35 years old – Evergreen & Growing Strong: Pacific Horticulture

Age in a garden is a wonderful thing – worthy of celebrating. Age in a gardening publication in my mind is to be celebrated equally because it is through gardening publications that the ephemera of gardens and gardeners live on in perpetuity. Pacific Horticulture, one of the preeminent publications for gardeners in the West Coast states, turns 35 this year. And as with good gardens and gardeners generally, this gardening publication just gets better with age. Photo: Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ on the cover of the first 2010 issue of Pacific Horticulture, which sports the magazine’s bold new type face.

Richard Turner, Jr., longtime editor of the magazine explains that Pacific Horticulture began life as “a continuation of the quarterly Journal of the California Horticultural Society, begun by Sydney B. Mitchell in 1940. It mostly served gardeners in the Greater Bay Area, the home base of that seven-year-old society. The Pacific Horticultural Foundation, formed in 1968, took over publication of that journal, incorporating Notes from Strybing Arboretum and changing its name to the California Horticultural Journal; its scope widened to cover both Northern and Southern California. Color began to appear on its pages in the 1970s, but the foundation envisioned a still more polished journal, with even more color and serving the entire West Coast. The first issue under the title of ‘Pacific Horticulture‘, published quarterly by the non-profit Pacific Horticultural Foundation,’ appeared in January 1976. Under the editorship of George Waters, the expanded journal’s popularity spread quickly to include the Pacific Northwest in its range.”

Since first moving to interior Northern California, I have subscribed to Pacific Horticulture. I read each every quarterly issue from cover to cover. Editor Richard Turner has been a subscriber to the magazine since its first publication under the title Pacific Horticulture in 1976, when he was still living and gardening in Michigan. It was in 1976 that Richard met George Waters, the first editor of the publication under its current title, at a rock gardening conference in Seattle. “George slid some copies of the new magazine across the table to me one of the events, and subscribed on the spot!” Richard told me, still remembering his initial excitement.

As an avid gardener, Richard was already considering a move from Michigan to a climate more conducive to year-round gardening and ultimately he re-located to the Bay area in 1977. There, he served as a volunteer for the Strybing Arboretum, and then became the education director and served on the board of directors for Pacific Horticulture four years. He led the large San Francisco landscape show for a time and ultimately became the director of the well-known Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek for four years.

In 1996, while Richard was visiting with an old friend, he was told that George Waters had just announced his retirement as editor of Pacific Horticulture and by the July 1997 issue, Richard Turner, Jr. was the name listed in the mast-head as Editor.

Richard is a gregarious and engaging speaker and I have had the opportunity to hear him speak publicly at several educational gardening and horticulture events co-sponsored by Pacific Horticulture over the years. Most recently, I heard him speak at the Gardening Under Mediterranean Skies: Lessons in Sustainable Gardening in Santa Barbara in October of 2009 and Growing Natives: Celebrating California’s Beauty in Dry Times, a two day symposium in March of 2009 Lafayette and Berkeley in March of 2009 – both of which were informative and enriching events for me as a gardener.

Since its inception, the mission of the Pacific Horticultural Foundation, and therefore of its journal, has been to “stimulate and inspire gardeners in the art and science of horticulture on the West Coast through quality publications and related activities.” Richard elaborates that “West Coast refers to California, from Sierran foothills to the coast, and Oregon and Washington, from the Cascades to the coast.”

“The territory we cover spans a long reach from North to South, but these diverse regions are linked by one common characteristic: wet winters and dry summers. I try to balance the editorial input in each issue of the magazine so that readers will hear from gardeners or about topics relevant to each of our regions: the Pacific Northwest of Oregon and Washington, and the distinct areas of Northern California and Southern California. Some issues – for instance water, Mediterranean climate, native habitats and fire – are of constant concern throughout our whole area.”

For the radio portion of my interview with Richard, he described the beginning of the original society newsletter back in the 1940s as a group of “serious gardeners getting together and trying to address the lack of substantive gardening information being published specifically for and/or by gardeners on the West Coast.” Most serious gardening and horticultural information was still being generated from the East Coast and just hoping to translate for West Coast gardeners, which as we all know just does not work – or does not work to anyone’s (or any plant’s) real satisfaction.

And while “serious” is an accurate description of Pacific Horticulture, it only partially sums up the publication and the foundation’s many educational events sponsored around the region throughout the year.

“What I look for in articles and contributors is PASSION and personal experience,” Richard tells me, describing his editorial process. “So much passion that a gardener is willing to put pen to paper, do their research and put themselves out there. Pacific Horticulture is for people who like to read about gardens and gardening as much as they like to garden.”

And this interplay between “serious” and “passionate” much more closely sums up Pacific Horticulture – and why I read it, enjoy it, and learn from it.

The publication itself is a diminutive journal measuring just 7 inches wide and 10 inches tall – it fits nicely on the bookshelf. Each issue runs around 64 pages and includes anywhere from 8 to 12 in-depth feature articles, none of which is cluttered up with advertising, but all of which are supplemented by lovely and instructive photography. Regular elements in each issue also include a monthly calendar insert providing highlights from the longer calendar now found on the re-vamped web site; a section with book reviews, a regular column titled Garden Allies and each month describing a different animal or insect that is helpful to our gardens, and a dedicated advertising and event announcement section at the back of the magazine.

With 35 years under its belt, Pacific Horticulture has their sites set on the future. “We are looking forward, implementing and exploring the many new technologies that are available to us,” Richard tells me, citing the revamping of the website and the expansion of the on-line calendar as prime examples, “and we are also delving into and being re-informed by our past. Two amazing men from the Los Angeles area, known as Bob & Rob, consulted with us on the reworking of our website and one of the wonderful things they pointed out to us was the relevance of most of the articles written in past issues – from 35 years ago to 10 years ago. That our articles are ‘evergreen’ as it were.”

These “evergreen’ articles from the print archives will soon be appearing on the new Pacific Horticulture website and in some cases paired with a new and complementary article. These “evergreen articles” speak to the timeless nature of gardening and its lessons, the premise on which Pacific Horticulture stands, and to the consistency of the message that it strives to send: “1. Well-chosen plants whose needs are understood and met will be beautiful and healthy. Well-chosen plants will be suited to the site and climate and will most likely feed you, be a positive contribution to the ecology of your location, be an aesthetic joy and an inspiration.”

The Pacific Horticultural Foundation, under current president Judy Bradley will continue to sponsor and host entertaining and educational events, symposia, workshops, field trips and horticultural travel packages and the foundation and publication will continue to be a presence at other regional events such as the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle and the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show each year.

But you can have Pacific Horticulture delivered to your mailbox, or your local library, each season. It’s inspiring. It’s worth checking out.

If you or your gardening organization has a class or plant/gardening related event you’d like posted to the on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events at jewellgarden.com, send the pertinent information to me at: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com

Did you know I send out a weekly email with information about upcoming topics and gardening related events? If you would like to be added to the mailing list, send an email to Jennifer@jewellgarden.com.

In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In A North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell

In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.

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