Country Gardener is now established as the gardening authority on local gardening in the South West, Cotswolds and Hampshire.
Over 100,000 copies are distributed every issue to a loyal and enthusiastic readership.
Started in a small way in Devon in 1997, the free magazine has grown into several larger, more colourful editions covering four counties and a vast area around the Cotswolds, following the full gardening season from early spring to late autumn. Its readership is now an estimated 250,000.
It is published ten times a year.
The magazine was the proud brainchild of Anthony Edwards and his wife Deborah. The first Country Gardener office was produced from their home in Southleigh, Colyton. Since then, its home has moved around somewhat specially when it became the responsibility of Devon & Cornwall Media, who based the title in a number of Devon locations.
Four years ago, in April 2009, it was acquired by Alro Publishing Ltd and again found a base in a rural setting, this time in the west Somerset village of Halse.
The magazine has grown in size from the 32 pages of the first issue, and has proved a particular favourite with gardeners and garden clubs across the region. The black and white woodcuts for which it became both well known and instantly recognisable, are still in evidence, although the magazine has now moved into the digital printing age with full colour throughout.
But the ethos of Country Gardener has stayed the same – to give quality information about gardening and garden events in and around the areas we cover. Being as local as possible has always been an important ingredient of the magazine. Many of the first advertisers are still with us, and we are grateful for their support over the years.
So what was in Country Gardener all those years ago? Fashions come and go, but some things in gardening never change. So there were articles in May 1997 on May sowings and summer bedding, on choosing the right mower, recycling cut grass, and a feature on linking the house and the garden with climbing plants.
An article on wildlife looked at hares, but also at dragonflies. The garden visit was to the National Trust’s Coleton Fishacre at Kingswear, by the south Devon coast. There was a walk through Lustleigh Cleave, near Bovey Tracey, with an Ordnance Survey map reference, sketchmap of the walk and special features to look out for.
Things come round again: there was a question and answer page (by ‘Polly Anthwers’) with readers’ questions, similar to the two-page spread that Country Gardener has started this year. And the plant profile, on Pieris Formosa ‘Forrestii’ gave some garden history on the plant hunter George Forrest’s exploits in 1905, which will be covered in the magazine later this year.
Country Gardener spread into Somerset, Dorset and Cornwall. Later on, editions were published for Hampshire and the Cotswolds, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The present team produces five editions, covering Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and the Cotswolds (and far beyond, up to Stratford-upon-Avon and Kidderminster).
It remains a title which readers are very loyal to. A readership survey last year showed that the copies distributed every issue to 800 outlets are both keenly looked forward to and enjoyed with local garden visits, recommended garden centre products and practical gardening tips as the most appreciated help to readers.
Often, visitors will pick up a copy while on holiday and write to us asking: "Please can you produce an edition for us in Cheshire... Kent ...Yorkshire or even Scotland."
"So to all our readers and advertisers – thank you for your support over the past 15 years – and we hope to continue to ‘grow’ the magazine in the years to come."