Rakesprogress magazine: a review
Do you ever have the satisfying - yet somehow galling - feeling that everyone is finally catching on to something you've been passionate about for years and years?
I loved cacti and succulents for as long as I can remember. I bought them from jumble sales and car boots, Woolworths and Budgens. Friends and relatives half-dead ones to nurture back to life, and made them produce huge white flowers or a frosting of tiny pink blooms. Now, it's cool to grow cacti. Back then, I was definitely not cool. If I can find the picture that once appeared in a gardening magazine of a teenaged me, in my bedroom, in double denim next to a table of houseplants, I'll post it here. I seem to remember James Wong (who also featured in the piece, about how we got into gardening as children) telling me incredulously "it's as if you've grown down!"
The same is true of gardening in general: now millennials can fill their Instagram accounts with plant pics with nary a side eye from their friends.
This is good, undoubtedly - but also a bit unsettling for those of us who've spent a lifetime loving plants; painful, even. And so - I've been wondering what to say about Rakesprogress magazine, the first issue of which I was sent to read.
First off, I am not its target audience: this mag is billed as a "contemporary gardening and style magazine for urban gardeners". I am not an urban gardener; although I have worked in London for years, I live in suburbia, and always have.
In a piece in the Evening Standard, co-editor Victoria Gaiger squarely pitches the magazine as tapping into gardening's recent growth among this younger demographic: the twenty and thirty-somethings who may not have a large garden in which to grow roses and hydrangeas, but they are interested in succulents in macrame hangers, sprouting greens on rented windowsills and guerrilla gardening tree pits and roundabouts. She writes: "Today nothing could be more on trend that digging your hands into the soil and tuning into the rhythms of the natural world."
There's a nice little piece in the first edition (summer 2016) about wasabi by Flo Orbell, and a practical section at the back that can't be faulted, but I have to admit to skimming over the piece about the workwear designer who likes gardening, the florist who lives on a houseboat and the woman who hand-paints flowers on wallpaper. The pieces about Luciano Giobillei's spell of learning at the feet of the great Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter and the interview with guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds were both items I feel as if I have read five times already in other publications. The £10 cover price could be a dealbreaker for some, too.
But let me rein myself in. It's early days - as an editor myself, I realise this new publication needs time to "bed in", and I think it is filling a niche that most other gardening mags have failed to address. So good luck to Rakesprogress - and let me know what you think.