I'm a little old school when it comes to gardening. It's true. I prefer my garden books as paper rather than a download. I'm leery of any technology that claims to make gardening "easy." I'd rather highlight and dog-ear a book than worry about accidentally burying my iPhone while planting potatoes.
But that's just me. Truthfully, I also never thought I'd love reading books electronically. Now, with the exception of gardening books, almost all of my reading is done via iPad. Even garden memoirs.
So, when my friend asked if I'd be interested in reviewing a gardening app, I was a bit...hesitant. After all, I'm not a big garden app advocate, and I really only review things I like.
But I do really, really like Allan Armitage. Since it's his app, I said I'd give it a spin. Plus, just because I'm old school, that doesn't mean all gardeners are. Most gardeners are very technologically savvy.
You know Dr. Armitage, right? His book, Armitage's Garden Perennials, resides on my desk, filled with sticky notes and paper clips. It's well loved. Several of my garden writer friends and I had the pleasure of hearing him speak last December at University of South Carolina Upstate's Arbor Day Celebration. (Arbor Day is celebrated on the first Friday in December for us South Carolinians.) What a joy! His garden anecdotes are charming, and his hands-on knowledge is vast. Who doesn't love a great storyteller with a wealth of garden experience to share?
During his presentation, he mentioned his new app. I tucked away the information for later, never really thinking much about it, until my friend asked me to check it out.
I downloaded the app, which you can find here.
Like most apps, very easy installation, no problems. I use Apple products, and because I'm in desperate need of a visit to the eye doctor for a new prescription, I played with the app on my iPad instead of my phone. (My husband makes fun of the text point size to which I have my Nook books set. I love the option of Large Print books at the touch of a fingertip!)
I think I changed my mind about technology in the garden.
The app is very user-friendly. I started off by taking a tour to see the available features, then walked through how a typical gardener might use the app.
For instance, our garden is extremely shady. Of course it is. We live in a forest.
So, what the heck can I grow in our shady gardens? Do I want flowers, or do I want plants grown primarily for foliage?
By selecting the “shade” option, I'm given a list of choices.
Naturally, I want blooms. Who doesn't?
Here are some options for plants that will thrive in shade—but still give me my desired flowers.
Let's check out Lenten Roses. While I have loads of them in the garden, maybe I'll find some recommended cultivars that I can add to quench my desire for more unique blooms.
Dr. Armitage provides good detail about the species: hardiness zones, deer and rabbit appeal, bloom time, height, colors. He includes links to short videos, but you'll need Internet access to watch them.
The app isn't all encompassing. The plants selected are Armitage's recommendations, and he explains in the descriptions why the plant made the cut. Additionally, he provides hints for success, as well as his “top choices” for the favored varieties and hybrids that should make it into your garden. He also adds reference sources for more information, which links to his books on Amazon. (Again, WiFi needed.)
OK, I like it. I found some new hybrids I'd like to check out. But where are the photos of them?
There's a link to The Perennial Marketplace, but it doesn't carry all of the selections recommended. Hmmm. I guess I'll just Google them.
(Dear Allan: I'd love to see additional photos added to your recommended varieties and cultivars, please, so I can spend more time digging in the garden instead of the Internet. A direct link to purchase would be dreamy, too! Or perhaps not...that might be dangerous to my budget.)
There's a lot of good information in this app. From “Thoughts on Plant Food” to videos to recommended garden centers, the app is particularly useful for gardeners who are just starting out.
My favorite feature, though, might be “A's Rules for Gardening.”
“In every talk I give, in every book I write and in every tour I lead, the Armitage Rule for Gardening Pleasure is simple: 'Do not take any of this stuff seriously.' Remember this rule, and you will be part of the gardening community for a very long time...”
How can you not love a man—and an app—that reminds us that gardening is supposed to be fun?
Plus, what's more fun that FREE PLANTS?! To celebrate fall—that perfect season to plant perennials—you have a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to The Perennial Farm. Just leave a comment below, telling me whether you've used technology in your garden, as well as what you plan to plant this fall, and you're entered! (Enter by September 30 at midnight EST, please. I'll announce the randomly selected winner on Wednesday, October 1. Only U.S. residents are eligible. Sorry, international friends.)
And yes, I do the drawings old-school...one of my kiddos pulls a name from a bucket. (Sorry, Allan. One of these days, I'll embrace technology for giveaways, too.)
Allan Armitage's app is available here for $4.99.
Happy fall gardening, friends!
Note: I was given a copy of the app for review, as well as the gift certificate to offer as a giveaway. However, all opinions are my own.