by Ian Duggan
The first issue of ‘The Gardener’s Journal’ – a New Zealand based periodical publication focussed on a diverse array of garden-related topics, from design, history and gardeners to travel experiences – was published in February 2008. Initiated and edited by Margaret Long, the motivation for starting a journal was, based on conversations with a variety of people, a feeling that there was a gap in the New Zealand market for in-depth articles on gardening-related subjects not normally found in other publications. Margaret attracted an impressive variety of expert contributors from the outset, largely from a network of individuals that she had established through the development of her own gardens – Frensham – situated just out of Christchurch, and through garden tours she had led through the U.K. and Europe. For example, the lead article in the very first issue was by eminent English gardener and garden writer Beth Chatto O.B.E., known as the creator of the Beth Chatto Gardens near Colchester, U.K. – a garden that Margaret had visited several times – who had gained repute in attaining ten gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show between 1977 and 1987 for her “Unusual Plants” exhibits. This initial issue quickly gained attention, being described by garden journalist Mary Lovell-Smith in Christchurch newspaper ‘The Press’ as a “compact, classy, cultivated affair’, and a “serious and often erudite publication”[i]. Despite being New Zealand based, the journal aimed for broad geographical spread, both throughout New Zealand, and including overseas articles.
In its initial incarnation, the publication lasted eight issues, four in 2008, followed by four more in 2009. At the end of 2009, however, publication ceased due to Long’s growing commitments; she was experiencing increasing numbers of visitors to Frensham, and she was leading annual garden tours to Europe. The business, her own, involved leading trips that lasted generally three to four weeks each. With planning tours included, a lot of time was spent away, while home commitments were increasing.
‘Frensham’ was named after her father’s favourite rose, a dark red Floribunda rose developed in the U.K. in the 1940s. Starting development in 1992, Frensham emerged from what were bare paddocks. At the time, Long had little gardening experience, no formal horticultural training, and no vision or plan for the site. As such, Frensham was made through trial-and-error, with a lot of learning throughout the process. Long published a book in 2019 on her garden; ‘Frensham: A New Zealand Garden’, written by herself with images by photographer Juliet Nicholas, and published by Quentin Wilson Publishing.
While the journal had gone into an extended hiatus – one that Long didn’t actually know would ever end – it was resurrected in 2021. Following publication of the book, the urge to start the journal had again blossomed, and her books’ publisher Quentin Wilson offered to come on board to undertake the design and layout on the relaunched journal. The focus, she says, is much the same for the journal now as it was initially, with only one exception; the deliberate avoidance of any information that can be downloaded off the internet, though she admits that a little of this is sometimes unavoidable. The rate of publication has also been pulled back, now offered as three issues per year.
Articles in the resurrected journal have been diverse, and have included those with an interest in garden history. These include: ‘The Cottage Garden: A Potted History’ by Claire Masset of the National Trust (U.K.), and author of the book ‘Cottage Gardens’; ‘Three Men and a Glasshouse: The making of Dunedin’s Winter Garden’ by garden and music historian Clare Gleeson; and ‘The Wars for the Roses: the battle to save the New Zealand collection of heritage roses’ by Murray Radka, known as “one of this country’s leading rosarians”.[ii]
The Gardener’s Journal is available as an A5 sized soft-backed journal, printed on high quality paper, by emailing Margaret (firstname.lastname@example.org), or from selected stores. Subscription for a year (including postage) is NZ$75, or individual copies can be bought for NZ$25. The website for Frensham can be found here: https://frensham.co.nz/
Claire McCall, ‘Decades of work turn Frensham into star attraction’, Stuff, 19 December 2018
Margaret Long & Juliet Nicholas (2019), ‘Frensham: A New Zealand Garden’. Quentin Wilson Publishing, 266p.
[i] Mary Lovell-Smith, ‘Compact, classy, cultivated affair’, The Press, 1 May 2008
[ii] Claire Finlayson, ‘Meet the history teacher who rescued our heritage roses’, Stuff, Feb 19 2022