Cedar is a new addition to the developing mash-up genre of sophisticated gardening, photography and lifestyle that’s proving hugely popular at the moment. The Bath-based creators of the magazine, Matt Green and Katie Thomas, tell us how they got started.
What is the genesis of Cedar, or how did it come about?
It’s something we’ve been slowly planning over the last few years without really knowing exactly what it was we wanted to do. At the beginning of last year we set up a website with the intention of documenting the people and places we met throughout the year, showcasing their stories and places to travel through our photography (Matt) and writing (Katie). But it wasn’t until last summer, prompted by the positive feedback we were receiving, that we decided to take the magazine into print. We’re both from design backgrounds but had never really explored publication before, so we enlisted our friend Laura to help with editing the magazine and set about creating Cedar.
Explain to us how Cedar is 'inspired by nature'...
Nature just seemed to be a tangible thread that linked all the aspects we wanted to combine together. We originally looked at something more garden-based but realised what we wanted to talk about was broader than that. We wanted to look at all the influences of nature you draw on to create your home and inform your lifestyle. Whether that’s a landscape or garden you visit and draw inspiration from, lifting influences from the textures, colours or planting. Or someone you meet with a story. In issue one, we’ve spoken with cooks, gardeners, designers, shop owners and people who run community projects inspired by nature.
Do you have a favourite plant?
Impossible! Our garden at home is this skinny strip of land that tiers up to the back. The sheltered courtyard by the house is filled with herbs, ferns and geraniums all potted up. A stone path then leads past a small border filled with cottage garden planting, which draws all the wildlife in. Achillea, Lavender, Foxgloves, Hollyhocks, Rudbeckia, Poppies and, after visiting Charlie McCormick’s garden last year, lots of Dahlias. There’s this delicious Salvia that you brush past and it smells just like blackcurrant squash. The raised bed is a little further down the garden, a haphazard assortment of green beans, sweet peas, burnt orange sunflowers and a tangle of tomatoes. Courgettes are dotted around in separate pots as they sprawled over the whole bed last summer! A lot of the garden is made up of clippings from our mums and grandparents gardens. There’s a fuchsia that’s a clipping from Matt’s great grandmother’s garden that has been passed around the family and these amazing speckled beans that are the descendants of ones his great grandfather used to grow.
Your garden sounds mesmerising! Is there a Bath and South West area influence?
We really love living here. There are so many gardens to explore and the countryside is so beautiful. You can spend hours exploring the vast gardens of Stourhead or the garden created by Piet Oudolf at Hauser and Wirth in Bruton, an incredible place to visit no matter what the season. One of the first places we stumbled across when we moved here was the walled garden at Mells. It’s this hidden space filled with wildflowers and sheltered with stone walls on three sides, with the fourth side dropping away to reveal views out across the Somerset countryside. The pace of living in the South West suits our lifestyle and the creativity in this area is infectious. There’s a friendly attitude, where ideas are shared and word of mouth really does spread new ideas around. There’s a lot of new independent publications cropping up, people just seem to have an idea and find a way to make it happen.
Cedar feels unrushed and gentle. The reader's journey is less about devouring places and travelling as far as possible but savouring what's on your doorstep. Things that you haven't noticed. Was this an active intention or did it unfold naturally?
The pace of the of the magazine reflects the way it was created. We’re a small team with a real interest in the stories we tell. During a year, we take a couple of holidays away for a week at a time and then really savour our weekends, filling them with local trips and camping breaks, possibly squeezing in a long weekend away for a mini city break. I think the magazine reflects how a lot of people structure their year. You can only fit in so much and we like to visit a place and leave feeling like we’ve got to know it, having uncovered its story. We want to allow the reader to feel like they’ve accompanied us on a journey.
And to dinner! Cedar highlights some beautiful foodie places…
The Ethicurean and St Tudy were a great fit. The Ethicurean sits within a walled kitchen garden, and their menu is led by the seasons. Dishes will change every few days based on which vegetables have been harvested from the garden, and all the other ingredients are locally sourced, creating a sustainable menu. The meals Emily Scott crafts at St. Tudy Inn in Cornwall have this incredibly pure quality to them, she showcases the natural flavours in the produce she uses. It’s a great way to showcase how food is grown, eaten or sourced.
The photography has a beautiful hazy warm glow – lush and rich, almost brimming over on nearly every page. What influenced your style?
We’re always very keen to capture the rich colours and textures of nature, exploring the place through photography, documenting the unique qualities of a space and searching for those hidden corners in a garden that you only see if you spend long enough contemplating them. Photographers like Valerie Finnis are a big inspiration. Her work was always authentic and honest, showcasing flowers and gardens in their truest form. This is something we try and replicate at Cedar. We very rarely stage a shoot; it’s more about documenting a journey or capturing a moment.
Cedar has gained quite a bit of attention. Even before publication it was included in a round-up of the best new gardening magazines by The Daily Telegraph! Did the anticipation for this sort of magazine, especially in these parts, affect or influence how you put it together?
I think the way the magazine came about meant we had a community of contacts we could call on and ask advice along the way. Instagram and the website were a great way to help us build up a following and see how much interest there would be for a magazine. Through those communities, we got some great contributors for the first issue. Silvana De Soissons (who runs The Foodie Bugle in Bath) wrote on ‘A City Framed in Green’; Sara Venn wrote a really informative piece on edible Bristol and the community projects they run there and Peter shared his knowledge on forgotten fruits. We were a little naive when we first set out, not having much experience launching a magazine, and we still have a lot to learn! A lot of late nights went into creating issue one and we’ve muddled through creating a process that works for us. We didn’t fully comprehend all the admin that goes with it and we’ve been distributing the magazine ourselves, while making a start on gathering content for issue two.
What's next for Cedar?
We’re currently working on issue two at the moment and aiming to launch early next year. We’re also hoping to start updating the website more regularly. We’ve been frantically gathering a lot of content over the summer months and just need to sit down and get it all written up and ready to share!
Interview by Libby Borton