QRCs revisted

Regarding the utility of Quick Response codes and the intersection of garden centers and technology, I asked: “Are YOU, dear readers, taking advantage of this [QRC] technology as it applies to purchasing plants?”

Thirty comments later (not including a repeat and two of my own), as best I can interpret, this is the score:

Yes I have used them while shopping for plants or own a nursery that uses them – 6 (results varied)

No (either didn’t have a smart phone or interest in QRCs for plant shopping) – 10

Couldn’t tell (commenters elaborated on potential/upside/downside/other uses, but couldn’t tell whether commenter had actually utilized them personally while plant shopping) and/or response to other comments – 14

First off, thanks to folks who answered my main question. Big fan of binary response.

And I did ask for “your thoughts.” So thanks to all who weighed in with ideas, related experiences, discussion, and opinions.

Karen’s experience at the Lady Bird Johnson garden was definitely fodder for thought, especially concerning our own campus garden. Commenter Ray E. notes the Franklin Co. (PA) Master Gardeners are implementing the technology at both their demonstration garden and plant sale.  Let us know how that goes, Ray (esp. the plant sale).  My students are going to give it a try on a few items in their spring plant sale.

Linking to “real information” – science-based, Extension, etc., instead of a corporate/brand URL is an ideal use of QRCs.  But are the companies that grow or market garden plants going to go to the effort to do that? Probably not – they are going to link to their corporate info.

Hap and Trey noted the ease with which intuitive keyboard apps/search engines bring up plant names, in lieu of the QRC process.  I can’t quite remember how I lived, pre-Google.  Oh…right…those things on the bookshelf across from desk. But when a list of options are returned, you have to wade through some stuff to find an info source you trust (here’s a tip – bookmark the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder – outstanding). Pris S. is our department’s IT guru (and a gardening nut, incidentally, so she knows of what she speaks regarding security.

Thanks again for all your thoughtful responses. Maybe there should be TR codes…

 

QRC LOLZ.  Let’s just put a big QR code over the flower photo.

Sent to me by astute observer/awesome grower/pal Paul W.

Advice needed – quick!

Monday’s not my usual day to post, but I need your help.

I’m to present at a large garden symposium next week.  You know the usual syposium format: there’s a design talk, one on plant care, another on edibles in the landscape, and finally the plant-lust generating presentation (The Plant Talk). That’s my role in this particular symposium. My topic is very broad – new and underused annuals, perennials, and woodies.  Actually, it’s too broad, and it’s giving me fits.

Now, I’ve both given and sat through countless Plant Talks as I’m sure you have (and many of you have probably delivered said presentations). I will say I know to limit my list, as hard as that is  (only one hour to present).  Giant
lists can become mind-numbing, especially when little info is given
other than "Wow, look at this variegated foliage! Love it!" 

My issue is how to best arrange this disparate group of plants so that it makes the most sense to my audience. Currently, they’re grouped by plant type (perennial, annual, woody, ornamental grasses etc.) and alphabetically within. But I’m having second thoughts.

How you can help: think back to the most useful and efficient presentations you’ve heard…how were they organized?  As I have them (by type)?  Season of interest (spring blooming, fall color, etc.)?  Sun or shade? Alphabetically?  Other?  Eh? 

Please weigh in!

The Winter Weekend Garden Warrior

As Garden Professors, we are very careful regarding product endorsements. Actually, much energy is spent trying to bring to light weird/crappy/useless/money-wasting gardening products.

But when we feel strongly about the usefulness, quality, and utility of a product, it is our duty to pass that information along as well.

I didn’t mean to be a walking advertisement last weekend.

We were in the final throes of getting our garden cut back; Joel was laughing that I “needed another set of hands” when I came around the corner.  “Not with my fabulous Firehose Work Pants from Duluth Trading Company, I don’t!”  Thus the inspiration for this post.

All products noted are, variously: warm, waterproof, full of pockets, sharp, indestructible, dependable, and/or delicious.

Answer to the Thursday Non-strenuous Puzzler

Correctomundo, Paul W.  Right off the bat, darn it. Retractable (woven) roof; designed to accommodate a bit of snow, but you don’t want to leave it in place for any more than that.  This was at the Merrifield Garden Center in Alexandria. Winter of 2011.  I was there speaking to the fabulous Fairfax Master Gardeners and trainees (SandyG, I swear you were there).

The snow cover just seemed kind of odd/neat, because the roof was closed back up by the time I walked in.

Gardeners plus QR Codes equals Really Happening?

Proven Winners is putting QR codes on plant tags. So is Walters Gardens, a major wholesaler of perennial liners. Growers often purchase tags from the propagator to go along with the liners. In the case of patented plants, that’s a common method of collecting royalties – the finishing grower has to purchase the tag.

Quick response (QR) codes are everywhere. For those that are vague on the concept, it’s a two-dimensional barcode. Install a code-reader app on your smartphone, snap a photo of the code, and your web browser takes you to a specific site for more information.  The marketing experts associated with our industry say they’re a “must” if we want to connect with the ” iEverything” customer.  Even botanical gardens are slapping them on plant identification labels, interpretive signage, and more (that’s on my to-do list).

My question:  are YOU, dear readers, taking advantage of this technology (as it applies to purchasing plants)?  Or is it enough to pull the tag out of the pot and note that this petunia, though oddly-named, needs full sun and gets 8″ to 12″ tall?

Image snagged from Kristy O’Hara’s article “Doing More With the QR Code” in Greenhouse Grower magazine

I realize we have a wide variety of interests and occupations represented – which makes things even more interesting. So whether you’re a grower, a horticulture professional, or a semi-dangerous gardener, please leave a comment as to whether you’ve ever used one. If so, did you find it useful? Any other thoughts?

Almost forgot…Why am I pestering you for this information?  I teach the senior level Ornamental Plants Production and Marketing course here at Virginia Tech.  If I think it’ll give our future growers and garden center managers/owners an economic edge, I’ll certainly recommend it.

Won’t you help the poinsettias?

Those creative Utah Sate University Extension folks are at it again.  Jerry Goodspeed’s hilarious Gnome Management video was a big hit among the gardening crowd a couple of years ago. 

His current effort is a bit more…film noir. 

"Mission accomplished" if you’ve been shamed into watering that poor poinsettia languishing in the dining room.  A little fertilizer wouldn’t hurt, either.

Archived webinar available

We had a decent turnout on the webinar yesterday – saw a few names from our blog readers there.  I hope everyone was able to see and hear the presentation and didn’t have any technical difficulties?  If you did, please let me know so we can fix them for next time. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, it’s been archived for viewing at your leisure.

I used suggestions that readers suggested on the blog to demonstrate how to search academic databases for science-based information on products and practices related to gardening.  So if you’re curious to know whether wireworms can be controlled naturally using bait traps, or whether hydrogen peroxide as a soil drench will prevent damping off off seedlings, or whether mowing leaves into the lawn is a good practice…you’ll have to watch!

Possum 1, Garden Professor 0

It was a dark and stormy Wednesday night.

Joel opened the porch door and whispered “you’ve got to come see this.” He’d taken the dogs out for their 9:00 p.m. constitutional, and there was apparently some excitement under the old apple tree.

“There’s a possum, and I think she’s playing dead.”

I grabbed the flashlight and hustled out.  Got around the corner to the tree, and sure enough, there was a rather large blob of silver and white mammal.

But as I got closer, my heart sank.

She was curled up, head askew, front leg sticking out at an odd angle.  Lips (?) pulled back , teeth and gums bared in a terrible grimace, tongue hanging out the side.  I shined the flashlight right into her eyes. No movement, no pupil dilation.  Being from a farm in Georgia, I claim the most possum and raccoon experience. Thus, my verdict. Deader than a doornail. Which made me sad.

“Aargh. Thanks. Now I’m upset.  Guess she got hit by a car and made it this far before expiring.  Could you put her out at the end of the garden? The soil’s pretty soft there.”

Joel apologized and went to get the shovel.  I scuffed back inside to finish the dishes, feeling awful for the little critter.  Thanks to our impenetrable hen stockade, we live in pretty good harmony with our country cousins, and hate to see harm come to them.

Ten minutes later, Joel was back at the door, shovel in hand.

“Um, I think it was faking.”

“No way. That possum was graveyard dead.”

“Well…it seemed to be o.k. enough to be sitting up and eating an apple.”

We hiked back out to the tree – no possum to be found.  My wildlife cred was blown.

“Looks like she was playing possum” I offered, helpfully.

Joel muttered “But I just dug a three-foot-deep hole.”

Aphids Marching

Was out enjoying the last of the SW Virginia fall color from our deck, the day before we got our dose of Sandy…the wind was picking up and the barometer and temperature were dropping

Twenty-four hours later, we had an inch of snow and 40 mph winds. No more fall color.
Looked down at the railing and the ENTIRE length of it – 45′ – had aphids streaming back and forth.  They were absolutely pouring off a Clematis terniflora vine (the same species that attracted all the blister beetles this summer – what a prize) that had clambered up over the deck. It was like two lanes of traffic, going in each direction, and at a (relatively) high rate of speed.  I’ve never seen aphids move so fast. But to where??



I believe it’s time to re-stain the deck.

We also had the interesting phenomenon of congregating swarms of lady beetles (the Asian species – Harmonia axyridis) a couple of weeks ago. The south side of the house and my Jeep were covered.  At least there’s an upside to that infestation – I’ve noticed lots of larvae around.

As you know, lady beetle larvae are very effective predators of aphids, and were out in full force amongst the aphids…I counted 30. But they couldn’t make a dent in the thousands of aphids streaming along the rail. Upon closer inspection, they were actually trying to avoid the aphids.  They had obviously had their fill and could barely move. I swear they looked nauseous.

“No thanks, we’re full.”
So – any thoughts on why the aphids were so active?