Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wither Canadian gardening magazines?

Does Canada only have room for one national magazine devoted to gardening? It now looks that way.

The publishing world is reeling with the economic downturn. Ad revenues have tanked, and Gardening Life magazine is no more.

The recent winter issue will be its second last. I used to write quite a bit for GL, and several years ago the magazine featured my country garden in a very nice spread.

My friend Marjorie Harris, GL's editor-at-large, wrote about getting this shocking news in her blog:
"Well, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. How typical of life. [On] Friday [Nov. 14] I was called to be told that Gardening Life magazine was folding. Right now. No advance warning, no time to write a final Back Talk, nada. No time to figure out what to do in the future.

Since 1996, as the central part of my life this wonderful magazine is gone like a puff of smoke. There will be one more issue. I guess it’ll be a collector’s item. But there will never be another garden magazine started to take its place. It’s the economy, stupid old me — I didn’t see that coming. I had the usual journalistic focus of deadlines. But no more."
A dramatic drop in ad revenues is to blame, according to GL's publisher:
"The global financial crisis has triggered such a dramatic decline in advertising markets that prudent media companies around the world are evaluating their portfolios and making tough decisions about those brands least able to withstand the downturn. Announcements of closures and cutbacks from Canada, the US and Europe in recent weeks are testimony to how widespread these conditions are."
Meanwhile, there are changes at Canadian Gardening, where I've also been a writer — doing a column geared to newbies called "Novice Gardener" — at least until recently.

In late summer, I was told that my column was no more, and I was OK with that because I had already decided it was time for me to pack it in. I'd had been writing the column (based on my book for beginner gardeners) for about three years, and I felt we'd covered all the obvious topics, and the premise was getting a bit stale.

More interesting than content changes is a restructuring plan, announced by CG's publisher last month, with its obvious overtones of "doing more with less."

When Aldona Satterthwaite, who has been CG's editor since 2001, decided to step down, the publisher, Transcontinental Media, did not look for a replacement. Instead, management decided to merge the editor-in-chief, managing editor and art director roles at Canadian Gardening and Canadian Home & Country. Erin McLaughlin, currently Home & Country’s editor-in-chief, will be adding editor-in-chief of CG to her duties.

As the Canadian magazine trade publication Masthead Online reported:
Asked whether she [Deborah Trepanier, group publisher for CG, Home & Country and Style at Home] thought doing “more with less” would affect the editorial quality of the respective publications, Trepanier replied, “No. Not at all. I think our quality will remain as high as it is now…Obviously there’s a lot of work there but there are a lot of talented people associated with both these publications and they’ll certainly be able to manage the job.” The frequency for both titles will be reduced next year, Trepanier said: CG will go from eight to seven issues per year, while Home & Country will drop from nine to six.
A few weeks back, I had dinner in Toronto with two old friends, who have both moved on from high-powered jobs in magazines. One was editor-in-chief at Chatelaine for a decade, while the other held the equivalent position at Canadian Living (where I got my start in national magazines more than 20 years ago). One thing we were all in agreement on: it was a good time to be out of the magazine business.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Botanical names or not?

Which is it: bee balm, horsemint, oswego tea, or bergamot?*

There's an interesting post by plant expert Allan Armitage over at Garden Rant about whether people in the hort industry should be using botanical or common names in the garden centres. Do you expect your customers to learn "Latin" names or not? This was the question at a recent landscape symposium where he was a speaker.

On the one hand, there is the argument that common names are confusing and that they vary throughout the country (never mind across continents). In addition, as gardeners and landscapers learn more, they get more comfortable referring to plants by their botanical names.

However, Armitage had a contrarian view:
“As professionals, we should know, use and promote the common names to simplify and make the buying experience more user-friendly. To think that my daughter Heather is ever going to learn Chaenomeles instead of quince, Baptisia rather than indigo, and to think she will ever get her tongue around Calibrachoa is ludicrous; she hasn’t the time or the interest. We should know those names, but yes, we should be using common names. Absolutely. Not as a substitute but as a way of making Heather feel more comfortable.”
You can read the whole post here. The comments are interesting too, with people weighing in on both sides of the issue.

I'm inclined to agree with Armitage, but I think it's always good to use both when possible to avoid confusion, even though it's a lot for my aging brain to keep straight. (But thanks to Dr. Google, and a library of hort books in my study, it's not too much trouble.)

What do you think?

*Monarda didyma (Photo: Margaret Grant)

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, November 09, 2008

'Chanticleer' pear: all a-glow

Chanticleer pear tree:
I took this picture from my kitchen window

One of the last trees to color up is our ornamental pear tree, Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer', which I look out on from our kitchen window. It is beautiful in spring covered with white flowers, has glossy leaves all summer, and right now, it glows in the November gloom. This tree produces small, greenish-yellow fruits that aren't edible and don't have much ornamental interest either.

Flowering in spring

Here's what the Missouri Botanical Garden site has to say about ornamental pears, and this cultivar in particular:
In the 1950s, callery pear emerged in U. S. commerce as a promising new ornamental tree, leading to massive landscape plantings. By the 1980s, concerns about both overplanting and structural weakness (limb breakage from wind, ice and snow) began to surface. ‘Chanticleer’ (synonymous with and also known as ‘Cleveland Select’, ‘Select’, ‘Stone Hill’ or ‘Glen’s Form’) is considered to be one of the best of the cultivars currently available. It is a tight, narrow, pyramidal, thornless ornamental pear tree that typically grows 25-35’ tall and 15’ wide. Some specimens appear almost columnar in habit. Oval, glossy dark green leaves dance in the breeze due to long petioles. It is susceptible to limb breakage or splitting from strong wind, snow or ice, but is much stronger than some other cultivars such as P. calleryana ‘Bradford’.
Most of the trees we have planted on our property are native oaks, maples, ashes, pines and spruces, but close to the house I have planted a few ornamental pets like this pear tree. So far, so good: it's beautiful year round - it has glossy leaves in summer and a nice branching structure in winter - but I particularly love it covered with flowers in spring, and right now, as it glows with exquisite color.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

November color - fall is not over yet

It was a foggy morning, so I grabbed the camera and went out before breakfast. I didn't even need my gloves it was so mild. These pictures show the misty morning light, and the glow from the sun rising. Today's temperature went up to 21 degrees C (69F), so it was a delightful day to be outside.

The four-square garden, starring Molinia 'Skyracer'

The crabapple orchard at sunrise
- tree farm saplings in the background

Crabapple tree after the fog lifted

Fothergilla gardenii in full fall color

Fothergilla isn't a well-known shrub, which is a shame because it's a beautiful and carefree shrub that doesn't grow very large, which makes it particularly useful in smaller gardens. I have it growing at the edge of my shade garden. Here's a link for more information about it.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dear November: I'm rather fond of you

When my friend Sandy emailed me to say, "The beautiful month is here at last," I was surprised. I thought I was the only person (or maybe just the only Canadian) who really likes November. When I asked her why, she replied:
I love November! At least the first two weeks. It's quiet and calm, but still has plenty of color. And I don't have any guilt about not doing garden chores.
I couldn't agree more. That's exactly why I love November too. The inner voice that keeps saying, "I must get to that" whenever I see something amiss in the garden is almost silent.

Aside from some leaves to chop up - a job I do with my big professional ride-on mower (we don't rake if we can help it) - and some succulents still in the greenhouse that need to be moved to the basement when it gets really cold, we're done. November always comes as a relief after a busy garden season.

So welcome, November. The weather for the week is mild: today's temperature was 17 degrees C (that's 62 degrees F for you Americans). The only downside to the month for me is that daylight saving time has ended. I tend to be a night owl, and early morning is the best time for photography, so now I have to get earlier to catch the magic light.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener