Pleasure Garden is a sumptuous, large-format magazine. Stepping away from the practicalities of the garden, it places it within a wider cultural context and a place to escape to – a fantasy in a garden, filled with art, music, fashion, society and sex. Editor-in-Chief John Tebbs leads us down the garden path.
What is the genesis of Pleasure Garden? What considerations and processes were taken into account when establishing it? Who is your target audience?
I really wanted to create a publication that captured the fantasy of the garden – something that reflected the transportive powers that I personally find in a garden. But, I also wanted to connect the garden to its wider cultural contexts – this is something that so often gets lost in most gardening titles. There seems to be a tendency to break things down into very focused genres and I wanted to pull the garden partially out of that notion.
I think when I created Pleasure Garden it was from a personal perspective of something that I would like to see – something I felt was missing and had a faith that others would also connect with.
Where did you take inspiration from in the creation of Pleasure Garden?
Pleasure Garden is in a very literal sense inspired by the 18th century pleasure gardens like Vauxhall in London – places that mixed a wide variety of cultural attractions in a garden setting. They were fascinating places and for me a great vehicle of ideas.
How did you go about establishing your team of contributors?
It has happened very organically in a way – through connections of people we knew already and approaching others we admired. As we have grown, we have attracted others who the magazine appeals to. We have been very lucky to have an incredible cast of contributors thus far.
While Pleasure Garden may be considered a niche publication, it is highly aspirational in each element of its production from choice of paper to scale and design.
I wanted it to push the boundaries of what people would consider a gardening magazine – the format and materials all play a part in making the vision come to life.
The magazine is built around themes with the most recent one being a ‘Japanese Dream’. Can you tell us about this?
The first two issues weren’t based on a theme but with the third one we decided to focus the whole issue around the rose – it felt a very interesting way to think about something from multiple angles. Since then each issue has had a ‘theme’ but I’m not a fan of that word, it brings to mind something gimmicky. We try to give the theme as broad an approach as possible – it can be very abstract sometimes!
After ‘roses’ was ‘trees’ which was a personal favourite – there could be multiple volumes on many of these concepts, you scratch the surface on a subject and it can seem like a never ending rabbit hole of inspiration and potential. ‘Japan’ was our last issue and again we only mined a fraction of the possibilities – but within that we try to keep a cohesion so the stories have a deeper connection rather than them simply being connected by coming from Japan… The issue is called ‘A Japanese Dream’ as much of the issue looks at perceptions of Japan – particularly from the Western gaze.
We came to know Pleasure Garden through the work of Irish photographer Linda Brownlee. Can you tell us about your collaborations with her to date?
Linda shot a story for our ‘Romance of the Trees’ issue. She took a road trip through the redwoods of the west coast of the U.S. I was rather jealous as it’s somewhere I would love to visit! Portland-based Zach Dundas wrote a wonderful piece to accompany the images that looked at the human story that is connected to the forests there.
What is your own favourite pleasure garden?
I’m turned on by a wide variety of gardens – the ones that resonate the most are those with a strong personal narrative. I live not far from Great Dixter and Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage, I would say that these are perhaps two of my favourite gardens – and we were lucky enough to feature them both in issue five.
What advice would you impart to anyone considering establishing their own print publication?
Hmmmmm! I don’t know! Don’t underestimate how hard it is – how many moving parts there are and how financially difficult it is. Sometimes, I think the less you know the better! As long as there is a passion for what you want to achieve – you will find your way.
Any gardening trends or recommendations for Spring 2020?
I do find trends in gardening rather uncomfortable – for me a garden is timeless and personal. A garden evolves and that is something that our obsession with instant-everything fails to recognise. On reflection I think this is very much a foundation of Pleasure Garden too.
Any spin-off plans for Pleasure Garden? Any stories of unexpected encounters or correspondence over the six issues to date which emboldens your faith in your creation?
Lots of ideas in the pipeline – we have already had some wonderful collaborations and it’s definitely something I want to build on moving forward. Watch this space!
Issue No. 6 – A Japanese Dream, £22
Words: Michael McDermott