Saturday, January 26, 2008

You will soon have to learn German!

    The long process whereby one of the world's leading horticultural journals has been dumbed down to yet another magazine (albeit a very good one) seems to be complete. A member of the editorial staff admitted to me last week (regretfully and somewhat defensively) that The Garden is "no longer a journal of record". In other words no longer something you turn to reference or to back up a statement or argument.
    The whole process which began, I cannot remember when, 'The Journal' became 'The Garden' is complete - magazinification. I am all for breaking down the doors of elitism but I personally feel the process has gone too far. The Garden now seems to operate on the same principles as garden TV, that we are all beginners, that none of us want to know about the latest science, research results, innovative techniques or read what experts write (as opposed to in house journalists). There also seems to be an assumption that we are all interested in design. Hello! This is the Royal HORTICULTURAL Society - we are first and foremost gardeners. Design certainly has a place in the journal but I suspect many gardeners would like to see less snazzy decking and more horticultural know-how. Besides which, other magazines do the design side so much better. The Plantsman has taken over some of what The Journal used to do, but only partially. Can't we have something in-between.
     What `I think many of us object to is the assumption that a journal cannot cater for both beginners and experts alike, and that many people new to gardening or with little knowledge might actually be interested and stimulated by more in-depth 'expert' pieces.
    It is a relief to turn to Germany's 'Gartenpraxis' - apart from the fact that it is in German!, and therefore a bit of a slow read (though a dictionary on my computer helps a lot). It seems to combine a huge range of material, popular stuff and latest research, pieces by experts, and where to go on your holiday next to see good flowers and gardens. There seems to be an assumption in Germany that people should not be talked down to, that technical knowledge is something to aspire to. Is 'dumbing down' a peculiarly English phenomenon?
    The slow decline of The Garden is, I suspect, part of the commercialisation of the RHS. How many members want to be part of  a business as opposed to a society is an interesting question.

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Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

No, dumbing down has already happened in Dutch garden magazines. I'm bored out of my scull with all of them. Compared to most Dutch garden magazines, the Gardener's World magazine is high brow.

On the principle of *improve the world and start at home* I've written a few articles for Tuin&Co, one of the Dutch magazines and they 've published some. Recently I sent them an article about how gardening effects people (health, general wellbeing, spirit, soul), including the latest scientific findings on that subject. Guess what, not interested as the subject was *too small*. Yup, reading about how to pave over your whole garden, bung in some garden furniture and oh wait, it's supposed to be a garden so lets add some pots with plants too, is a far more interesting read. ;-)

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Oh I forgot, the good news is I already speak German. :-)