Sunset also loves to run articles about highly improbable weekend garden construction projects for under $500. The May 2006 issue shows a “Japanese teahouse only more casual” built in three days for about $500. The teahouse has a pond stocked with water lilies, a screen of mature Leland cypress, a lovely Redwood or Trex deck, and a garland of electric lanterns. Ok exactly what part of this project cost under $500 and took around 3 days to do – hanging the mosquito netting from the shower curtain rings?
The gardening articles seemed to go downhill about a year ago after Sunset offered early retirement to much of its staff. Some of the staff who retired had decades of hands-on gardening experience and provided a what-works-in-the-West foundation for the garden writing. When I moved to California from Virginia seven years ago, Sunset was the kindly gardening guru who explained: yes, you can have pretty flowers in the middle of January in California. I have so many of those old gardening articles lovingly filed away and boy, did they ever pack a lot of gardening advice in a couple of pages. I even reproduced some of the magazine’s garden designs down to the exact plant cultivars and have the pictures to prove it.
It has been over a year since I cut anything out of Sunset. The new Sunset seems to target a hipper, attention-deprived audience with glossy photos, slick layouts and very little editorial content. Sunset, once the best source of advice on western gardening, has become eye candy for the Whole Foods checkout line.
Kathy Cromwell once aspired to work at Sunset, but after posting this blog, can safely cross that ambition off her list. She currently deadheads roses in Burlingame, California.