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


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.

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 ( 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 ( and pledges for items from W. Atlee Burpee (, Thompson & Morgan Seedsmen (, and Gardener's Supply Company (

BTW, if you'd like to donate seed packs or door prize items for the event, you can contact me at 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.

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