“We are … bored with perfect magazine gardens.”

That quote should look very familiar—it’s repeated in the Garden Rant manifesto. We were reminded of it when I posted that Garden Design had chosen us as one of their six favorite blogs. Rick of Whispering Crane thought it was just a wee bit hypocritical for us to rejoice over the endorsement of a magazine that, perhaps more than any of the others, strives for the—if not perfect—meticulously designed garden. I think both our rejoicing and his comment are perfectly understandable.

But it did get me thinking about magazines and their gardens. Like many, I have a love/hate relationship with the gardening press. I look at the trendy, geometric wonders in Garden Design—some of them are very beautiful—and, as a former art curator and fan of minimalism, I long for their precision. (How did I end up with a messy courtyard that only needs an overlay of kudzu to look utterly wild?)

If the gardens in many glossies are presented for inspiration, they often overshoot their mark to the point where depression, frustration, or exasperation result. This is why I often prefer the more prosaic befores and afters shown in such books as The Well-Tended Perennial Garden. I look at some of her photographs, and think, “That looks good. Yeah. I could probably do that.” Unlike a mag like Gourmet, where if I buy the ingredients and follow the directions, I’ll probably be successful, most of the innovative gardens in GD aren’t easily emulated.

Yet, why not aspire? Like the crazy couture trotted down the runway during Fashion Week, can we look at these gardens as extremes that, in a scaled-back form, we’ll be ready to wear some day?

In the Jan/Feb issue of Garden Design, in which “English gardens still rule,” there are checkerboards of phlox (mat-forming type) interspersed with flagstones. Other issues in recent years have featured the European New Wave movement, where garden paths are often completely dispensed with—one simply wades through the plants. There have been a lot of pictures of brightly-colored plastic furniture that actually look kind of cool (in their pristine magazine setting).

The current issue features their annual hot 100. This is a common magazine come-on, one that, as an editor, I’ve certainly used. Readers seem to like having things enumerated. Top ten? Worst five? Lists of 100 are especially seductive; they seem to promise so much.

In the end I’m happy to get three good ideas a year out of all my garden periodical reading. What about you?

(Posted by Elizabeth.)