There may be an app for that, but I’m not sure I care

I like this app (Armitage’s), but I’m beyond the stage of needing it.

Mid-winter is generally a time for trend predicting, seed talk, and other speculative matter in the gardening press. Much of the country is still huddled around the fire, so there’s not much call for cultivation or maintenance advice.

Pity the poor garden columnist at this time. If it were me, I’d be all about the houseplants, but I don’t see too much houseplant talk. What I do see is talk of planning, trends, early shrub pruning, and … apps.

There were no apps when I started gardening. If there were, I think I might have used them, particularly those that list and recommend specific plants for specific purposes, like Allan Armitage’s Greatest Garden Plants. Apps didn’t exist though, so I read books, lots of books on the best perennials for mainly shady situations and other books on how to maintain them once you’ve chosen them. Probably one of those was by Armitage.

In addition to plant selection apps, there are apps, like iScape Landscape Designs, that help you plan your garden by creating virtual plant beds that can be arranged over photos of your property. That might have been useful back in ’99. There’s also one, Perennial Match, that shows you what certain plants will look like when placed next to other plants. I’m not sure I would want to second guess myself to that extent.

Then there are the ones I’ve tried, like Leafsnap, which identifies trees from one leaf against a white background. I don’t think I’ve used that more than twice and I really hate the other plant ID apps I’ve tried. Even if they worked,  they wouldn’t be helpful in my home garden; I know what plants I have, pretty much. They’re good (or would be, if they were accurate) when on walks, to identify wildflowers and such.

I hope that beginning gardeners are looking into these apps, as some do look relevant for garden start-ups. Though I wonder if they will, as most come with price tags, and we’ve been spoiled by all the free apps that already clutter our devices. I don’t use most of mine. Do you use all yours?

These are my gardening apps: weather, camera, social media, search engine. I don’t see that changing.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I am with you. There are a couple of websites that I do regularly refer to, however. One is Michigan Flora which is the website of the University of Michigan Herbarium and whose goal is to ” in a searchable and browsable form, the basic information about all vascular plants known to occur outside of cultivation in the state”. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s web site ( is helpful for looking up cultivated plants.

  2. Not an app, but the Facebook page Plant Ident 101 has been helpful to me. Post a photo of whatever, and other users identify. I’ve used it to find out what that tree I just had cut down was, what that houseplant is at my aunt’s house that she can’t remember the name of, and occasionally, when I forget what I planted in my own yard. I get a faster answer than when I attempted to use the identification app. And it’s fun to see how fast answers come in when someone else unknowingly posts a photo of poison ivy, with their fingers cradling a leaf.

  3. Interesting that the app doesn’t comment on a zone. That would be one of my first questions when looking up a plant to add to my garden. The apps I’ve used are fairly useless. I do have a good plant knowledge so the plants I want to ID are not usually in the leaf app.

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