Let us begin with a cliché (since you won’t find any in this gardening magazine). The Plant really grows on you. Back with a new design, wider and higher page dimensions with a more bookish feel this Spanish/UK hybrid, is living in the world of botanicals, but there any resemblance to common gardening magazines will end.
Confession time: I love the Sunday supplements aspirational porn, with their ‘planning for your border with colour all year round’, ‘transform your dark corners with the latest succulents’ and my personal favourite ‘no fuss gardening for the non-gardening fan’. Just pick up a trowel the glossy pages cry and you can create a haven where you will be at peace and everything will be wonderful. Or perhaps try trowelessness, the pioneering ‘new’ wave of gardening, the no-dig plot and the other must-have, organic diversity – which I believe means lots of plants.
I am a lover of gardens and the outdoors and I have been known to enjoy some tool envy, but as my green space will attest, most of my ideas remain in the abstract. Plus I don’t actually like the feeling of dirt under my finger nails and I truly loathe going to garden centres. In that at least I do not seem to be alone. The UK's garden centres are suffering their worst sales levels in at least five years. So far this year, average underlying sales are down between 15 to 20 per cent, according to the Garden Centre Association, whose toil is to report these things.
Personally I am not surprised. Not only have we all been battered with the rain, but the regimented centre where dreary pots compete to be adopted by tired looking people who have nothing better to do, is everything being outdoors should not be.
So The Plant is an antidote to all that.
I had settled in for what I had expected would be a ‘how-to’ guide, but instead got a rambling, image heavy path of ideas and colours, with an overarching theme that the world of plants is something to be cherished.
Who could fail to be charmed by a piece on watering cans – what diversity, what opportunity, what a humble form transposed. That sat easily with a feature on the lean and pared back flower arrangements which became contemporary art under the fierce gaze of Sofu Teshigahara.
And that is The Plant’s unique perspective. It comes from every angle, however oblique, that involves a form of nature that can be modelled, worn, made or simply looked at.
We also learn about harvesting golab in Iran, of a British artist who created a decade long log book artwork from the musings, plantings and involvements in a neat set of allotments on the borders of Munster, and about the boys from Breton, brothers who with technical excellence put nature in its purest form into their furniture, most notably their instantly recognisable Belville Chair.
New to The Plant is Loose Leaves, a back-of-the-magazine catalogue of interesting page long musings, that, as with the rest of the magazine, is beautifully nuanced and full of grace.
The Plant is at the front of a campaign to get us all reconnecting with nature, for sound psychological and health reasons. It is well documented that exposure to natural environments is scientifically proven to reduce cortisol. If you can’t actually get out, try this virtual version as a magazine.
In much the same way that when children were put outside to sleep TV producers believe that they can sooth a troubled child to rest up via a tablet. The screeching, primary coloured children’s destvail of stimulating sing-a-longs and make at homes, CeeBeebies has found its most unlikely and most successful offshoot, an hour long programme of gentle sounds, images and colours designed to send your off spring to sleep. And yes there is a lot of greenery.
The Plant will not send you to bed, unless it is a flower bed, but it will soothe your brow with botanicals. It is a pause, a slowing in a world that is eaten up by do’s, lists of tens, make it happens and my latest favourite call to educational arms, Believe and Succeed. There is no instruction, only gentle encouragement, go look at the green stuff and take your time, think things through.
You don’t need to love plants to enjoy this magazine, but only need to like the idea here is something that can’t be rushed, or copied. That the natural world has its own rhythm which cannot be raced, part fashion, part design, part travelogue, there is much for the non-gardener, with a new ground.
The magazine calls itself ‘A curious observer of ordinary plants and other greenery’ but it has elevated itself for this edition. Previously the magazine has included articles such as recipes for summer ices (a scoop of cucumber and dill anyone?) and an article about what the writer dubbed the bingo queen of plants, the geranium, with its school-like font and line drawn dissections. The latter would certainly not have been out of place in one of the 1972's Reader’s Digest Guide To Perennials, but the latest The Plant is much more difficult to catalogue.
The Plant may not have needed a redesign, but like every garden, the time had come to make some changes and they are most welcome.