The Plantsman (Magazine)

Image by/from Mike Grant and Rita Heaton

The Plantsman (rebranded from September 2019 as The Plant Review), published quarterly by the Royal Horticultural Society, was a 68-page magazine “dedicated to a deeper understanding and appreciation of garden plants”. Its authoritative articles were written by acknowledged experts on plant-related subjects, including plant profiles, horticulture, botany and the development of garden plants, focusing on ornamental plants grown in temperate gardens. It also reflected the scientific work of the RHS, as well as research conducted by other horticultural and botanical institutions and individuals.

The RHS website described The Plantsman as “in-depth yet accessible” and its target readership as “keen gardeners, botanists and horticulturists” – in other words, plantsmen and plantswomen.

Its subject-matter included:

The Plantsman magazine was first published in June 1979. The quarterly began as a scholarly spin-off from The Garden, the monthly journal of the RHS, which was then widening its editorial scope and popularizing its approach, in response to the wider audience provided by the society’s rapidly increasing membership. Between its inception in 1979 and its full take-over by the RHS in 1994 The Plantsman was published by New Perspectives Publishing Ltd (later Home and Law Publishing Ltd), in association with the RHS.

The Plantsman (Magazine)In his introduction to the first edition of The Plantsman, its Editorial Director, Hugh Johnson, noted that the changing editorial policy of The Garden had meant:

He described The Plantsman as the solution to this editorial quandary, and continued:

The first editor of The Plantsman was Elspeth Napier. Among the contributors to the first issue were Christopher Brickell (then Director of the RHS Garden, Wisley, later Director General of the RHS), Roy Elliott (then Editor of the Quarterly Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Society) and Lawrence D Hills, the founder (and the then Director) of the Henry Doubleday Research Association.

The magazine was printed in black and white, with one colour plate as a frontispiece (as well as many finely detailed line illustrations) until February 1994.

The Plantsman (Magazine)In March 1994 The Plantsman was relaunched as The New Plantsman with a new editor, Victoria Matthews, previously Editor of The Kew Magazine (journal of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). She was followed in the post, from March 1995, by Sabina Knees. From now onward the journal featured full-colour photographs and illustrations on alternate spreads.

In March 2002 the publication reverted to its original title (with a New Series suffix) during the editorship of botanist and author Christopher Grey-Wilson. Full colour became available on every page for the first time.

In 2005 the magazine was relaunched with a refreshed design under its new editor, Mike Grant, previously a botanist at RHS Garden, Wisley. The publication continued to broaden its scope.

In 2018 Mike Grant retired as editor, becoming part-time Contributing Editor,and James Armitage, formerly Principal Botanist at RHS Garden Wisley took on the editorship. He experimented with the content and the look of the magazine, introducing new regular features, including specially commissioned botanical illustrations as frontispieces.

In the June 2019 issue it was announced that the title would cease to be known as The Plantsman. From the September 2019 issue it would be rebranded, with a completely new design, as The Plant Review, a name more in line with its sister publication The Orchid Review.

In November 2006 The Plantsman was named the surprise winner of the British Garden Writers’ Guild award for ‘Consumer Magazine of the Year’; the other two finalists being BBC Gardeners’ World magazine and BBC Gardens Illustrated. In the judges’ opinion:

In November 2008 the same organisation awarded it News Story of the Year for an item entitled ‘Greece wants her plants back’ in the March 2008 issue.