"All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books."
Thomas Carlyle

Journaling About Books

April 9, 2007
I am going to "fudge" (cheat) a little today; instead of writing about a book, I am writing about my favorite magazine:
Those of you who know me well already know I treasure “Horticulture" magazine. Several years ago a friend gave me her “collection” of them, saying: “I know they are going to a good home.”

What a gift! I was dancing on air. Now, I have duplicates of some I already had, plus many, many more to enjoy and savor much as I would enjoy a dish of ice cream. Pleasure is pleasure, right?

It is wonderful having the duplicates for they can be filed away according to articles of especial interest to me. They were added to my already existing file folders for Columbines, Dahlias, Sweet Peas, shade gardens, woodland gardens… whatever the major article was about for which I already had folders. I would never tear out a page from “Horticulture”, so in went complete magazines. All the others, the ones for which I had no duplicates, joined my own collection in its storage boxes to be taken out a month at a time (all issues for that month) to be reread again and again, then placed in the second storage box as the calendar page turned to a new month. And so they go, from one box to the next... month by month.

Each issue contains – among many, many other things: information about the photo subjects on the cover (It is always a great disappointment to me when magazines do not do that.); an opportunity to ask questions of a horticulture expert and read questions from other readers plus the answers they receive; BEAUTIFUL photographs; thumbnail bios about the writers and contributors; interesting letters to the editor plus a message from the editor; a page or two of book reviews; a plant index and pronunciation guide of the Latin names for most plants featured in articles in that issue; sources where they may be found to purchase; an index of advertisers and resources by categories such as ‘BIRDING, PLANTS, FENCES, etc.; and pages of travel and learning opportunities of interest to gardeners. Even the classified ads are interesting to this gardener – just look at all the “garden stuff” that is out there, an indication of what people are doing.

The year-end issue contains indexes to that year’s articles - one index by subject and the other by authors, in alphabetical order. You would be surprised how helpful that can be.

Established in 1904, the magazine has celebrated its 100th anniversary. Impressive!

I first discovered “Horticulture” magazine while making a purchase at a farm and garden supply store in the early 1970s. A short stack of the latest issue was on the checkout counter near the cash register (ha, pre-computer days… remember cash registers?). As I waited my turn, I picked up a copy and flipped through it. Immediately, I was deeply drawn in by the beautiful and sensitively painted watercolor illustrations I saw there. My heart melted. I bought my copy, rushed home to savor my newly found treat, and quickly subscribed.

For several years the beautiful magazines arrived regularly in our mailbox. Each issue was met with awe and joy. The routine was: Upon discovering the gem in my mailbox it was either: (1.) devoured immediately, or, (2.) was secreted away until a quiet time when I could give it my full attention and slip into the pleasure of it as if it were a luxurious bubble bath. Every word was read: editorials, letters from readers, bios of contributors, articles, and adverts - everything from “kiver to kiver”! What a beautiful magazine!

Not only was it beautiful to the eyes, it was also wonderful to touch, to feel in my hands. The quality of paper and print was superior; if it had been cloth fabric we would say it had a good “hand”. The paper pages were almost oily they were so smooth, substantial, and rich feeling.

Over the years other magazines that I enjoyed reading gradually changed from substantial pages to being so thin they are almost like cling film, and static electricity clings them together so I can hardly separate one page to turn it. They do not even feel like magazines any more; at least, not like the ones I once knew, much less look like my old friends.

There was a time not so long ago when women’s magazines were much, much larger: 13 ¼ X 10 ½ inches. Then they began to gradually grow smaller and less substantial. I still have a few of those old copies, and when I take one in my hands it feels of luxury. Who would have guessed back then, even in the sixties, how they would change.

And gradually, paid advertisements increased in number. Did you know, that at one time “Reader’s Digest” had no ads at all? None… zilch! I remember when I was young (maybe a teenager – or younger) there was a survey inserted into an issue polling readers as to which they rather the company do: raise the price of the magazine, or, start running advertisements. Of course, advertisements soon appeared in new issues.

One magazine I used to read regularly now has the annoying practice of placing the advertisements on the right hand page, and the articles of information I would want to read on the left. Notice, I wrote: “used to read regularly”. The decision and choice made by the editors is obvious: more revenue can be obtained by romancing the advertising sponsors than what the subscribers would be willing and able to pay.

Today's mail brought my copy of the newest issue of "Horticulture". There was an Osmocote plant food advertisement inserted and stuck with rubber cement to one of the pages of a nice article. I removed it as carefully as I could, constantly fearful it would tear the page, but it didn’t. Whew!

No longer a monthly magazine, "Horticulture" is now published seven times a year. This new issue feels thicker and stiffer, not as pliable and easy to handle as the ones of old. It seems awkward to hold and flip through - what is wrong? Ah-ha! Pages of advertisements have slipped to the right-hand page… oh, No! Do I detect an ever so slight decline in quality or was I so blinded by the content and beautiful photos and watercolor paintings that I never noticed it was that way all along?! Hmmmm. Ah, thus is life.

I know costs of production have sky rocketed by comparison to those in years past and those costs will by necessity have to be born by the subscribers (and advertisers). I do not like to think about where it all is headed. Granted we bloggers love to write, and I have found some really good quality writing on the Internet, but it just isn’t the same as holding a book or good quality magazine in my hands while reading in one of my several favorite nooks and locations and positions.

I feel very fortunate to have lived in a time when I could experience that which I took for granted at the time, and today consider a luxury. For those who never had that experience - I suppose one never misses what one never had or never experienced. New technology has allowed us to create a whole new world out there that is different, very different, and fascinating, and addicting. Wonders never cease - plop! - here I am right in the middle of it... and loving it.

Books About Gardening:
April 24, 2004 - I just finished reading Two Gardeners A Friendship In Letters, compiled and edited by Emily Wilson, the letters between Elizabeth Lawrence of North Carolina (She wrote gardening articles for the Charlotte Observer newspaper and some books.) and
Katharine (Mrs. E.B.) White who was an editor of the New Yorker magazine and wrote gardening articles for the New Yorker. E.B., too, was an editor there (you may have read his work), but probably is best known for writing Charlotte's Web. They lived on a farm in Maine, spent some time in New York at the office, and wintered in Florida. Their garden was in Maine. Interesting contrast, the two women's gardens in Maine and North Carolina.

I lately finished a few of Henry Mitchell's books; he gardened in the Washington, D.C. area, and wrote gardening articles for the Washington Post. The only other book by him that our library has is one about houses in Washington, D.C. I have it on the kitchen table where I have to sit to read due to back problems. Will get to it in a few days. Meanwhile, I'm reading two of Elizabeth Lawrence's charming books about plants and people. She and Eudora Welty corresponded frequently and some of the things they corresponded about, e.g., the Mississippi Department of Agriculture Market Bulletins (and information from them) appear in Welty's books. I'll probably start reading them next, then move on to Katharine White's book, which I believe (if memory doesn't fail me) is a compilation of her New Yorker articles "Onward and Upward in the Garden". (She said the idea for the name Onward and Upward came from her church.)

Incidentally, did you know the Eudora e-mail program was named for Welty? I read that: Upon learning of it, she was amused. I think the name was well chosen. I'm glad, however, that she and E. Lawrence did not have that convenience. Surely if they had, their correspondence would have been lost, and gardeners would have been the poorer for it.

We surely have had a lot of rain lately, but that gave me an opportunity to rest and read.

(More about books in general can be found in Off the Subject)

You may have tangible wealth untold,
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be ---
I had a mother who read to me.

(From: "The Reading Mother" by Strickland Gillilan)

(The complete poem)
(Be forewarned, one line of the poem is insensitive. It hurts me to see those words.)