gardener enewsletter is an online newsletter that goes out free on the 15th of each month. The latest issue was just sent out yesterday and you can view it at:

http://archives.zinester.com/85920/68522.html

Anyone can subscribe to it. Note the content of the enewsletter is completely different from that of our bimonthly magazine.

What drives me crazy is our enewsletter hosting service -- Zinester.com. Overall, it is pretty good and I like the service much better than one I'd previously used -- Topica.com. However, when I request a specific posting time for the newsletter or tell it to "post now" -- it seems to send it out whenever the heck it feels like. So some of the issues - while sent out on the 15th, get stored in the archives dated as being sent on the 14th or 16th -- very frustrating for me as a publisher, but I guess there are worse things in life to worry about...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Guerilla Marketing or Just Crazy Person?

Last night on a bus ride home from a movie screening, I was deeply absorbed in a newspaper story about JT LeRoy <http://www.jtleroy.com/> when I heard a man's voice saying, "Miss? Miss?" I finally looked up and he said, "Do you read poetry?" I said, "Yes, occasionally..." wondering where this was headed. He then started digging in his backpack, took out a portfolio and handed me two poems typed on rather nice paper. His only explanation was, "I like to hand them out to people who read so they will get out." Okay, here is the beginning of one:
When I awake it's not always with the zest and freshness of Autumn's fruits
Though it comes with a gradual ease of memories of other Blessed pusuits

It is tited "Ayo's Anthem" and credited to Jay Scott Moss.

I wanted to relate this story as an example of someone I really admire. It took real guts for him to do what he did and put his work out there like that. Sometimes I think Guerilla Marketing <http://www.gmarketing.com/> of this kind is the only real way left to connect with your audience. We are so inundated with media messages that everything starts to fade into the background as just so much noise.

Would I have the guts to get on the subway and approach perfect strangers to sell my magazine? "Pssst, sir? Are you a gardener?" I haven't reached that level of confidence or desperation yet. But it is in the back of my mind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Side Projects

In addition to the magazine, enewsletter, web site, and this blog. I've been working on several side projects to gain attention to the magazine. One of them is writing a garden column for the Washington Examiner newspaper. It comes out every-other-Saturday and I've actually found it to be a fun, creative outlet. Because the deadline is more frequent than the magazine and it goes to a more general audience, I get to write about topics that are more off-the-cuff. I have been given a lot of latitude in picking my subject material. The Examiner is a fairly new free daily paper for the DC area and they are still feeling their way into things as well, so it will be interesting to see how they grow and progress. Here is a link to the latest article I did for them: http://dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/09/30/features/gardening/99gardening02donate.txt
My next one will be this Saturday and you can view it on the 15th at www.dcexaminer.com.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Rain is here! But Behnkes Outdoor Market Canceled

Just a quick note to say - Thank you, Lord! - for the rain!

However, due to the rainstorms and expected area flooding, the Behnkes Outdoor Holiday Market is canceled for tomorrow. The Benke stores will still be open -- just not hosting this "Main Street Fest." I'll let you know if they reschedule it.

Meanwhile, if you want to purchase Washington Gardener single copies, back issues, gift subscriptions, or anything else. Feel free to contact me directly at editor@washingtongardener.com.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Decisions, Decisions

I met with our printer today. (It is a local company, Epiphany Printing, as I believe in supporting DC area businesses with this DC area publication.) We discussed paper choices for the middle insert spread of the upcoming November/December issue. I wanted to include a surprise holiday gift for readers — though I'm not sure if it will be that much of a surprise since I'm discussing it here!

Many of the English gardening magazines that I admire regularly include reader bonuses such as a gift cards, seed packs, or other small items in with their on-stand magazine issues. I'm betting that many readers buy them just for those bonus gifts. I certainly have picked up a few just for the cute garden tools they came bundled with.

What I'm thinking for our bonus gift is to make one page of the middle insert a botanical art print or calendar. It will be on archival paper and suitable for framing. I'm going to delve into my brother's collection of antique art prints for inspiration. I'm hoping I come across an engraving or hand-colored piece that just jumps out at me and says, "Pick me!" It is a tough decision as there are literally 1,000s of them to choose from and hard to predict what people's tastes are nowadays. A bright pink Victorian posy? A stark black ink sketch of a tree branch? Well, I'll let the actual choice remain a surprise for our readers...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Busy Season

For the next two weeks are my ultra-busy season. Meaning that all I'll be doing through the 15th is writing, editing, and laying out the November/December issue of the magazine. Therefore my blog postings may be few and far between until I get through this crunch time.

I will come up for air a few times. See me "live" at the Behnkes Main Street Market Day this Saturday, 10/8 in Beltsville, MD. I'll have a table there selling magazine subscriptions, current and back issues, and gift subscriptions for the holidays and other special occasions. There is info and directions to Behnkes on their web site: http://behnkes.com/.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Working At Home?

It's been 9 months now of working full-time "at home." This was one of my most anticipated aspects of being my own boss. I have to say that during the winter months, it was great not having to get dressed and go out in the mud, freezing rains, ill winds, and occasional snow. Being inside in comfy fleece with a nice cup of tea or cocoa, a space heater, and the cat on my lap was marvelous.

What I didn't anticipate was that come spring and summer, I'd be so seldom at home! I can do a lot of my interviewing and story research over the phone and online, but some articles just have to be covered in person. In this past week for instance: I went to the USDA to see their trial fields of new pepper plants and listen to their scientists talk on other new innovations; I attended the Eastern Performance Trials for new spring annuals at River Farm; and, interviewed various area gardeners at their homes.

There goes my grand plans to spend every warm morning in the garden and every afternoon at my computer working. If I'm home now it is a mad dash to get phone calls returned and things done inbetween daytime appointments and evening events such as garden club meetings.

My weekends are even more packed than my weekdays with one area garden-related event after another. Often I'm calling live to WMET AM1600 Garden Gurus radio show (you can listen live or go to the archive at http://1160wmet.com/) to report from those events. I also try to squeeze in some time to visit with family and friends, attend church, and basic garden/house maintenance so that I don't get the county coming by to condemn my place! OK it hasn't gotten close to that point yet, but I can see that a few weeks/months of neglect could easily start it on that path.

Now that it is autumn, I'm hoping my schedule will loosen up again and I'll get a few more spare hours to focus on updating the web site or recruiting more advertising.

So how do I like working at home? When I'm there, I love it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Drought and Circumstance

I'm hoping that the second I post this message there will be a three-day rainstorm but I'm doubting we'll even get the sprinkle we were promised in tomorrow's forecast.

For the past 6 weeks, most of the DC area has had barely .01 inches of rain. We had a good drenching on Monday, but not enough. I've just checked with the USDA and we are officially in the "moderate drought" category.

For the first time in two years, I had to top off my pond because the water level was getting low. I've run through my rain barrel water supply and now have taken to bringing two large buckets in the shower with me every day to them use on my container plantings and a few in-ground annuals. The rest of the garden I'm trying to hold out on. I rarely pull out the hose and if I do, I feel tremendous guilt -- as if dollar bills are pouring out not water. Plus, it doesn't feel like I'm even making a dent in the plants' water needs.

Luckily, most of my plantings are fairly established and I've not put in too much new this year. I did lose a "Little Joe" (Joe Pye Weed) that I planted last month. I had such high hopes for it too! The leaves and acorns seem to be dropping from my oaks and other trees a bit earlier than in previous years.

What is looking just fine and dandy in the drought? My sedums, the ground ivy (!), annual vinca, lavenders, forsythia bushes, most of the roses, russian sage, and sunflowers. The real shakedown will be next year when we see what comes back and thrives.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Our Nursery Survey

The Washington Gardener Nursery Survey lasts only a few more days.
Let us know what you think of DC area garden centers/nurseries. Go to: http://survey.perseus.com/be45804.htm. The survey period ends October 1.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Busy Weekend Socializing

Saturday I was at the GreenFest volunteering and then sitting in on some talks and visiting the exhibits. The fest is mostly environmental issues but overlaps a lot of other good causes and groups such as fair trade, simple living trends, urban forestry, etc. I got several great story ideas and contacts on subjects such as herbal medicine. I stayed so long I missed out on the BookFest and Peace Rally on the Mall. I guess I'm just going to have to come to terms with the fact that I cannot attend EVERYTHING.

After that I was off to my friends' wedding. Karen and Mark had a beautiful ceremony that was full of music and laughter. This couple is a jazz drummer and a classically trained opera singer (though she does not do that for a living). I'm looking forward to the little musical genius(es) they give birth to and raise! Here is their official wedding Web site.

Sunday was the Washington Gardener party. It went well and had a great mix of magazine contributors, friends, family, and neighbors. The surprise of the afternoon was my four-year-old niece, Savannah, who turned into quite the party hostess. She is normally a very shy and timid child among strangers, but she was the one who insisted on giving everyone the garden/house tour -- pointing out the mouse hole under the bird feeder, the fish in the pond, the cat hiding in an upstairs closet, and all the other 'highlights.' Meanwhile, her two-year-old sister, Lexi, turned from wild child to wallflower. I guess you can never tell what mix of elements will draw a child out or make them retreat.

It was great to see guests making both personal and professional connections. I think I will make this party an annual event -- though maybe a bit earlier in the season when the garden is at its best.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Making Connections

Yesterday I went to the AHS River Farm site to attend the Eastern Performance Trials for new annual plants to debut on the market next spring, a woman commented to me: "Garden writer?! That is quite a narrow and unusual specialty"

Actually, it's not. There are literally 1,000s of garden writers out there and many, many more who are aspiring to be. Some are life-long gardeners itching to become writers. Others, like me, are from journalism and writing backgrounds looking to focus on a hobby they love.

There are probably as many different stories or ways of getting into garden writing as there are garden writers. I know many with day jobs that would give you no clue as to their ambitions from lawyers to grocery clerks.

My biggest advice to those looking to get into the field is to join the Garden Writers Association at www.gardenwriters.org. (And please tell them "Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener" referred you!) This is a great bunch of folks and I've only been a member for a year and can say with complete satisfaction the dues are worth it. Aside from being a professional tax deduction, GWA membership and activities allow me to meet the most amazing personalities, pick their brains, and learn from their experiences. I'm really looking forward to the next year of membership and being able to attend big annual conference.

I come from an association background -- interned and worked at 5 different trade and professional associations in the DC area -- and I deeply believe in joining your professional association for whatever field your in.

Right now I'm weighing a decision whether to require that all of the Washington Gardener magazine writers be GWA members as well. It would show a level of commitment and professionalism to garden writing that would set them apart. Maybe something to introduce for 2006 on my writer's guidelines.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Who Doesn't Love Freebies?

Last night I went to a neighborhood ice cream store opening party and got a FREE yummy taste of some coconut gelato. It got me to thinking of the way people behave around freebies and the etiquette of the exchange.

For the magazine I decided a nice "freebie" would be to have a custom blend of Eastern Wildflower seed packs imprinted with a nice message on the front: "May all your weeds be wildflowers" and our logo plus subscription information on the back. Mostly I give them out at local garden events I have a booth at such as the Baltimore FlowerMart or the Leesburg Flower Fest. This past weekend I did a booth at the Brookside Gardens Children's Day and gave out seeds to kids who participated in a seed matching game I made up.

So far I've given out hundreds of packs and maybe gotten 2 subscriptions out of those. (I track my subscription sources pretty closely but sometimes if a sub arrives in the mail with no card or ad, it is tough to tell where it came from -- could be the radio guest spos, web site, or other sources.) Will I be repeating this next year? I'm not sure.

I believe in Karma and sending out positive energy into the world. On the otherhand, some of the behavior and grabiness of the seed receipients has started to turn me off. Not everyone is badly behaved, a few even ask to pay for the seeds, but the few rotten apples just make me sad for all of humanity.

Like the lady who came back and grabbed handfuls of packs "for her mother and sister." I was to stunned to react but wanted to say,"Why don't you just open my purse and help yourself to me wallet as well."

I've considered making a sign that says: "Please take ONE." However, the implication is that everyone SHOULD take one and really I'd rather save them for those who actually come up, show interest in the magazine, and at least engage in a bit of conversation before departing with their "freebie."

My favorite seed grabber so far was an older gentleman who swooped past me, grabbed some seed packs, walked away briskly, then stopped as he read the pack, turned around, marched back, threw them on the table, and said with utter contempt and disdain, "These are MIXED seeds!" Okay, then...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Task Accomplished! and on to Ad Sales

Amazingly all the mulch is off my driveway - I've remulched some beds but mostly just moved the pile from the drive to a back corner compost pile - this took over 50 trips of my hauler. It took all yesterday and today. Every muscle aches and I've got bruises and blisters all over. But, it is done!

On to other party prep tasks such as baking brownies, weeding, and cleaning out the house. Nothing like having scores of people come to your home and garden to get those long put off chores done!

In between that, I'm really behind on magazine business. I was supposed to have the 2006 Editorial Calendar done last month and after I do that then I can update the web site and ad kits. Just not enough hours in the day.

Did I mention that I'm far from breaking even in the money department? Not unusual for a new business (started last January 1), but still something foreign and worrisome for me. Truthfully, I thought the advertising would just come rolling in. For me it is a total no-brainer: If you want to reach the garden community of greater DC area, you'll take an ad. But so far, the few paid ads I've gotten were like having to pull my own wisdom teeth out - painful and intimidating. Though after taking the ads, all have been satisified, if not rapturous over the response.

I've already gone through 3 independent ad sales people, none of them has delivered a single ad and all turned out to be total flakes. They made me the most angry in that they set me behind months in the process where I thought something was actually happening.

Anyway, I have contracted now with Bill S. for national ad sales and I'm on my own for local ad sales right now. Wish me luck! And if you have any ad leads, drop me a line!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Never Ending Mulch Pile

Okay so my eyes have always been bigger than my tummy. I've always take the big piece of cake and not been able to finish it - which should've warned me that ordering 7 cubic yards of leaf mulch from the near Takoma Park city services was a big mistake. I'd done it before and gotten the mulch dispersed somehow by the end of the summer. But this time it seems like the more I load into my handy hauler and spread, the more the pile grows!!! Will it ever get done and out of my driveway before my party on Sunday? Stay tuned...

BTW, if you don't know how much 7 cubic yards is - picture a dump truck packed full of mulch backing up to your driveway and dropping its load. When it first arrived it was bigger than my gazebo, now it is down to about the size of a compact car.

Mulch sculpting anyone?

Monday, September 19, 2005

My First Post

I have been meaning to start this blog for months now - finally doing it at the expense of several other tasks - but, hey, I get to have that great "cross it off my list" moment! :-)

What I SHOULD be doing right now is getting my garden ready for a party I'm hosting this Sunday. It will be for friends, family, and anyone who has contributed in any way to the magazine this year.

What magazine? Why this one:

This cover is from the very first issue, March/April. Currently I'm working on the November/December issue. To subscribe: it is just $18 a year and you can do so at our web site. The magazine is specifically aimed at Washington DC, MD & VA gardeners. However, we do have subscribers outside the area as we describe what to plant and do for zones 6/7 and that applies to many other areas throughout the country as well.

I want this blog to be about the process of doing the magazine AND about gardening. I think it will be of interest to area gardeners, to garden writers/editors, to publishers launching a new publication, and to those aspiring to be in any of those categories. If I wander off on pet peeves and other unrelated topic - don't be surprised :-).

My guess is I'll be updating it at least weekly depending on how my schedule and travels are at the time. My goal of course is to do it 3-4 times per week. Let's see how it goes! Thank you for reading & Happy Gardening!

- Kathy Jentz

Editor/Publisher

Washington Gardener

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