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Update: Improved Finder Results

November 11, 2010 22:11

 

Up and till now we've been using a temporary form of search results from the plant finder. As of today we have unveiled a few changes to massively improve them.

Firstly, similar (i.e. closely related plants) are now grouped together in the results. Rather than listing a number of similar plants in the results, you will now see text such as: '3 similar plants found show...'. Click the show link and you will see listing of these plants along with what makes them different.

Second we have added more search results per page and added 'pagination' to the bottom of the page (in other words links to further search results).

Third we have changed the search algorithm so it should be much faster. The old version was a very quick and dirty solution and was taking up to a second to return results, even with the small database we have at present. We will be monitoring performance of the new code closely.

And finally we have removed the number beside each category in the search part of the finder. Whilst this was an interesting feature it resulted in heavy usage of the database. This change will both improve page load times and clean up the page somewhat.

 

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Share your Gardening Knowledge on our New Wiki

November 08, 2010 19:58

 

You are a gardener. You are an expert. You may only have a small garden, or even just a pot plant on the windowsill, but you are the most knowledgeable person about that plant or that garden.

And, just like, any expert, you have acquired a wealth of knowledge in your sphere of expertise. Wouldn't it be great if there was some way to share that knowledge with other gardeners? To raise every gardeners knowledge levels and skills?

Plantality.com is now home to a gardening and plant wiki. We aim to fill the wiki with detailed information on how to grow everything which is garden worthy, to give details on every pest and disease and to share gardening tips and how-tos.

And this is where you, the experts, come in. We encourage you to write about your favourite species and to share your tips.

You're probably wondering why we need to create a new wiki when wikipedia is already available. Okay, so wikipedia lists a huge number of plants but it is full of technical terms, aimed at botanists but flying over the heads of the average gardener, and it totally fails to deliver basic gardening information such as how to plant, when to prune and how to treat disease.

And Wikipedia also fails to help you find plants - unless you knwo their names. If you haven't tried it yet, visit our unique plant finder. Every variety is sorted into over 200 categories, such as when it flowers, it's prefered soil type and whet wildlife it attracts. Click on your preferred categories and get a list out of matching plants. There really is nothing like it on the internet.

So, please, help us to build a unique, detailed and useful resource for any gardener, wherever they are in the world. Visit the wiki today.

 

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New Plant Finder

July 26, 2010 19:18

 

We have just added an extra feature to the site - a plant finder. For the plant finder we categorise each plant into up to 200 categories to make it easy for you to search for plants which exactly fit your needs.

Categories include things like:

  • plant type (annual, perennial etc), 
  • uses (borders, baskets etc), 
  • soil type (acid, dry),
  • situation (exposed or sheltered),
  • flower season,
  • foliage colour,
  • and wildlife interest.

In the plant finder click on a category which interest you so see plants in it, then select a second category to see only plants which fulfil both conditions. You can keep drilling down as much as you like, and it's easy to deselect a category to widen your search.

Each plants page includes a detailed description, a complete list of the categories it is filed under (including size and hardiness), usually one or more photos and links to closely related plants.

We will later be adding links to places where you can buy each plant and a section which lists similar plants which you may be interested in.

At present we are in the process of adding content to the database and within a few months we will have a listing of every common garden and house plant as well as a few more exotic species.

To check out the finder visit http://plantality.com/finder

 

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Spiraea nipponica 'Snowmound'

June 14, 2010 07:22

 

Spiraea nipponica 'Snowmound'

Snowmound is a beautiful shrub in the late spring and early summer. The top sides of it's arching branches are covered in small white flowers, making it look like a bush covered in snow.

This shrub has an average growth rate, eventually reaching a height of six to eight feet (about 2m). Hardy to zone 4, Snowmound is easy to look after, not needing any pruning, other than removing dead or diseased wood after flowering.

As with other Spiraeas it will tolerate most soils, including poor ones with the exception of thin chalk or very dry soils. It is happy growing in full sun or light shade.
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Photo by swimboy1

 

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Why Your Bedding Plants Might Not Grow

June 10, 2010 19:51

 

Have you ever had the experience of getting a pack of bedding plants from the garden centre and planting them out only to find that a month or two later they have barely grown any bigger? You probably blamed yourself for using poor quality compost, or the wrong fertiliser. Well, it's probably not something you did at all.

When a garden centre sells bedding plants it's important that the plants are nice and compact. Too small and customers will feel they're recently pricked out, and too big and they'll reject them for being too leggy.

But bedding plants grow quickly and, with the vagaries of the weather, sowing seeds at just the right time so they are at the right size for selling just as the customers appear is an impossible task. So growers need a way to control the plants so that they stay compact until they can be sold.

There are two ways of doing this. One way is really easy, the other is really hard.

The hard way is to control the plant size by controlling the watering. Basically the more water you give a plant, within reason, and the faster it will grow. Restrict the amount of water, even going so far as leaving the plant slightly limp, and the plant will almost stop growing completely.

A side benefit of doing this is that, whilst dry, the plant will concentrate it's energies into root growth in the hopes of finding extra water supplies. On our nursery we keep most bedding types dry in our growing on house, then, when the time comes to sell them we water them up to make a compact, presentable plant for sale.

But keeping plants limp, without being so limp that they die or suffer permanent damage such as scorched leaves requires lots of skill on the part of the grower. You need to weigh up the weather conditions, how dry the plant is at the time you are watering, what variety you are watering, and even if you want to give a particular variety more water because it is selling fast.

So most growers choose the easy way. The easy way is to spray them with one of a group of chemicals called 'growth regulators'. These effectively stunt the growth of the plant, usually shortening the stem length between each set of leaves. Spraying is quick and the plants can then be easily watered by junior staff members.

And it works well. The growers get to supply beautifully compact plants to the garden centres. But, when you get the plants home and plant them up, what happens?

Well, for a plant which has been grown the hard way all those extra roots start sucking up the extra moisture you give them and soon grow into big, healthy, bushy plants. The plants which have been sprayed? If you're lucky they will have only been sprayed with a low level of chemical and may also get off to a good start. If you're unlucky they will still be full of chemical and they will stay as small, dwarfed plants for the next month or two.

So, the next time you are buying bedding plants, ask the nurseryman if the plants have had growth regulants applied to them, and if you so may want to consider shopping somewhere else.

 

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The Secrets of Effective Watering

April 25, 2010 17:21

 

Of all the skills a gardener needs to acquire, probably the single most important one is watering. It's also the skill that new gardeners often find the hardest time to acquire.

Many new gardeners know (of course) that a plant needs water to survive and water them every day, only to end up 'killing them with kindness'. But plant roots also need a good supply of air, if a pot is too full of water it pushes the air out and the roots start to rot.

Watering will to a large extent depend on the plant. For the vast majority of plants on the nursery we use a technique called 'wet/dry cycles'. What this means is that we leave the plant to dry out to a certain extent, then give it a thorough watering and leave it to dry again before repeating.

The toughest part of this strategy is judging when a plant is dry. You could, of course, wait until the plant goes limp, but it's best to give the plant water before it reaches this extreme stage. Other than this there arfe basically two techniques you can use: compost colour or the weight of the container.

With many brands of compost you will notice that the compost changes colour when dry. When wet the compost will be very dark brown, if not black in colour. As the plant dries the media will fade to light grey. You will probably also notice the compost becoming dustier as it dries out, though this may not be the case when a plant has been in it's pot more than a few months. You do need to bear in mind, though, that with a newly potted plant in hot weather the top surface of the compost may dry out through evaporation whilst the rest of the compost is still wet. I always recommend extra caution with newly potted plants.

If you've ever picked up a bucket full of water you will know that water is heavy. A plant pot which is full of water will, therefore, weight more than an a dry one. Using weight to assess dryness takes a bit more skill than looking at compost colour, but it can be an effective technique with hanging baskets and well filled pots where it's not possible to see the compost. The skill comes from the fact that different sized containers will naturally have different weights anyway, and different composts may also vary in weight (a soil based compost such as a John Innes type will weight more than a peat based compost). You will need to learn this technique by experience.

There's one more factor that can help you determine when a plant is dry: time. Get to know your plants and how frequently they need watering. A hanging basket in summer will probably need watering daily, the same basket in winter only once a week. The more you practice watering the more you will learn each plants requirements.

So, when you've established that your plants are dry, how much water should you give them? Here's in interesting little experiment you can do: fill an empty plant pot with compost fresh from the bag. Leave the compost level a little below the rim of the pot, as you would when planting a plant. With a watering can or hosepipe, fill the top of the pot with water until it starts to overflow the side of the pot. Leave the water to soak in for half an hour, then tip pot out. You will probably see that the water has barely soaking on more than an inch.

What this teaches us is that a dry pot will need a considerable amount of water to thoroughly soak it. This is somthing to bear in mind when watering a newly potted plant, or one which has dried out to the state of goung limp. For watering in on the nursery I usually recommend filling the compost to the rim at least three times, letting the water soak in between fills.

So, if that's what I recommend for a thoroughly dry plant, what about one which is dry enough to benefit from watering, but is not completely dry? For this case I would simply fill once to the rim of the pot as a starting measure.

From here you can modify the exact amount as you get used to your individual plants requirements. And I'll repeat myself: get to know your individual plants and what their requirements are. Like children all plants are unique and have different requirements, learn what they are and they will flourish for you.

 

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