Danielle Sherry is the senior editor at Fine Gardening magazine and is dedicated to helping readers from around the country become better gardeners. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and has worked throughout the gardening world for over 20 years. Running nurseries, garden centers, and even a few farms has provided her with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to growing ornamental and edible plants. Danielle is constantly experimenting with new plants, trialing heirloom vegetables, and testing new design strategies in her Connecticut gardens. She writes and lectures extensively throughout the U.S. about her gardening adventures. An accredited nursery professional, she enjoys sharing both her horticultural successes and failures with anyone that loves plants as much as she does.
1. Gardening can be such a diverse hobby in many respects. How does each issue of Fine Gardening appeal to a majority of gardeners with varying skill levels, in different locations, who grow different things?
Well, we do keep both skill level and regionalism in mind with every issue. During our planning process a lot of attention is paid to making sure there are applicable plants, design strategies, and techniques for all folks–no matter where they may live and garden. When it comes to skill level we also try to include a little something for everyone in each issue. You’ll usually see something for the beginner, something for the expert, and a good chunk for the average-to-above average gardener. That’s not to say that the expert won’t appreciate an article that might go over some basics (or vice-versa)—I’ve been gardening for nearly 25 years and I still get something out of our “beginner” articles.
2. How do you determine the content for each issue? Where do you get article ideas? How do you keep your content continually fresh and new?
We plan our content two years in advance. We’ll generally scout various gardens around the U.S. and Canada throughout the spring and summer and then regroup in the autumn to discuss what we’ve seen. At that time we throw out article ideas that fall into several different categories: Garden Design, Plant Design, Techniques etc. Then, as an editorial group, we talk about the merits of each potential article. Ultimately that enormous list gets whittled down to the best of the best—and then each editor takes responsibility for developing the survivors. Our departments are more fluid—those aren’t planned out as far in advance, so that’s where we can sneak in more current events or timely content. And now, with the digital editions, we have the ability of adding in multi-media content to a given article right before it hits newsstands to keep things fresh, too—think behind the scenes videos etc.
3. Which features of Fine Gardening magazine resonate the most with your readers and why?
I can’t give away all of our secrets! But I will say that everyone loves the design features. I think every gardener enjoys seeing an amazing garden and hearing about the strategies the owner implemented to make it so amazing. Garden eye-candy always scores big. That, and shade—anything that deals with shade is usually a crowd-pleaser.
4. Tell us about the test garden at Fine Gardening headquarters and has that helped enhance your magazine in any way?
Fine Gardening actually moved into the main building on the Taunton Press campus (just down the road from our former offices) a little over a year ago and at that time we had to move the test garden, too. It’s still in the establishing phase right now, but by next spring we should be able to utilize the new space to its full potential. We use the garden for plant trials, to demonstrate and photograph techniques, and to have someplace attractive to have has a background for various photo shoots.
5. What makes Fine Gardening magazine truly unique from its counterparts?
Fine Gardening—like other magazines, provides gardening inspiration but then—unlike other publications– tells you HOW to translate that inspiration into a reality in your own back yard. I’m just like everyone else: I love seeing a beautiful landscape in magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram. But unless the accompanying information offers me concrete tips, tricks, and plans about the design, it’s not really all that useful. I guess that’s the crux of what’s makes us unique: We’re inspiring and useful.
6. Fine Gardening magazine first hit the shelves in 1988. What do you contribute the magazine’s long-term success to and in what direction is the magazine headed?
We’ve been around longer than a lot of the gardens we feature! I think a lot of that staying-power can be attributed to our dedication to high quality content. Every single item in every single issue is put together thoughtfully and with great attention to detail. Our future will hold much of the same, same high quality, same useful and inspiring content—but we will bring that content to the readers in new creative ways. Even if that means climbing up the side of a city office building—with a camera in one hand and a tripod in the other—to get the perfect shot for a given article. I’m not kidding. Check out latest issue (#166, November/December) and you’ll see a feature on a modern, rooftop vegetable garden. I took those aerial photos, and almost fainted doing so.
To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Thursday, February 18, 2016 in answer to the following question:
What feature would you like to see in an upcoming issue of Fine Gardening magazine?
Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See Rules for more information.)
UPDATE 3/26/2016: Congratulations to the following Fine Gardening magazine winners: Laurie Emerson, Samantha Erb, LL Laughlin, Penny Snyder, Christine Fidance, Sheryle Griffith and Susan Hart.