John Tebbs, Pleasure Garden
John Tebbs’s sumptuous, large-format magazine Pleasure Garden first appeared in 2017, an extension of the ‘Garden Party’ column he contributes to La Monde’s M magazine. The magazine allows him to explore the broader cultural meaning of parks and gardens, and also has pride of place on his more practically-orientated online gardening shop. We speak to him as he turns attention from the current issue five to the next one.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I work from home so generally my Monday journey is pretty relaxed – we have recently got a puppy so my morning now involves a walk to the park before heading back home and getting in the office. Some days I am working up in London – so not all days are this easy!
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
My desk tends to be quite messy and perhaps reflective of the multiple tasks I am often in the middle of. We are often working on multiple issues simultaneously and of course the magazine is not my only work — I still garden and write for other publications. The view is very green: there is a park opposite our house and the street is very leafy so I look out onto something very green and pleasant, it’s very good for the soul!
Which magazine do you first remember?
It would probably be some garden related one – there were always a lot at home – Gardener’s World, Grow Your Own, Kitchen Garden were all regulars growing up.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Well Pleasure Garden matters to me the most! It consumes much of my life so it is always in my mind. The busier we have become with Pleasure Garden the less time I have to look at what else is going on around us in the magazine world – in a way I find that good because it means we have a strong focus and point of view. In the beginning I was very inspired by Holiday and Luncheon – I wanted to create something with that kind of feeling but with gardens as a starting point.
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Big, dreamy, evolving
How do you link the practical garden design part of your life and the more abstract concept of garden as applied in the magazine?
I don't think the two a particularly linked; I did a degree in Art and Architectural History so the magazine in many ways is influenced by my interests in those areas. Pleasure Garden purposefully steers away form offering any practical garden advice. I felt that was an area that was already well covered. It was the fantasy and wider cultural connections and influences that I felt were often overlooked.
Is there one garden that best sums up the idea of the Pleasure Garden?
The starting point for me was Vauxhall Pleasure Garden – a wonderful outdoor venue for entertainment that was around from the mid 18thC. It was the setting for music, art, dancing, sexual liaisons and fashion. It was a garden for pleasure and that was what I wanted to transport to our magazine.
The theme for this issue is ‘Au Naturel’, which might seem like an tautologous theme for a magazine that is nature-focused. How does this theme differ from ones you’ve had before?
I think the theme focussed our exploration of what we consider natural. This was something we looked into on various levels – not only the evolution of perceptions of what makes a ‘natural’ garden but looking at how this notion of natural is projected on to wider society with things such as sexuality, gender, body and beauty. It is more about our perceptions of what is ‘natural’.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
We have an editorial dinner later in the week and I am looking forward to crystalising some of the content for the next issue then. It is always exciting at this stage of an issue – things start to take form from the initial ideas.
Creative direction: John Tebbs, Jo Metson Scott and Eric Pillault