The cover of the new Rakes Progress is ambiguous enough to make you want to open it up and find out just what is going on — are those iridescent black tubers plants or slugs? Or something else entirely, perhaps an alien life form? Considering the range of content within this anthology-like biannual, I’m not ruling anything out.
Rakes Progress is a journal of gardens, plants and flowers, launched by duo Tom Loxley & Victoria Gaiger almost on a whim after deciding to to tackle the nettle-jungle outside their back door, and learning everything the hard way. It’s not a magazine for horticultural purists: the journal often takes digressions down different pathways into garden-adjacent subject matter.
In issue nine the editors lift their gaze above the garden fence for the first time, to survey the landscape. The bleak, the isolated, the verdant, the distant, the exposed, the hidden; seemingly nothing escapes the attention of this extension of the theme. A windswept Danish birdwatching sanctuary becomes a destination to admire architecture’s relationship to nature (above), as much as the birds.
Even the act of moving through a landscape gets a look-in, as noted by perhaps the furthest digression in the mag: artist Paul Selley rigged up his car engine to produce a drawing based on its movements. (above). In itself it might seem unrelated to plants, but I think it’s an example of what happens when a creative attitude to a magazine’s theme pushes towards the edges of the concept.
Art has a big place in the magazine, whether it’s dreamy cyanotypes of foliage by Carolyn Quartermaine or kaleidoscopic photos of flowers by James Stopforth (above) — these little pockets of colour, often just a double page spread, mean that you will probably chance upon something surprising each time you open it up.
New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail is the setting of some surreal images by Lucas Foglia, of inmates gardening amongst barbed wire fences and under the watchful eye of uniformed guards (above). Tenderly caring for plants or jokingly showering each other with water from the hose, the greenery contrasts with their orange-striped jumpsuits. Lucy Kehoe writes that the gardens ‘bring life into a complex where violence and brutality is all too prevalent’, in what is perhaps the most moving piece in the magazine.
Turn to page 27 and you’re met with the eyes of actor Richard E Grant staring out at you amongst a garden of winter foliage, alongside an interview in which you enter a world of fragrance and a side to the actor you probably never knew about: Grant is obsessed with smell. He’s put his money where his nose is and launched a line of unisex perfumes taking inspiration from his highly attuned smell-memory to invoke auras of arriving in London for the first time aged 12, or of Dandyism, or of unrequited love. Flower petals combine with petrol in his irreverent attitude to the art of perfumery.
You don’t need to be green-fingered to enjoy Rakes Progress, in fact, it has no aspirations to be instructional at all. After reading it I can’t say I’m any the wiser about how to garden, but I certainly feel more attuned to the myriad ways in which plants influence my surroundings, and, just like the editors, I feel the urge to look up from my screen and get some dirt under my fingernails.
Editors: Tom Loxley & Victoria Gaiger
Art Direction: Antonia Huber