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A Doubly Good New Year: 2012 Jean’s Garden Calendar(s)

January 1, 2012
Cover - Snapfish version (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Cover - Lulu version (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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This is my third year of creating holiday gift calendars for family members and friends, and this year’s calendar is a doubly good celebration of the new year – because, for the first time, the calendar includes both my gardens and because, this year, there are two versions.

I didn’t start out intending to create two different versions of this year’s calendar. When I first tried this in 2010, it was an experiment and I opted for a relatively inexpensive calendar printed by Fed-Ex (see A Year of Gifts from the Garden). In 2011, looking for a larger format calendar and better color reproduction, I ordered (considerably more expensive) calendars from Snapfish, a company recommended by another blogger (see A New Year in the Garden). I was delighted with the results and considered the calendars well worth the extra expense. So when it came time to create this year’s gift calendars, I didn’t hesitate in turning to Snapfish again. But a mishap in the printing process resulted in every photograph being marred. After five days of frustrating dealings with Snapfish’s dysfunctional customer support system, I decided to upload my calendar photos to Lulu, which comes highly recommended by Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm. About the same time, I found my way to a website for Snapfish complaints called GetSatisfaction, which turned out to be monitored by Snapfish customer service managers. Within hours after posting a description of my problem there, I had a response from a manager who worked hard and fast to “make it right” for me – reprinting my calendars, having them specially inspected for quality, rush shipping them to me, and refunding half the original cost.

Although Snapfish resolved the problems and produced high quality calendars for me, I decided to go ahead and order a sample from Lulu so that I could compare them. For the most part, I uploaded the same images for both calendars. I couldn’t use the same cover, however, because the Lulu format requires a portrait (rather than landscape) orientation for the cover. Because I like to use an image from the inside of the calendar as a cover, I solved this problem by substituting a collage of three photos (one of which was the right shape to use for the cover) for an image that I wasn’t entirely happy with on my Snapfish calendar. As you can see below, the two calendars use the same images for January-June and for September-December, but they have different images for July and August:

January 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) February 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
January – Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) February – A profusion of blue flowers
(Amsonia, Tradescantia, and Iris sibirica)
March 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) April 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
March – Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) just beginning to open April flowers
in my Gettysburg garden
May 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) June 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
May – Astrantia June – The back garden in June
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July 2012 (photo credits: Jean Potuchek) Lulu July (photo credits: Jean Potuchek)
July [Snapfish version] – Some daylily (Hemerocallis) varieties in my Maine garden July [Lulu version] – Delphinium (Delphinium cultorum – New Millennium series)
August 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) July 2012 (photo credits: Jean Potuchek)
August [Snapfish version] – Summer blooms of tradescantia, geranium, delphinium & heliopsis August [Lulu version] – Some daylily (Hemerocallis) varieties in my Maine garden
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September 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) October 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
September – Garden phlox
(Phlox paniculata ‘David’)
October – Morning glories
(Ipomoea tricolor ‘Blues Brothers’)
November 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) December 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
November – Golden fall foliage on
American Beech tree (Fagus grandifolia)
December – Freezing fog on
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
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So how do the two calendars compare in quality? In a side-by-side comparison, the Lulu calendar is the clear winner. As Clare has reported, the color reproduction from Lulu is superb, without any of the problems with oversaturated colors that I have experienced with other vendors. Moreover, this higher quality comes at a lower price: the base price of the Lulu deluxe calendar is lower than that of the similar Snapfish product, and Lulu also offers a volume discount for orders of five calendars or more (which Snapfish does not). As an added benefit, I can make my calendars available for purchase from Lulu. (To learn more, click here.)

Next year, Lulu will be my choice for creating my gift calendars. This year, I am happy to have two versions of  calendars celebrating my two gardens and providing a double promise of garden pleasures in 2012.

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2012 9:54 am

    As always, the garden photos for your calendar are beautiful. Your friends and relatives are lucky recipients.

  2. January 1, 2012 10:07 am

    Thanks for reporting on your experiences. It’s always good to have personal recommendations. As Allan says, your photos are lovely. With very best wishes for another good year of gardening, photography – and blogging! Jill

  3. January 1, 2012 11:05 am

    Carolyn@Carolyn’s Shade Garden also uses Lulu and the quality is great…I had thought of this but ran out of time to organize it…great to hear you and Clare also love Lulu…I am looking for someone who does an engagement calendar too…I am looking forward to this project this year…

  4. January 1, 2012 2:19 pm

    What beautiful photos. And I really love your explication of the process of finding the best printer. I’ll be passing it along.

    • January 7, 2012 11:16 pm

      Allan, I really enjoy putting the calendars together, and I’m delighted that they seem to bring others as much pleasure as they bring me.

      Thanks, Jill.

      Donna, I was aware of Carolyn’s use of Lulu (also on Clare’s recommendation), and it was one of the reasons Lulu was at the top of my consciousness when I had trouble with Snapfish.

      Thanks, Patricia; it’s always nice when we can learn from one another’s experiences.

  5. January 1, 2012 2:33 pm

    In addition to calendars, I have made two books about gardens with Lulu, as well as one about local history. I recommend them. The history book was first printed by another company, and the quality was less although the price was more.

  6. January 1, 2012 2:46 pm

    Hello Jean, beautiful photos that would be a delightful gift to receive!
    Funny old world where you ring with a concern but it is only resolved when you get to the point of posting about it! But lovely to hear that you ended up with two beautiful calendars as a result.

    • January 7, 2012 11:20 pm

      Nancy, Thanks so much for sharing your experience with Lulu. Thus far, I have heard nothing but rave reviews from people who have used this company — and you can’t get a stronger recommendation than that.

      Heidi, It was odd that an on-line post got a more personalized response than the phone call. I think we can chalk this up to the development of globalized call centers with their heavily scripted interactions and lack of authority and initiative allowed to the customer service representatives. But all’s well that ends well, and I am happy with both versions of my calendar.

  7. January 1, 2012 4:00 pm

    Your calender turned out beautifully Jean. This was the first year that I made a calender with pictures from my garden and it turned out very well. I had mine made through Treasure Book a company out of Canada. They did a wonderful job and even with the shipping costs it was lower than some of the American companies. I am glad Snapfish made your calenders right for you. Looks like they did not look at them before shipping.The finished product was lovely and I love all of your pictures. Have a wonderful New Year.

  8. January 1, 2012 4:54 pm

    I’ve seen several blogs creating calendars of their gardens and it’s really a great idea. What a wonderful way to share your year with friends and family. and thank you for the comparison shopping as well! very handy information to have for future reference.

    • January 7, 2012 11:26 pm

      Lona, Thanks for sharing your experiences with Treasure Book. Happy New Year to you.

      Marguerite, The first year I made the calendars, I was a bit hesitant because it seemed kind of self-indulgent; but it turned out that everyone loved getting them — which is great, because I love creating them.

  9. January 1, 2012 5:29 pm

    Thanks Jean,

    You have done my research for me as I have been thinking about making a calendar and just didn’t know which company to choose.

    Eileeen

  10. January 1, 2012 5:50 pm

    Hope you are having a Happy new Year. I haven’t visited in a while, but am glad I had a chance to drop by and see your lovely calendars.

    • January 7, 2012 11:27 pm

      Eileen, I would recommend Lulu without hesitation, especially after seeing others’ rave reviews of their experiences there.

      Heather, Thanks for stopping by, and Happy New Year to you!

  11. January 2, 2012 1:27 am

    Fabulous photos and a great final calendar. I did this a few years ago using Shutterfly and everyone loved them.

    However I have hesitated since…..do many people actually still use wall calendars? I stopped using desk dairies and wall calendars about three years ago as I use Outlook for scheduling. Do folks use these calendars as wall art instead? Would a book format be better?

    Just thinking out loud, absolutely NO criticism intended! I’m just curious.

  12. January 2, 2012 10:23 am

    I recommend trying My Publisher – I’ve done books with them (excellent color reproduction) and many of my more advanced camera club colleagues use them. This year I did not one but TWO calendars with them and found the end results – and customer service, needed when version one of the Paris calendar ended up with funky caption problems – very gratifying). If you write me I can see if I can send you a link to “My Bookshelf” on their site so you can see what I did. They have a lot of flexibility with layouts and I think the quality can’t be beat.

  13. January 2, 2012 10:27 am

    And after reading Karen’s comment, I can add that I still use a wall calendar in my kitchen – just to know what day it is, not for scheduling (like you, I use Outlook and its link to my smartphone). The garden calendar I made this year I gave to colleagues at work and a client whose garden photos appeared several places, and she seemed thrilled.

    She also mentioned she prefers a book format for keeping her daily schedule (no Outlook for her!). I checked both My Publisher and Blurb.com – they have such a format but are stingy with space for photos, and it’s a hardback format as opposed to spiral-bound, which makes it harder to keep open on a desk.

    • January 7, 2012 11:33 pm

      Karen, You’ve raised such an interesting issue. I use all kinds of calendars — including the calendar in Outlook, a detailed appointment calendar that I carry around with me, and wall calendars in every room. (I’m a very calendrical person! :-)) The wall calendars are a combination of wall art and practical information. Like Melissa, I don’t write appointments down on them, but I do glance at them frequently — to see what day of the week a particular date falls on, to count how many weeks I have before some deadline, and to check on things like phases of the moon.

      Melissa, Thanks for sharing your experiences with My Publisher, and for adding your thoughts about the uses of paper calendars.

  14. January 2, 2012 2:02 pm

    Your calenders turned out really nice! I keep meaning to make a calender, good to have a recommendation for what company to use.

  15. January 2, 2012 5:47 pm

    What a great idea! I’m always impressed with your creativity and talent and thoughtfulness. I’ll keep this in mind for next year. Hope you have a happy and healthy New Year!

    • January 7, 2012 11:38 pm

      Catherine, The first year I did this, I was a bit intimidated by the process; but it turned out to be very easy. You just upload your photos online and have the calendars printed and shipped. It’s typical to have them arrive within a week or so. The photos you used in your review of your garden this year would have made a great calendar. Now that I’ve started making calendars, I also have them in mind when I’m taking photos — and sometimes I take a photo just for a particular month on the calendar.

      Kevin, This really is a fun project and made very easy by the wonders of digital photography and the internet. I really enjoy the thought process of choosing the right images for each month. My brother in Florida also likes to add extra challenges, like requesting sturdier paper that won’t curl up in the Florida weather and asking for the inclusion of phases of the moon. (I don’t know yet what challenge he’s going to set me for next year. :-))

  16. January 3, 2012 4:11 pm

    So glad Lulu worked out for you Jean! I recommended that Carolyn try them, and she was very happy with the result (as was I, as I have a copy of her calendar here). I’ve tried a number of print-on-demand vendors over the years, but Lulu has out-shined them all for us. I consistently get compliments on the professional quality of their calendars, and their customer service has been just fabulous. I had a less than pleasant experience with SnapFish some years ago. Glad to hear their customer service has improved, but I’d still not go back. I’m staying with Lulu 😉 Happy New Year!

  17. Ali permalink
    January 3, 2012 8:43 pm

    I made calendars this year for the second time using York Photo Labs. The calendars have always turned out great, and in the past a poster I made also was super, but this year a poster I made did not print well. The calendars are a bit expensive, so I will be checking Lulu out for sure. Thanks for the interesting comparison. I hope you are enjoying a slow, restful winter break. I’m back at grindstone but things are still relatively calm.

  18. Lula (onbotanicalphotography.blogspot.com) permalink
    January 4, 2012 10:43 am

    Thanks, this s perfect start of the year with so many great images. Lula

  19. January 5, 2012 11:53 am

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I have often thought it would make a great gift to use my garden photos in a calendar. Your experience and recommendations are very helpful. Happy new year!

  20. January 5, 2012 6:48 pm

    I too thought the Lulu printing was amazing. Great that you could do a side by side comparison. your calendars are gorgeous.

    • January 7, 2012 11:48 pm

      Clare and Carolyn, Thanks for your recommendations of Lulu. It’s not just the quality of the printing that’s amazing, but also how consistent that quality seems to be.

      Ali, As you can see from comments here, a lot of us have had very good experiences with Lulu. I will definitely go with them next year.

      Lula, You might want to consider this for yourself. Your amazing photographs would make wonderful calendars. Lulu does provide services in Europe as well as the US, and they make it easy for you to sell your calendars to others.

      Michelle, Happy New Year. This really is a wonderful project, and I’ve been delighted by how much other people love receiving these calendars.

  21. January 8, 2012 2:35 pm

    I’ll just tuck this in here. My first plant portrait will go up on the 20th, and I was going to seek out your post on ‘My mother’s lily’ to work into that portrait of my signature plant, along with Gail at Clay and Limestone’s Perfect Phlox.

  22. January 10, 2012 6:40 pm

    Very interesting, Jean and gorgeous photos! A coworker of mine brought in a calender that was printed at Costco. It was very well done. This might be another option for people.

  23. January 10, 2012 11:07 pm

    Jean, I’m really taken with the calendar idea–your photos are lovely (and the freezing fog is magical!). Thank you for the lowdown on the services you’ve used. Following up your conversation with Karen and Melissa, I use paper calendars as wall-art and as a quick reference that I can see from across the room when I’m on the phone. I don’t think anything can quite replace the pleasure of turning over another page to see a fresh picture. (I never let myself look in advance.)

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