“When you fall in love with succulents …
one plant is never enough!”
— Marina Welham, Editor
A Little History
- In April of 1989, after due preparation, Marina Welham launched a business, catering to hobbyists who share her love for growing and learning about cacti and other succulents.
- A gifted amateur grower of cactus plants and other succulents, with over 200 species in her own collection in April of 1989, Marina began to publish a Newsletter for fellow growers that soon went global. Marina harvested memberships in a range of world currencies. In her career as author, editor, and publisher, Marina sold print and PDF copies of her journals, books and booklets and CD ROMs, and ran a popular members’ web site.
- What social media platforms do today, Marina did in 1989 on paper and then online, from 2008 onward, in digital format. Marina created a forum for her members to share the excitement and information of a common interest.
- In her introductory letter of April 1989, Marina assured her new and future members of her skills in horticulture and cited her years in business management and as an author . Indeed, Marina had been a business columnist for more than one business publication. As a business-management critic, Marina penned her reviews under the signature “Ann Slanders” for Maclean-Hunter, the largest Canadian publisher in its time.
- Marina’s first serial publication, Cacti & Other Succulents, was a hit from the first issue in May of 1989.
- By the end of its first year of bi-monthly numbers, the new journal (COS) had garnered praise from well known figures in cactus horticulture, including CHARLES GLASS, a renowned author of color-illustrated books on cactus plants, including his co-production with CLIVE INNES: CACTI: Over 1200 Species Illustrated and Identified, Published by Portland House, New York (1991).
- CLIVE INNES, the founder of Holly Gate Nurseries and the collection at Ashington in West Sussex, England, with 13,000 species, was a well known author and lecturer on cactus horticulture. Featured with his photo on page 5 of Marina’s issue No. 3 in September of 1989, Clive Innes told Marina
“I wish you well in very commendable efforts in producing a hobbyist Newsletter for amateurs — I trust it will be well received not only in Canada but elsewhere in the English-speaking world.”
That premonition was realized.
- Alas, Marina’s book, The Amateur’s Digest, Cacti & Other Succulents Caudiciforms & Other Collectibles, September 1997: Memories: Clive Innes, Paperback – January 1, 1997 by Marina Welham (Editor), is now out of print and Marina’s own copies and production media for it are gone, having vanished at the hands of the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia.
- Also gone by the very same culprits is Marina’s other known book, The Amateur’s Digest Cacti & Other Succulents Caudiciforms & Other Collectibles, March 2000: Artificial Light by Marina Welham, January 1, 2000. Marina sold both if these books at Amazon.
- In Marina’s issue no. 4, the distinguished GORDON ROWLEY, President of the British Cactus & Succulent Society, provides a photo of himself with a part of his collection.
- An outstanding writer, author and botanist, Rowley published The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Succulents in 1978. Rowley shares with Marina’s avid readers the news of his current project: “a long-term dream begun in the 1950s”, the “first book devoted to Succulent Senecio and Othonna” with over 120 species, and invites Marina’s readers to “help” with “pictures, seeds, plants and information”.
- In 1992, Rowley’s long-awaited book, Succulent Compositae: Senecio & Othonna, appears with Strawberry Press, Mill Valley, California, USA.
- Rowley became a frequent contributor to Marina’s journal, in particular reminiscing about his early life and career.
- In issue after issue, year after year, as her cactus journal grew from a Newsletter to a Digest, Marina rallied her members with knowledge, humor and advice. Her cactus review became an essential forum for communication. Sales and round-robins announced in her pages propelled the exchange of plants and seeds among her member hobbyists world-wide.
- The journal’s back pages and cover were packed with paid display ads supported by professional nurseries and growers.
- With issue No. 3 of Volume 2, September 1990, Marina’s journal, Cacti & Other Succulents, acquired a new name, the name it would be best and forever known by: The Amateurs’ Digest.
- Marina continued the journal under the same ISSN 0843-8234, demonstrating that The Amateurs’ Digest is one and the same journal as Cacti & Other Succulents, founded, created and begun by Marina in 1989. However, Canada’s National Library and Archives eventually required a new ISSN for the Digest under its new name: ISSN 1199-0791. In the meantime, there was overlap of the old ISSN onto the newly-titled review.
- By February of 1999, Marina had launched a new service: web site development, any size, from a single page to complete catalogues for “Societies, Clubs and Commercial Suppliers”.
- The history of Marina’s website is complex. COS and then TAD were hosted on a number of servers under a number of different URLs until Marina finally established the online home of The Amateurs’ Digest with her first dot com.
- Marina launched the website to advertise The Amateurs’ Digest with samples from its pages, and color photos of plants provided by Marina and her journal’s paying members. Marina changed her url several times, giving the Wayback Machine a real chase to track her down.
- But on September 5, 2000, Marina established The Amateurs’ Digest with its trademarked domain, “theamateursdigest.com”. TAD was first photographed on this domain by the Wayback Machine on November 9, 2000.
- By 2010, Marina was using Paypal to bring in subscribers. By 2012, Marina was selling both print and digital full-color publications online, as well as her CD-Roms, and back-issues of her classic printed journals.
- In 2008, over and above the web site, Marina’s journal went digital, saving labor and the cost of printing, shipping and mailing. Marina’s members now could download their bi-monthly journal in PDF format and thrill to see their own plant photos in full-color after years of print in black & white. The price of membership remained the same.
- In a snapshot in the Wayback on 18 Oct 2012, Marina added a red badge to the site header of The Amateurs’ Digest: “Celebrating 25 years,” and another to the masthead of the anniversary volume’s journals.
- At that time, Marina herself was nearly 78 years old and a veteran publisher in the field of CACTACEAE with a quarter-century of business and plant expertise under her green belt.
- The British Cactus & Succulent Society, in the November 2014 Newsletter by its Southampton & District Branch, recommended a book by Marina, Cacti & Succulents from Seeds, incorrectly alleging that the “Canadian” organization around The Amateurs’ Digest was “defunct”.
- That observation was likely prompted by the fact that in 2014, Marina was briefly ill. She asked her web host to take The Amateurs’ Digest website offline, saying that she might return. A few months later, return she did, with not a hiccup in the continued publication of her popular journal.
- However, on the 15th of October 2016, Marina’s long-established web site for The Amateurs’ Digest disappeared from The Wayback Machine. Marina’s trademark, her business domain name of 16 years,
theamateursdigest.comsadly fell into the hands of the British Columbia Public Guardian and Trustee who allowed it to pass to a domain squatter who somehow has completely altered the domain’s registration record to make it seem as if they had always owned it.
- BC law requires a trustee to maintain and operate a business included in an estate. Marina’s business still was online when the British Columbia Public Guardian and Trustee claims to have seized control of the estate. Marina still was selling back issues of her print and digital publications, and her CD Roms. It would have taken minimal effort to pick up the mail orders and fill them, and keep the site online and the business running, so it could be revived in full by Marina’s heir.
- But the “public guardian and trustee” has refused to answer to me, Marina’s named sole heir and executor, for the contents of the password-protected web site, which contained the bulk of Marina’s digital publications, much of her life’s work, and a record of her entire paid membership.
- This public “trustee” destroyed all trace of Marina’s publishing business, its history, its records and papers, Marina’s galleys, correspondence, membership lists, decades of plant photos and the back-inventory of her books, journals, CD Roms and other publications, and will not say where it all went.
- The “trustee” also disposed of Marina’s plants in her two greenhouses without an accounting.
- Marina was 78 year old in 2014. She was going on 82, when she closed up shop and took her hobby with her to “Cactus Heaven”; but her spirit authors on, right here in Marina’s archives, and in the brand new CACTOPHILE NETWORK launched in her honour to keep her work and her dream alive.
- This web site, The Amateurs’ Digest Archive, is the project of Marina’s daughter, her named heir and executor. Its goal is to reclaim Marina’s lost work, her books, journals, booklets, CD Roms and other publications and make them available to read for free, here online.
- A major leap toward that goal was achieved in April of 2023 when Chuck Staples and William Wilk of the Cactus & Succulent Society of America came up with most of Marina’s otherwise untraceable digital journals from 2008 through 2016.
- The treasure trove of more than 70 pdf publicatins, in full colour, has made it possible at last to launch The Amateurs’ Digest Archive.
- I hope you enjoy this web site. At the same time, I invite you to send me any of Marina’s work, published or unpublished, print, digital or CD Rom, that you may have, including her old correspondence. Every lost page recovered will be a triumph. If you published photos and articles with Marina, please let me know. I’d like to put them back online. Thank you.
Marina Welham’s daughter
THE AMATEURS’ DIGEST ARCHIVE
Montreal, 3 May 2023
MARINA’S OLD URLS & EMAIL ADDRESSES
Right around this time, Marina was switching over to her permanent domain, theamateursdigest.com, which was stolen 16 years later while in the hands of the public trustee when Marina passed away. That’s possibly why the Wayback has very little of this old website. The first snapshot with any content is on 02 February 1999, with sadly very little in the way of imagery. The last snapshot with any content was on 18 August 2000 with a nice photo of Mammillaria schumannii. The photo page of that issue has Echinocereus adustus, ‘Tanned Hedgehog’, plant and photo by Paul Brunelle, Canada, The same photo is online in Paul Brunelle’s archive at Dalhousie University. Paul donated his collection of cacti and other succulents to Dalhousie University, which I could have done with Marina’s collection if the public trustee hadn’t stolen and disposed of it without an accounting.