The illustrated story behind the SAGA article

We told the story behind how we came to be in SAGA magazine earlier in the year.  If you read it then you may enjoy the greater detail here as well as some new pictures by Beki Bernstein that you will not have seen.


Once upon a time….  OK, It’s not really a fairy story, but it sometimes feels a bit that way in how it all started.

One day in, I think, October 2012 (yes really) Mick and I were working on the swimming pond and I was half expecting a phone call about a delivery of parts so had the cordless with me.  It rang and when I answered it a voice said “Hi, I’m Rebecca Bernstein and I’m a professional photographer.  I’ve been looking at your pictures on the NGS website and I’d like to come and have a look for my self with the view to getting an article in the gardening press.”   


Well, not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and knowing how much Sue craves the idea of being plastered over the pages of Gardens Illustrated or the like, I said “Yes, of course.  But it’s not exactly the best time of year”   Beki (as we now know her) was not to be put off by this minor fact and arranged to come in a couple of weeks  – by then getting into November.


The day dawned – in fact the day didn’t so much dawn, as peer bleary-eyed from under the duvet.  It was one of those dull, damp uninspiring days of late autumn, so we didn’t really think that Beki would find anything interesting to photograph yet alone anything good enough to whet the appetites of a picture editor.  We gave her carte blanche to wander about and get whatever shots she wanted, and she said she’d get back to us.


November disappeared and no word from Beki, December was going the same way, so we assumed our theories about the picture editors were correct.  Then on Christmas Eve 2102, Sue answered the phone to hear Beki’s voice “I’m not sure how you guys will take this, but I assume you’re both over 50 so maybe it’s OK.  (cue confusion on Sue’s behalf)  I have a magazine that’s really interested in featuring you, it’s SAGA.  For info it is the magazine with a circulation of about 600,000 which is many times bigger than any of the pure gardening mags. It will be a lifestyle feature rather than a straight gardening one, but I’m sure the garden will be the key.”     I don’t recall Sue hesitating as it was the chance she’d been waiting for to get her efforts to a wider – much wider – audience.


We knew of SAGA as a magazine, as my mother took it and had just arranged an annual subscription for Sue, as there were so many interesting articles in it.  So back numbers were dug out to see the sort of thing they might do.


From Christmas it was now a case of waiting to hear more about it.   Beki asked us to contact her again when the garden was in the best shape to be photographed properly.  Looking back at e-mails I find one from Sue to Beki with a picture of the trees covered in snow and dated 24th March – 1st day of Spring!!


As time went on we heard that the writer on the article might be one of our ‘neighbours’ but then were told it would be Tiffany Daneff, the Garden and Homes Editor, who got in touch in May to arrange a visit.  We kept in touch with Beki, giving updates on the flowering in progress throughout May, until it was decided that June would be the time.


Tiffany arranged to come down from Northamptonshire on June 6th 2013 – by which time no photos had yet been shot – and as luck would have it it was a glorious day and we sat outside on the patio and discussed the article and what tips and tricks Tiffany could learn from Sue for her new garden in Northants!   Around this time we realised that it would be good if publication – the following year – could be timed to co-incide with our 2014 NGS opening, so as to boost the crowds.   This was agreed and the July 2014 issue was targeted.

Eventually we managed to fit in with the weather, our holidays, Sue’s work (she was still at NRW at the time) and Beki for Saturday 13th July – almost exactly a year in advance of the next Open Day.


Beki was here at about 5.30am !   They like the early morning light do photographers.  When I pulled back the curtains about an hour later she had loads of shots already in the camera and was waiting for the stars of the show (US!) to take centre stage.   An attempt to get a shot of me diving into the pond doesn’t appear to have worked – Beki did say she was’t a sports photographer! – but at the end of the day she did say that I was a “good poser” which I took to be a compliment!


Then it was again a case of sitting back and waiting – for the copy from Tiffany and the proofs from Beki. First draft of the copy came on 6th August and was really good, just a few minor changes of fact and by the end of the month all was finalised and a promise to get the feature into the July 2014 issue agreed.  At the end of the month we saw the first of Beki’s photos and Sue was both pleased and horrified!  Pleased by the shot of her in the greenhouse, which she reckoned was one of the best shots ever of her, and horrified by the way she looked in the ‘him and her’ photo – she threatened to throw out the T-shirt she was wearing!


November correspondance with Tiffany saved a potential mishap when we found that SAGA was planning on the August issue not the agreed July one.  Fortunately common sense prevailed and a slot was found in the July issue.


The all went quiet again until we got a copy of the proof in May of this year.  It looked wonderful and it was six pages long!  A couple of similar articles in recent issues had been four pages and one of those even featured a famous garden writer – we were very pleased.


At the end of June the issue arrived on the doormat and our blog hits started to increase rapidly.  By the Open Day we had hit new records for the site and, even though the weather wasn’t great on the weekend, we logged 221 visitors to the garden for the NGS days and still more who visited afterwards “by appointment’.


All in all it was a fascinating, if long drawn out, process with lots of quiet periods and “will they, won’t they” thoughts along the way.  Since it all started Beki has become a Mum, Sue has retired, the garden has evolved and the pond has been a great success.

Thanks Beki and SAGA.

All photos are by Beki at

%d bloggers like this: