The Bristol Magazine September 2019

Page 104

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On apps such as the Bristol-based Candide, users can ‘dig’ the pictures in the same way as you would ‘like’ a photo on Facebook

Smart gardening

We may not want robots to tend our plants for us, but thanks to tech there’s a fantastic amount of useful plant-based information at our (green) fingertips


ne of the things I love about hands-on gardening is that it provides an escape from the fast-paced modern world where everything is screen-based and there at the click of a finger. But just like every other aspect of modern living, technology is permeating our gardens, with countless apps, websites and new gadgets designed to help, encourage and inspire. Technology is there for the taking if we wish to use it to our advantage. Sure, we may not want robots to tend our plants for us – although robotic lawn mowers are growing in popularity – but in terms of finding out information about plants and how to look out for them, the internet can (for your plants anyway) literally be a life saver. If you’re not confident in the garden, and let’s face it, even if you’ve been gardening for years there is always more to know, it’s fantastic that information is available at our (green) fingertips. Although my bookshelves are still heaving with gardening books, including the twovolume RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants that used to be my go-to reference source, I can’t actually remember the last time I pulled it out, when so much information is just a click away. One of my favourite sources for reliable and accurate information is the RHS website ( It has recently introduced a really handy ‘my garden’ feature that is ideal for new and not-so-new gardeners. It’s free to register and you don’t have to be an RHS member – just type in a list of the plants in your garden and it will give you a month-by-month calendar of jobs to complete. I also love the BBC Gardeners’ World website as a source of both advice and inspiration. It has a ‘what-to-do-now’ section, practical projects and an extensive plant-finder database. 104 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE




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But what if you don’t know the name of a plant in your garden? This is where some amazing new identification apps come into play. PlantSnap is a free app “where nature and technology live in harmony” that seems to work well and has good reviews, but there are lots more to choose from – PlantNet, SmartPlant, PlantFinder and Garden Answers to name a few. All seem to work on a similar premise: take a picture on your smartphone and the app will tell you what it is, giving you a few options if necessary. It’s really useful if you’re out garden visiting and see a plant that you like, but don’t know the name of. Bristol-based Candide is another great app that launched last year and made it to the front page of my phone. It offers a mix of ideas, plantrelated news and useful information, wrapped in a friendly, social-networking package. It brands itself as a plant-loving community, and has a welcoming, user-friendly vibe. The home screen is a ‘feed’ of pictures that users have uploaded – whether a rare flower from their own garden, a question that needs answering, a harvest of spuds or a beautiful public garden they’ve visited. Other users can ‘dig’ the pictures and messages in the same way as they would with a Facebook ‘like’. Gardening ambassador Bethan Guest says: “It’s a really nice way for people to interact, ask questions or post their photos. However, at the heart of Candide is its warm, friendly and helpful community.” From September there will also be a Marketplace, launched exclusively for plants-people in Bristol. “This will be a great place to swap, sell or advertise any garden-related items, from seeds, to a bumper crop of courgettes, to unwanted tools,” Bethan explains. The ‘places’ section is useful if you’re away in the UK and want to find garden centres or gardens to visit nearby, or even listen to an audio tour