Amateur Gardening (magazine)
|Circulation||28,749 (ABC Jul - Dec 2016)
Print and digital editions.
|Company||Time Inc (UK) Ltd|
Amateur Gardening is a British weekly magazine dedicated to gardening. It includes news, advice, feature articles, and celebrity columns and interviews.
History and the early years
Amateur Gardening was founded in London in May 1884 by Shirley Hibberd, who edited it until 1887. This makes it the oldest UK amateur gardening weekly still published today, and was Britain's best-seller in that category in 2013. The magazine is published on a weekly basis. Its editorial offices are in Poole, Dorset.
At the time of the magazine's launch in 1884 there had been several other notable gardening magazines in circulation, including the Gardeners' Chronicle and Gardens Illustrated, but these were tailored more for the professional gardener. Amateur Gardening is regarded as the first paper designed specifically for the amateur.
The founders were two brothers – W.H. and L. Collingridge – who also produced other periodicals of the time, including the well known City Press.
The first issue of Amateur Gardening consisted of just 16 pages, 12 of which were devoted to editorial matter. The first editor, Shirley Hibberd, was a botanist and an academic authority on gardening. He steered the magazine down a rocky road, with articles that were considered by many to be rather too technical. He stayed in the job for just two years.
The man who really established Amateur Gardening was T.W. Sanders, who was to remain editor for 40 years. Sanders knew exactly what the new generation of amateur gardeners wanted, and his style of editing attracted a wide audience. Prior to the First World War a circulation of 100,000 copies per week had been achieved, but this fell off considerably during the conflict. It was not until the mid-1920s that the magazine's circulation rose again to a healthy level.
Sanders also wrote a large number of books, the most important of which was Sanders' Encyclopaedia of Gardening. It was the ‘bible' for several generations of gardeners, and is consulted even today.
In 1926, the magazine suffered a severe blow when Sanders died. Fortunately the assistant editor, A.J. Macself, was able to take over as editor and he successfully steered the magazine through another 20 years – and probably the most turbulent period in its history.
In 1934 Macself presided over the title's 50th birthday party, celebrating in grand style with a dinner for more than 300 people in the Connaught Rooms in London's Mayfair. The guest list included Lord Aberconway, the then President of the Royal Horticultural Society, Sir Austen Chamberlain (a former Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Lord Riddell (a director of the Collingridge publishing firm, and a close personal friend of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George).
In June 1940 the magazine left its offices in the City, and moved to the Country Life Building in Covent Garden.
Macself was a member of the original Hardy Plant Society, and was a renowned expert in ferns. Arguably he was even more prolific as a writer than Sanders. Between 1933 and 1939 he launched a series of gift books, as well as an annual and a calendar, besides writing numerous ordinary gardening books.
He carried on editing through World War II, even though paper restrictions had dramatically limited the size of the magazine. During this period AG put its full weight behind the national Dig for Victory campaign, which encouraged everyone to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
When Macself retired in 1946, he was succeeded by Arthur Hellyer, the then assistant editor. Hellyer had joined the magazine in 1929, and was both charming and knowledgeable, and another workaholic. He retired in 1967. During his years as editor he also wrote weekly for the Financial Times, and regularly for Country Life and many other publications – and he wrote innumerable books.
Hellyer took over at a great time on the magazine's history. Paper restrictions were lifted during the 1950s and 60s, and the magazine enjoyed a boom, the like of which had never been seen before – or since. Circulation rose to a staggering 300,000 copies per week, and issues regularly contained some 124 pages. Remarkably, by 1967 when Hellyer retired, the magazine had been in business for 83 years, but had only seen four editors (and one of them lasted just two years).
For the first hundred years of the magazine's life it seemed to be the norm that when an editor stopped, his role was taken over by the assistant editor. This happened again when Hellyer retired as his assistant, Anthony Huxley, took on the role.
He was the son of the writer Julian Huxley, and the nephew of philosopher and writer Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World in 1932. Anthony was also the great-grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, a renowned biologist who defended Darwin's theory of evolution when it was receiving considerable criticism.
Huxley was a keen and knowledgeable plantsman, and although he was very supportive of amateurs generally, he was more interested in botanical integrity and ecology, particularly in the cultivation of house plants. He introduced the use of bottle gardens to the UK, and in 1956 exhibited the first ever bottle garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. He was editor for just four years; in 1971 he left to devote his time to book writing and freelance journalism.
The post of editor was then taken over by assistant editor Peter Wood, who had been a student at the RHS garden at Wisley in the early 1950s, and had come to Amateur Gardening straight after his diploma course finished. He started off in the department helping to answer the thousands of readers' queries that arrived by post each year. During his editorship, Wood steered the magazine through the technological revolution (the introduction of computers), as well as the turbulent periods of industrial unrest in the 1970s. There were several times when Amateur Gardening was printed with blank white pages, because the printers refused to deal with pages that had been written by, or contained pictures from, people who were not members of certain unions.
Wood also presided over the magazine's centenary celebrations in 1984. With garden designer Roger Sweetinburgh, he drew up the plans for a Victorian garden at the Chelsea Flower Show – and won a Gold Medal.
And there was also a centenary lunch at RHS Wisley Garden, with a ceremonial tree planting. It was a much lower-key event than the 50th birthday celebrations, but this was now the recession-hit Thatcher era. Budgets for big parties were much tighter.
In 1979, Wood was instrumental in moving the magazine out of London and down to Poole in Dorset.
Wood retired from the magazine in 1985, and was replaced by Jack Kendall, a journalist who worked on Practical Householder (a sister magazine to Amateur Gardening). He was not an experienced gardener, but was a good organiser and writer. Shortly after he started, Kendall was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he died just 10 months later.
For much of the time Kendall was being treated for cancer, the magazine's deputy, Graham Clarke, had been acting editor, and upon Kendall's death he was appointed editor. Clarke had been born into horticulture as his father had been a Superintendent (today known as a Manager) of Regent's Park in the centre of London. For all of Clarke's childhood he had lived in a lodge within the Queen Mary Rose Garden. When a teenager, he and his family moved to Hyde Park, London's most famous open space. After completing school he studied horticulture at the Royal Horticultural Society's Wisley Garden in Surrey. Theory and practical qualifications lead him to a year working in the garden at Buckingham Palace, following by a stint working in the commercial glasshouse nursery for the Central Royal Parks. In 1976 he moved into journalism, joining Amateur Gardening as a trainee sub-editor. He rose through the ranks, and took over as editor in 1986.
During Clarke's 11-year tenure as editor, he also launched a monthly version of Amateur Gardening (which was called Your Garden), and Clarke became group editor (over this and The Gardener, another monthly magazine which had been bought from one of the companies that had suffered under the hands of publisher Robert Maxwell).
In 1997 Clarke took on a more business-oriented role at the magazine. The National Amateur Gardening Show, which was held annually between 1996 and 2008, was an idea conceived by Clarke, along with the magazine's then marketing manager Robyn Perrin. The Show was a partnership with the Royal Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet, and was held annually in September. After the magazine withdrew from the Show in 2008, it continued for a further four years and was held for the last time in 2012.
In 1997, to mark the forthcoming Millennium, Clarke launched the Allotments 2000 campaign, which called for – and achieved – a Parliamentary Inquiry into the future of allotment gardening. Clarke and deputy editor Adrian Bishop both gave evidence at the Inquiry into the current state of allotments in the UK. The Allotments 2000 campaign later won Clarke and Bishop the Campaign of the Year award from the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA).
When Clarke moved from the editor's chair in 1997, the editorship passed on to Bishop. He had been a journalist for local newspapers, and under his leadership Amateur Gardening enjoyed tighter news coverage of gardening matters, and a more celebrity-based style. In 2001 he was promoted simultaneously to editor-in-chief and publisher, which lead the way for the current deputy editor to move up, and Tim Rumball took over the reins. He remains editor to this day.
Under Rumball the magazine overtook many of its long-standing rivals, and consolidated its position as the leading general gardening magazine on the news stands. As editor he has been a guest a number of times on BBC’s Gardeners' Question Time, and has appeared on TV countless times. He instigated (and appeared on) the first Amateur Gardening DVD, and has moulded the editorial content of the magazine into the format it is today.
List of editors
The current editor is Tim Rumball. The list of editors since the magazine's launch are as follows: Shirley Hibberd (1884-1886), T.W. Sanders (1886-1926), A.J. Macself (1926-1946), Arthur Hellyer (1946-1967), Anthony Huxley (1967-1971), Peter Wood (1971-1985), Jack Kendall (1985-1986), Graham Clarke (1986-1997), Adrian Bishop (1997-2001) and Tim Rumball (since 2001). Notable writers for the magazine have included Alan Titchmarsh, who also served as deputy editor, Monty Don, Charlie Dimmock, Bob Flowerdew, Anne Swithinbank, Percy Thrower and Peter Seabrook. The cottage gardener Margery Fish was a columnist for the magazine in the 1950s.
Owners of the Amateur Gardening brand
In the 1930s the original owners of Amateur Gardening, the Collingridge company, sold the business to the larger Newnes and Pearson publishing group. In the 1960s, this company merged with Odhams, a publisher famous for its newspapers and magazines. Eventually, The Mirror Group acquired Odhams, which resulted in one large company with many dozens of magazines under its belt. It relaunched itself as the International Publishing Corporation, better known as IPC. In 2013 the IPC name disappeared when its owner, US-based Time Inc, renamed it Time Inc (UK) Ltd.
- "ABC Certificates and Reports: Amateur Gardening". Audit Bureau of Circulations. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Vijay Kumar Bhatia; Maurizio Gotti (1 January 2006). Explorations in Specialized Genres. Peter Lang. p. 158. ISBN 978-3-03910-995-1. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- Shirley Hibberd biography site. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Publisher's site. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Directory entry. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- UK Parliament site. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- ODNB entry for Margery Fish. Retrieved 2 November 2012. Pay-walled.