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A few years ago, I was offered about ten years worth of Garden Design magazines if I paid for the postage to get them to me. The two boxes came and I put them in a closet, intending at some point to unpack and shelve them somewhere I could easily refer to them. They’re still in the boxes.

The fact that I never found it necessary to open the boxes or read the magazines that occasionally come across my desk at work is not why Garden Design will be folding after the April issue. According to Adweek, the title (owned by Bonnier Publishing) only sold 189 ad pages in all of 2012. I know that’s not good. The city/regional publication I work for (distributed mainly in Western New York) sold at least four times that many last year, and such national publications as Cosmopolitan and Architectural Digest sell well into the thousands. It’s that simple. I’ve heard people talk about how Garden Design ought to have covered this or that, but the problem isn’t the content. It’s the fact that the businesses who should be buying ads in garden magazines aren’t.  Apparently, the magazine’s readers will be offered a substitute from the other titles Bonnier offers—I guess I would take Saveur. (A healthier choice would be Outdoor Life, but who am I kidding.)

It’s expected that Bonnier will be shutting down more titles in the years to come.

Even though I have not read it recently, I paged through Garden Design more frequently in the years I first began gardening. It seemed hipper than most of the garden titles on the newsstand, and there were often essays by writers I admired. The gardens usually seemed well beyond my abilities, but that was OK. They were interesting, sometimes beautiful, and often fun. I think Garden Design must have been one of the few publications for American landscape designers to showcase their best work. As friend and co-publisher of the digital title Leaf, Susan Cohan, says, “We need American publications that reflect our diverse economy, interests and regions and we need to embrace those that show us the best of design outside at every level.”

That was apparently not much of a priority for Bonnier. Not surprising when the news is handed down from someone whose title is “chief content officer.”

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on February 12, 2013 at 7:33 am, in the category Everybody’s a Critic, Ministry of Controversy.

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18 Comments

  1. admin

    12th April 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Garden Design was always a source of inspiration for me, not only for the gardens being showcased, but for the hardscape, structures, and especially furniture. There was always such a great collection of furniture in every issue — including the ads — but it was always really high-end stuff. Unobtainable for all but the very few gardens where budget was not a concern.

  2. Frank Hyman

    10th November 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Your comment perfectly describes my experience with the magazine over the years.

  3. MissingHenryMitchell

    11th November 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I agree with Susan; while I loved the magazine in the mid-90s, they’ve drifted away from their efforts to be more diverse in an attempt to be cutting-edge, forgetting both that much of their readership couldn’t afford to emulate the designs they presented, and that the gardening world extends beyond California. While I liked the modernist styles they often presented, I always knew when the new issue landed in my mailbox that it would be more of the same, and I never felt the excitement or urgency to read it that I used to feel. I hope that I can find an alternative publication that will provide me with design inspiration. Any suggestions?

  4. Dave

    24th November 2016 at 6:09 pm

    I’m really bummed out about this. Whether it was the design, or the photography, or a combo of both, GD did an amazing job of showing spaces and how people lived in them. I hate photos of sterile, empty spaces that you see in other shelter mags. If I could convince my clients to pose, they’d be in my portfolio shots.

  5. admin

    29th November 2016 at 10:43 am

    I’m all for picturing people in their gardens. But GD’s ‘garden party’ photo essays were some of the most inauthentic images I’ve ever seen. They made me laugh out loud. I always wanted to shoot a parody in my own garden featuring real gardeners with chipped fingernails, muddy-kneed jeans, T-shirts with the arms cut off and beverages served with beer-can cozies. (Instead of GD’s designer duds and fine wines.)

  6. trey

    29th November 2016 at 10:27 pm

    The print side of garden magazines is dying. Why buy the magazine when their content is usually available online, at no charge?

  7. Liz

    30th November 2016 at 8:53 am

    It’s not just the print side of garden magazines that is dying… it’s magazines in general. We are a generation that wants information immediately and that means iPads and laptops, rather than magazines. As brilliant as the colors may appear on an iPad, I still prefer to hold a magazine in my hands.

  8. admin

    30th November 2016 at 9:00 am

    As a Contributing Editor to Garden Design for several years, I blame this shuttering on mismanagement and ego. The former editorial team led by Sarah Kinbar, Jenny Andrews, Megan Padilla and their art directors was based in Winter Park Florida and they produced a relevant, beautiful and interesting magazine. But then everything got messed up when the diva editor of Saveur convinced the powers-that-be at Bonnier that he knew how to luxe -up Garden Design.
    So what happened in 2010? The talent in Winter Park was fired, tons of money was spent to move the operations and hire new staff at Saveur’s NYC headquarters and soon, the heart and soul of Garden Design disappeared. NONE of that had to happen. It was change for change sake. And the lives of so many gifted editors, writers, photographers and designers of gardens were shaken up. It’s tragic. But don’t blame this only on the economy. Blame it on power and greed.

  9. Frank Hyman

    30th November 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I just love a detailed and historical analysis–thanks.

  10. tara dillard

    30th November 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Ironic, I make my living, 3 decades, designing gardens. Mostly residential.

  11. Astra

    1st December 2016 at 8:18 am

    I hadn’t heard they were closing up shop. I will miss GD but not as much as I (still) miss Gourmet.

  12. Michelle Derviss

    1st December 2016 at 9:54 am

    I’ve been subscribing to GD for over 25 years and always noticed the changes in the magazine when a new team or editor took charge.
    Sarah Kinbar and Bill Marken were wonderful editors that searched high and low for off the beaten track unique gardens that had broad appeal.
    The recent move to NYC, the new editorial team and the sacking of Ms. Kinbar was a poor judgement call that had me wondering what the hell are they were thinking.
    I guess they weren’t thinking, and it is sad to see a magazine of their stature to go into the compost pile of print.

  13. deb

    1st December 2016 at 12:39 pm

    I never liked Garden Design as much as Fine Gardening. I did not renew because they used advertisers that had scented pages. I couldn’t stand the smell.

  14. Frank Hyman

    1st December 2016 at 1:18 pm

    What some would call ‘scented’ I would call “stinky.’ There oughta be a law against it.

  15. donna

    1st December 2016 at 10:44 pm

    High priced landscape architects showcasing virtually the same type of garden over and over. Sometimes an interesting variation but overall — yawn. Pretty pictures, but what was the thought behind them? How could the average homeowner even hop to be able to recreate them?

  16. Deborah Banks

    1st December 2016 at 10:49 pm

    I agree. I love Gardens Illustrated too, though it’s frustrating reading about all the great calendar events that are happening across the ‘pond’. I dropped Garden Design 2 or 3 years ago when they went to the all modern all California look and dropped the neat quotes at the bottom of the pages. I did resubscribe recently because they seemed to be trying to change all that. A shame they ran out of time. I’m not surprised to hear that the advertising isn’t available for supporting it. I’ve wondered if that’s why HGTV is now really RETV (Real Estate TV); they’ve abandoned any pretense of covering Gardening, so they should really drop that from their name.

  17. MissingHenryMitchell

    1st December 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks for the suggestion! I have picked up the odd issue of GI here and there and have always enjoyed it. Perhaps it is time to pony up. I will pay a fair price for regular inspiration.

  18. Juliet Roberts

    2nd December 2016 at 12:48 pm

    It’s worth knowing that Gardens Illustrated has recently become available as a digital version, which may be easier and more expedient than trying to track it down in the shops. You can find it on the APP store, zinio.com and GooglePlay. The March issue (which was printed this week) should go live next week. I’d be interested to know what you think of it.
    Juliet Roberts
    Editor, Gardens Illustrated

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