Zena Alkayat, Bloom
Zena Alkayat started her career as a journalist at Metro and then Time Out London, before moving into book publishing. In 2018, she launched gardening magazine Bloom, to fill a gap she encountered when looking for inspiration in her own garden.
She now splits her time between project managing books for publishers including Bloomsbury, Hachette and Hardie Grant, and developing Bloom. With issue ten just published, Zena tells us about the first three years of her magazine and how the two parts of her career are meeting together, as well as sharing some advice for new publishers.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
I’m at my desk, working through emails in three different inboxes that relate to the different jobs I do. I've been for a run (mostly to make sure I don’t spend all day indoors) and I’ll set myself up for the next couple of days by making three different lists: one for jobs for Bloom, one for my work in book publishing and another for everything that doesn’t fall into those columns. Mondays always feel like I’m at the basecamp of a mountain—luckily that intensity mellows as the week goes on.
Bloom’s team (me, art director Sarah Pyke and editor Laura Morrison) all work remotely. Laura’s been on maternity leave for a year, but generally we all chat via Whatsapp and the workflow is really efficient. We’re sort of in each others’ brains, so there’s a lot of shorthand communication that goes on, which makes things easy and fun.
Describe your desk and your work space
I’m super lucky to have a whole room as my office space. I made a desk out of some builders’ trestles and a piece of plywood to give me maximum surface area to pile up books, magazines, plants, mugs and general paraphernalia—I've quickly learnt that no desk will ever be big enough.
My view is my back garden and a railway line behind that. For most of the year I see a flock of geese go overhead each evening—a good sign the work day is nearly done. I’ve also named all the neighbourhood cats and watch them come and go about their business.
Which magazine do you first remember?
The Argos catalogue. And Smash Hits, but that might be a false memory. Does a Beano annual count?
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Only Bloom matters to me. Other magazines piled behind me include Lunch Lady, which I love—the colours and vibrancy, energy and enthusiasm all feel really genuine and happy making. There's also a couple of Kinfolks, a load of Couriers (both inspiring for the longevity) and lots of single issues of various mags that I've picked up here and there. The latest one I love is Sirene, which is very spare but beautiful and is about the sea.
Which plant inspires you most?
There are three Oxalis triangularis plants on my desk and they open and close through the day, depending on the light and the temperature, and they'll always let you know when they need water. Their responsiveness and ability to communicate is so impressive – a nearby reminder to listen to my own needs, lift my face to the sun and always rehydrate.
Describe Bloom in three words.
Nature for all.
Congratulations on the 10th birthday! You launched Bloom to fill a gap you discovered when looking for garden inspiration. Have you filled that gap?
Why thank you! Yeh, I think we’ve filled that gap for sure, and gone further. Bloom is everything it set out to be—it’s accessible to anyone who wants to garden, no matter their space or budget, and it holds your hand through what could be an intimidating minefield of gardening advice. And then there’s this whole other side of it: the features are either a love letter to nature, or they shine a light on our relationship with the outdoors, or they challenge the status quo. It’s diverse in its stories, it's gorgeous to look, it’s playful, and it's truly loved by its readers.
We've also just struck up a relationship with heritage gardening publisher Frances Lincoln to publish a range of gardening and nature books, which means Bloom gets to do even more for an even wider audience. We're launching with Into Green in November, and following up with handbooks Shade and Cut Flowers in spring 2022.
What one thing has ten issues taught you that you would pass on to someone planning their first issue?
Make sure your love for the magazine—the concept behind it, your reason for publishing it—is true, because the road ahead is long and hard, and there will be times when all you have to cling on to is the sheer joy and pride of making a printed product. If you know that’s not enough for you, it might be time to rethink.
Many people don’t have access to a garden; how can they best bring some greenery into their life?
We’re lucky now, post lockdowns, to have found an understanding of how important the outdoor world is in our lives, so it's a really good time for anyone looking to get their hands in the soil, because there are so many flourishing community projects and gardens. There are also so many groups that help people go on hikes, swims, cycles or out to the countryside—search for what’s in your area and get out there.
What will be your highlight of the coming week?
I have a day off! This is an extremely rare event. And I will probably work through the weekend to make up for it.
Editor-in-chief: Zena Alkayat
Editor: Laura Morrison
Art director: Sarah Pyke