Garden Design Mag is Back and Totally Different!


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Once a fan of Garden Design Magazine, I came to dislike it enough to ask for my unused subscription money back after it changed its target audience to the rich and beautiful people of Southern California, with their $1,000 patio chairs and al fresco dinner parties.  So I wasn’t the least bit sad about the magazine coming to an end in the spring of this year.

But to my surprise and delight, it’s coming back and looks to be far better this time.  Here’s why I’m so optimistic.

The new print edition of GD will have 132 heavy-stock pages and NO ADS!  Yes, it’ll be entirely subscriber-supported, so it can give readers what they want, not what the advertisers want.  The magazine has a new publisher, Jim Peterson, and he’s making sure the content will be “more accessible.”

And music to my Eastern ears was hearing that GD’s new focus is all of North America!  Already Jim is lining up garden writers from all corners of the continent, and he’s saving 5-10% of the space for gardens in other parts of the world.  The gardens, like the patio chairs, will be more accessible and will have take-aways for readers to maybe even use in their own gardens, without having to hire high-end designers.

What GD Magazine is NOT going to include is also good news – the how-to stuff that’s covered by all the other magazines (“Composting 101”).   Those topics are important but after reading them for 40 years, I’ve lost interest.

Loving the Website

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Print won’t start until next summer but the website is already much, much better.  What had previously been a placeholder with nothing much but how to subscribe, is now chockful of content, 90% of it brand new and updated several times a week with new material.  Just “like” Garden Design on Facebook or subscribe to their e-news to find out what’s new.  The print version will not repeat what’s on the web or vice versa; both will stand on their own.

One website feature I particularly love and hope to see beefed-up collects public gardens by city, for visitors.  Maybe now more of DC’s millions of visitors will find their way to our less well-known gems.

Who IS this publisher? 

Thanks to a couple of fun phone calls with Jim Peterson, I have some back story to relate.  He’s the guy who, when he found out Garden Design was shutting down, bought its 31-year-old trademark and website, proceeded to do a web overhaul and when he discovered that people missed the print version, decided to bring it back.

Jim’s career path toward garden-mag publishing is an interesting one.  After earning a degree in communications and a brief stint in advertising, he turned to the concrete business, working for a contractor.  Noticing a dearth of good information online about the increasingly sophisticated, even high-tech concrete projects now being done, he started Concrete Network in ’99 with almost no start-up money.  It educates consumers about a diversity of projects and compiles lists of concrete contractors across the U.S.  The site had 14 million visitors in 2012.

My first reaction to all that was to wonder what concrete has to do with gardening, but Jim told me that 80% of his business was outdoor work, plus he’s a gardener, so the next step was creating a similar site for landscape projects and contractors, and Landscaping Network launched in 2010.  For that website he was hiring garden writers from across North America (including some names you may recognize, like Maureen Gilmer, Genevieve Schmidt, and Susan Cohan), so really, acquiring Garden Design is a natural next step.

So, I’m excited!   “Composting 101” may leave me cold but I’ll never tire of seeing beautiful gardens professionally photographed and profiled, even if once in a while the garden is in Southern California.


  1. I actually liked the crazy-expensive stuff of the dead GD. I used it for inspiration, not as a shopping list, and I’m hoping the mag’s new incarnation will still include some of those “I’d never buy it but maybe I could build something like it” items.

    Looking forward to seeing lots of Midwest gardens — or at least some. 🙂

  2. Hey-not all of us in Southern California have $1000 patio chairs and a full time landscaping staff. A lot of us compost, grow from seed and no lawn. Give us a break, Susan! The next time you want to learn about gardening in hillside rock, battling cactus and dealing with feral screenwriters, let me know.

    • As a fellow SoCal resident, I was going to say the same thing! The $1000 chairs is one of my gripes about Sunset, actually. I understand that magazines are aspirational, but my aspirations never amount to spending extravagantly and wastefully, actually. Our most recent acquisition was teak lounges from a yard sale up the street. My husband had to drag them 4 blocks to get them home, and then I spent a grubby morning scrubbing them with Whisk and laving them in teak oil. Total cost (with Target end-of-season-discount pillows, Wisk, oil, and lounges–$100 for the pair).

  3. Wonderful news! I too ended up giving on GD when it became all SoCal all the time. Looking forward to giving it a second chance. I also would love to see Jim bring back the little quotations that used to appear at the bottom of each page…

  4. I too missed those little quotations at the bottom of the page. It was just the first of many losses as the quality of that magazine went downhill. Great news! Now if someone would just buy HGTV and rescue it from the real estate industry.

  5. lol, you all gave up on GD because it was all SoCal all the time. A lot of us SoCal residents gave up on almost the sum total of garden writing ages ago because it is completely inapplicable to our conditions.

  6. Concrete is a nice percentage of my business. Clients want new driveway, walk, patio.

    In addition to landscaping we are licensed in home building. Almost all my clients are needing house renovation of some type.

    It’s not unusual to be hired for a landscape design and come away with a kitchen installation, new siding, or replacing carpet with hardwood. Once I’ve chosen outdoor colors & lighting the clients realize they like it and begin asking about interior design choices too.

    This has been my ‘landscape design’ business for years. Easier for the client to deal with a single crew. Decades to get to this spot. Could write a horror novel about dishonest garden contractors…… You know, the stuff never mentioned in a garden magazine.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  7. Thanks Susan!

    @Alan: We are going to have tons of inspiration for you.

    @Laura: Thanks. Sign up for our free newsletter and/or follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

    @Susan: I’ve heard from a lot of people about those “little quotations”

    @Deborah B: Thank you!

  8. Second Deborah B’s remark about rescuing HGTV from the real estate industry! How I miss shows like Gardener’s Journal…

  9. @skr…I absolutely agree that most of the advice in garden mags with the sole exception of Sunset is not useful or is just plain wrong for us in SoCal. I wish there were more eastern garden mags that included us.

    Susan, I think you are confusing SoCal celebrity gardens for gardens tended or owned by the rest if the 10 million people living here.

    I too cancelled my GD subscription when I got bored and tired of seeing fancy close up photos of plant parts, obscure ikebana arrangements and nothing inspiring that was useful to average but avid gardeners like me. That said, I hope it stays edgy and stylish and doesn’t catch the lowest common denominator, DIY ethos you find on hgtv. Keep it inspiring!

  10. Thank you for this post. I am slowly browsing the website, it is enticing and very well done. I did not re-subscribe to GD and look forward to its reincarnation. Should be good if the website is a preview.

  11. As the web editor of from the end of 2010 to July 2012, when I went on maternity leave, I am glad that Jim Peterson is bringing back the brand. However, I do want to correct the impression that the old website had been nothing but a placeholder for subscriptions.

    The current web design was created under the Bonnier umbrella, and though I was only part-time and had no staff and a limited budget, I created new content every day, and brought on a number of new contributors and featured a number of unique reader gardens, from sprawling estates of roses, in yes, Southern California, to a Chicago lawn that was replaced with a vegetable plot.

    As the title of this column says, everyone is a critic, but I do feel that at least part of the criticism directed at the brand (about the website) was reflective of a pre-2011 website, and not the website in the past two years. After I went on maternity leave, and eventually left, I believe the resources may have dwindled even more, but I am proud of the work that we did on the website and I hope the new incarnation will be even better.

  12. I loved the old Garden Design, perhaps especially for the reasons disparaged here (western gardening, extreme flower arrangements, lawn furniture of the rich and famous, etc.). It filled a niche other garden magazines did not. I’m glad to hear it’s coming back.

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