Your Smart Phone As A Garden Tool

Your Smart Phone As A Garden Tool

We call them “smart phones” but as most people know, these small computers that we carry in our pockets are far more than a telephone. In addition to keeping us in touch with others, we’ve come to rely on our personal devices for so much more. From having constant access to a camera to being able to research a topic wherever we are, the smart phone has, for many of us, become indispensable. It has also become a very useful plant and garden tool.

Garden Journal

Twenty years ago an annual journal was something that many gardeners aspired to keep. We wanted to record the first or last frost, write the names of the varieties of annuals or vegetables we planted, or record when the peonies bloomed. I say “aspired to” since such books often had blank pages. We forgot to note the plants before the tags were thrown out, couldn’t find the book when the first frost hit, or lost interest as life became just too busy.

The smart phone allows you to keep those notes in one place, quickly and easily. You can take a photo of the plants you’re putting in your pots, along with a picture of the tags. Then you can take a shot of the container as those selections grow through the season, so in future years you’ll know which of those plants performed well all summer long. You’ll be able to review which perennials bloomed the longest, or how tall that New England Aster really grew.

A photo taken on October 4th instantly reminds you of which variety produced for the longest time.
With vegetable gardens, every year is different. Photos can remind you what flourished in the past, or how much space those chard plants (or tomatoes etc) really needed.
If you get in the habit of taking pictures of the first frost or snowfall, you’ll soon have a weather diary going back several years.
Take a picture when you plant your annuals or vegetables, to remind yourself of the timetable in years to come. This photo reminds me that we usually plant garlic at the end of October, since this picture was taken on Oct.21.


If you see a plant in the garden center, and want to know if it’s appropriate for your yard, you can quickly feed the name of that plant into Google along with the appropriate terms such as “size” or “sun or shade.” Right on the spot you’ll have a general idea if that particular shrub or tree would work where you are envisioning placing it.

If you’re charmed by a plant in the nursery, our staff is happy to answer questions about that particular perennial, shrub or tree. But you can also instantly feed the name off the tag into your phone and find out if it is appropriate for your yard or garden.


There are a couple of ways your phone can be a tool for identifying plants. The best is taking a photo of the plant you’ve seen and then showing that picture to someone who can identify it for you. At the garden center, we’re used to people coming in with photos of plants that they need identified. Sometimes these customers have seen a plant in a neighbor’s yard, or by a restaurant they visited, and want to know what it is so that they can buy one for their own garden. Other times we are shown photos of a plant that was seen in other parts of the country, and the question is, “Can I grow this on Cape Cod?”

There are several apps that will identify plants, but know that these are not 100% reliable. Many leaves look alike, for example, especially when taken off the stem or branch. So an app that claims to id a plant based on a single leaf cannot possibly be accurate. Even some flowers are similar to others, so a misidentification is possible. And finally, an app might be able to id a flower by a generic name, but not name the specific variety. So the app might identify that perennial that’s two feet tall as a summer phlox, for example, but it won’t tell you which summer phlox it is. You might end up with a very tall phlox when what you really wanted was the shorter Volcano phlox.

An app identified these as roses, but but they are actually Ranunculus.
An app might accurately identify this as a rose, but it won’t be able to tell you that it’s a Climbing America rose.

Time Travel

By taking photos in your yard and garden frequently, you’ll be able to travel back in time and remember just how small that tree was five years ago, or how the perennial garden looked when it was initially planted. You’ll be reminded of what the annuals you choose in the past looked like, or how great it was when you filled the large pots with tulips one spring.

It can even be helpful when reminding others just what happened when the hydrangeas got cut back in the past. “Look. This is a picture I took in 2016 when you cut the hydrangeas down because you said they were ‘out of control.’ See? No flowers that summer.” Photographic evidence can sometimes be helpful. 😉

This is a Nikko Blue hydrangea that was cut back either fall or spring. It grew just as tall and wide by July, because they replace their flowers in one summer, but there were very few blooms.
Coming across this photo, I’m reminded how great it looked that fall when I placed ornamental kale in the area where I’d cut the peony stalks to the ground.

Insider Information

You can, of course, use your smart phone to share the information about great plants, garden designs, or products. Sending photos to your friends or posting them on the social media of your choice is a great way to share the wealth.

We’re thinking about sharing some insider information by text with our customers as well…if you’d be interested in getting a text once-a-week about some new plants that have come in, fill out the form below.

Hyannis Country Garden Insider Information Text Group

By filling out this form you consent to be part of our 'Insider Information' text group at HCG. Hyannis Country Garden will not sell or share this information - it is for our own communication only.
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