Garden&Gun – We Done You Wrong


GardenandgunRemember my snarly post about the new magazine curiously named Garden&Gun?  Sure, you do.  You all joined in the derision.  It was fun!  Then I got angry comments.  Turns out I’m denigrating my heritage with my small mind.  Though in my defense, I only took up the mockfest after the Garden Writers Listserv bunch had had their way with the new magazine.  And as I say, most of the commenters joined in the merriment and one even read the website and concluded it made her "barf – so elitist.  Pee uuu."

So here’s an update, first on the elitism.  Oh, boy is it elitist, and deliberately so, thankyouverymuch.  It targets the rich subscribers who are pursued by top-dollar advertisers like, I don’t know, Mercedes or BMW. (I’m such a lackluster consumer I can hardly think of examples.)  So yes, the verbiage on the website is elitist because it has to convince these advertisers to pay outrageous rates. (And thanks to one commenter from the publishing world for pointing that out to us.)

But what about the magazine, for crissake?!  Well, I happen to have it in my very own hands, and not because the free first issue I signed up for has arrived yet. (Ever?  We’ll see.)  No, a friend loaned me a copy her fisherman husband bought and wow – it screams high-class, but mostly in a good way.  (Unlike those society magazines with page after page of rich, skinny women in evening clothes.  Talk about the barf factor.)

But this serious magazine deserves a serious review.   

Now I’ve read all about the original Garden&Gun, the ’70s dance club in Charleston that the creators of this magazine liked so much they thought it would be cool to revive the name.  Reportedly all sorts of races and sexual orientations mixed it up on its dance floor and I appreciate that, you bet.  But here’s the rub:  it’s only a cool magazine name for the select few who’ve ever heard of the damn club.  And not so cool to the targeted readers in the toniest zip codes across the South and in the metro NY and DC areas (according to their website), to whom the title is a big "What the F**K??"  Or fodder for jokes.  Not to mention a disappointment to people looking for either gun or garden content because guess what – it’s not about either guns or gardens.

Okay, let’s get past the title (and I hope this magazine CAN.)  Just look at the cover – Pat Conroy!  And inside I find not just his article but others by Clyde Edgerton and Reynolds Price and I’m just enough of a reader to be impressed, big-time.  There are also pieces about the Nature Conservancy, fishing, a LEED-certified home in Atlanta, a Virginia winery, the funkier side of Ashville, and an 11-page spread about Jefferson’s Monticello.   So maybe the magazine is what the editor hopes it’ll be: "The best of the 21st Century American South."  It’s off to a great start.

This article in Media Post begins with the obvious:  "Admittedly, the title grabs you," but goes on to shovel high praise on the first edition, calling it a "soon-to-be hit with upper crust Southerners" and concluding with "Pass the bourbon and branch."  Cute.  Interestingly, the reviewer is a "big fan of celebrating cultural traditions and roots" but has a quibble with the cover.  "Pat Conroy, of Prince of Tides
fame, is a gifted author. He writes beautiful prose.  But as the cover
subject, the 21st-century South looks suspiciously like the antebellum
period — with Dockers." 

Well, I’ve got news for the Media Post writer – that’s how Pat Conroy dresses.  And one look at Tom Wolfe reminds us that the antebellum look is far from dead.  I say that as someone who left the South for more progressive waters but held onto her preppy look for dear life.  And about those traditions and roots?  Whenever I listen to the Bluegrass Junction channel on XM Radio – and that’s daily – I remember my Virginia daddy playing "Swing low, sweet chariot" on the guitar and, unfortunately, singing it.


  1. Like many, many Virginians, I ran all the way to New York City. In the Tidewater of my youth, “all sorts of races and sexual orientations” most definitely did not mix it up together, at least not within sight of their parents. Did I mention that I ran all the way to NYC?

    I’m curious enough to read at least the Pat Conroy issue, but having checked out the website, I can’t help feeling queasy about the absence of any skin other than white skin. I’ve been told it’s difficult, nay impossible, to get permission to put a black face on the cover of a (not pointedly black) lifestyle glossy.

    Self-exiled Southerners definitely need a better nostalgia rag than Southern Living. Maybe (big question mark) Garden & Gun will suffice. Susan, what other magazines are you reading in that general direction? Anything that might make me want to come home?

  2. Good points, Molly. Coz the 21st Century South isn’t all preppy, now is it?
    Sorry I can’t help you with any other Southern reading material. My subscriptions are all about gardening except for the New Yorker, so I’m not exactly steeped in Southern culture, either.

  3. I am waiting patiently for my first issue having been unable to resist the low priced subscription and the outlandish name especially in this overly politically correct time. I’ve received the bill already but not the actual magazine. I still think it an unfortunate title! Thanks for the review!

  4. Since Molly’s gotten me thinking about Southern nostalgia, I’d say the contra-dancing and clogging I love and indulge in regularly help to keep in touch with the Old Dominion. But I don’t think I grow ANY of the same plants my mom did, so my garden is totally Maryland to me.

  5. As someone who resides in Charleston, South Carolina (as a ‘guest’ and not a born-n-bred here type) – I can say that ‘Garden & Gun’ reflects a certain segment of the old south – mingling with the new, which is about as conflicted as the magazine might seem. The fact that the name means so little to most is typical of Charleston – because alot of folks down here don’t really realize that there’s a bigger world out there (oh, they may realize it – but they just don’t care) – and stories about the old Garden & Gun (the club) are legendary (within a mile or so radius of the peninsula). Plus – with Pat Conroy as cover boy for the first issue (a very public southern figure who was the first to say OUTLOUD that The Citadel might be a truly nutty place) – I think the magazine might actually reflect quite well the contradictions we all see and feel down here. Granted, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the diversity issue (if they handle it at all) – but to be perfectly honest, after having lived in northern regions and now southern ones – my personal world is far more diverse down here than it ever has been elsewhere. Watch out for old stereotypes – the south certainly embraces their fair share, but it might surprise you as well. It most definitely did me. (Oh, I realize that Charleston does not represent the ‘whole’ south either).

    Plus – in the late fall through early spring, the camellias are just amazing.

  6. A 70’s upscale dance club you say where all races and orientations mixed? It sounds like a place were the Lady Chablis would perform. It sounds like a time when it was fashionable to be seen in a certain crowd. It sounds like a gay bar. It sounds like Studio 54 for the folks who didn’t go to New York City and stayed home.

    Why I do believe the Garden and Gun was a gay bar in Charleston.

  7. Hmm, well, I still can’t seem to shake the mental recollection of the pictures they initially had on their site that implied, “Oh if only we could bring back slavery”, but whatever. It’s not aimed at me. I’m not rich enough or, as a Texan, the right kind of “southern” enough to get it.

    I didn’t know you were a contra dancer, Susan! I’ve got a very good friend in Atlanta whose husband is fairly well known caller named Seth Tepfer (the friend is Pam Eidson). Just wondered if you know them.

  8. Not ALL of us derided.

    One day I’ll invite you all to Lake County. We talk about the gardens, look at the lakes and sip something with a bite to it. And then this displaced Texas boy will tell you (and show you) some of the magnificence of fine Italian and Belgian shotguns. Really special things. You’ll shoot some clays (I won’t facilitate the shooting of living things for pleasure) and I’ll listen to you tell me how wonderful it is.

    You don’t believe me? My mid-atlantic (of the yankee persuation) ex-wife didn’t believe me either. But she really didn’t know better. And then I showed her. Yes m’amm.

    You’ll love it.

    Some day.


  9. I have talked with my cousin in Columbia SC and have feelers out for a very close friend of hers and resident of Charleston in the early 80’s who was likely to be a habitue’ of The Garden and Gun Club.

    Perhaps I can report back on a Southern Flashback.

  10. I used to work for Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts and all-around adorable person. When he interviewed me for the job, he said, “What do you do when you’re not working?”

    I said, “I garden.”

    He said, “That’s good. I like gardening.”

    Then he corrected himself. “I mean, I like gardens and woods and things. I’m a sportsman myself.”

    I knew what he was saying–the natural world was very, very important to him. I think that’s true of a lot of hunters.

    Gardens and guns, not so far removed. Now, if only I could get some nice hunter over here to deal with the groundhogs.

  11. Perhaps some folks would have preferred “Mink and Manure”, which is how Michael Feldman, among others, referred to Charlottesvile. I have heard about G&G ( and certainly heard about the original G&G, aka the fruit and shoot), but here is my question: How many people whose gardens exceed a quarter acre do NOT know someone who has guns? And maybe sleep happily with that person at night?

    If G&G were based in the UK, how many people would see it as quaint and tasteful? Or Classic?

    I do wonder about people whose notions of the south haven’t changed in 25 years- or whose loyalty to the South is best expressed from Far Far Away. There are many great writers, living and dead, who Had To Leave, such as Willie Morris, who came back and worked hard at Southern Living, among other places, and Roy Blount, who may be the only southerner in the Berkshires, or on Minnesota Public Radio.

    But for those scoffers, would you prefer the thing to be called “People who Stayed and the Vast amounts of Money their New Friends Have” ?

    Does not “Garden and Gun” connote the two principle aspects of attachment to land/ the earth / nature? How could that be a bad thing?

  12. Would you motherfuckers quit sending me final notices. My account is not in default. You are a fraud. You will not recieve any payment from me as I did not order anything from you frauding mother fuckers. Now stop the billing or I will go to the State Attourney General and sue you fuckers.

  13. I was too young to go to G&G but I did hear about it. And it was one of those gay bars that everyone goes to … like The Treehouse off King was in the later 80s. You could be in the line for The Treehouse and have shirtless gay guys with glow in the dark sticks waiting to dance, black tie clad couples, people of all races, shapes and sexual orientation; ready to go in and have a drink and dance. I was always told it was like G&G used to be …

    I love the mag. I love the photos and the well written articles. And there are articles about gardens, guns, dogs and horses!

  14. This magazine is fantastic and offers something for everyone with its array of features and ads. The magazine’s motif offers a sense of place over time. As a former New Englander and now a SOB, my favorite story is Charlie Geer’s “Mumsy’s Big Move” – found in the Holiday 2007 issue featuring Palm Beach. I have read it again and again enjoying the author’s take on his family’s personalities. I look forward to more stories from Mr Geer describing his adventures with family and friends in Charleston.

  15. Garden & Gun is THE magazine of the last few years. It reminds me of the venerable English periodical COUNTRY LIFE, which is conservationist, “green,” preservationist, and literate. This is a genuine, well-written, artistic, first-class production. I like the title too. It causes you to think. How many magazines do that—on the cover or inside, for that matter.

  16. Check out The Oxford American, which depicts the real south (not a fantasy rich south). Their latest issue has a feature on Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans. Their Best of the South issue has an amazing article by Bronwen Dickey (daughter of author James Dickey) about the Last Wild River in the US (the river featured in Deliverance)…If I had to read a magazine about the South with great writing and art and real people, I’d read the Oxford American. They have an annual music issue too of awesome music from past and present.

  17. Well, I have a copy of Garden and Gun and it came from my local Supercuts! Someone who has their hair cut there takes his( and I bet it’s a his) over there when he pops in for the $12.99 cut. My hair dresser, to whom I have been going to for 12 years, said “take it”! i was commenting to her on an article in there on “The most visited garden in North America” I wanted to read several of the other articles too; one on The Plates, which features a supper club in Austin ,which I read about on one of our garden blogger’s posts and Who Needs Overalls. They sound like interesting articles. I reserve my judgement.

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