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 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:

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 -- Overall, it is pretty good and I like the service much better than one I'd previously used -- 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 <> 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 <> 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:
My next one will be this Saturday and you can view it on the 15th at

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

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:

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