Behind the scenes at The Garden

I’m not sure people know what goes into making an issue of The Garden. I certainly didn’t when I started

Issues of The Garden magazine

Having worked with The Garden, the RHS magazine which is sent out to all members, for around four months now, I’ve really started to understand and appreciate the efforts and editorial processes that go into the magazine. Here are some of the standout parts of what I’ve learnt… so far.


1. The text will fit. No, really, it will…

It took me a while to get into the groove of ensuring the text (or copy, in editorial speak) fits into the allotted space, and this is very satisfying when you can successfully and skilfully keep the writer’s voice and style, while making it fit, without feeling like you’ve wielded an axe to do it. I remember one time thinking an article just couldn’t have any more cut out as it would just be omitting key information, but the response I received was ‘copy is always there to be cut’ with someone promptly crossing out lines in order to convince me so. Lesson learnt.

2. Many eyes for many spies… and editors…

One thing that is maybe less surprising is that each article does get checked a few times by different people for mistakes, proofreading if you will. But my, does it get seen by a lot of people! At my last count, there are 10 or so ‘official’ steps where it gets read and by about nine pairs of different eyes. The Garden is checked so thoroughly by the editorial team and, as testament to how much they care, we are absolutely devastated should anything still manage to slip through the net.

3. Speaking of eyes…

The Sub-Editor (or sub) plays a key role, particularly in regards to the above point. Like the eye of Sauron, nothing gets past our sub’s gaze. Well, almost nothing – hence all the other staff members looking over everything too. I just thought a sub-editor was only another step in the process, another cog in the machine but it’s much more than that. Our sub once described his job as ‘quality control’ to me but I think I understand it as much more than that and you can always rely on the sub to tidy everything up, make things read even better and help fit it in perfectly.

Covers of recent issues on our storage units4. Keeping the design fresh…

Some readers may think that The Garden has such a well-set style and look that not a great deal needs to be done every month to keep it looking as professional and finished. Au contraire! Our Senior Designer is always looking for new and interesting ways to lay-out and present our work. He, so very modestly, says he ‘marries all the other elements together’. Slightly different layouts occur each month, and that is something I have greatly enjoyed observing and doing when I spend time with him.

5. ‘Just put some pictures in’ they think, ‘surely that’s easy enough’ they think…

It is not. I thought when I started (oh how naïve!), that most, if not all, the images used would be RHS images and pictures – surely the RHS would have all the horticultural pictures its magazine would need! Not the case. Aside from photoshoots we have commissioned for articles, each month huge image trawls are done from our own stock as well as online image libraries and only the best, clearest and highest quality images are selected for the magazine. Put it this way, when I now search for an image, I always aim to create a shortlist of at least ten. So times that by the vast amount of images in each magazine and it amounts to… well, you get the idea.

I remain absolutely certain that this list will grow over the coming months, particularly as I experience more with RHS Online. I may well have the chance to share those with you too, but how can you not agree that it isn’t it a surprisingly complex, yet fascinating, process?

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.