Smartphones & Plants: The Advantages of Mixing the Two

Do you remember a time when your cell phone had one use?  My first mobile phone felt like I was carrying around a brick. It was heavy and bulky. And if I was driving along a back country road, there was a good chance it wouldn’t have enough signal strength to make a call…its only purpose back in the nineties.

As a birthday gift to myself, I finally upgraded to the newest addition of the iPhone (which cost me a ridiculous amount of money) only to drop it on my kitchen floor and shatter the screen a week later. In my head, I kept repeating the same mantra, “Please be fixable, please be fixable” as I rushed to the cell phone ER, or Apple Store as other people call it. Once there, they told me it would take a couple hours to fix the broken screen. I thanked the cell phone Gods that I didn’t have to buy a new one.

As I walked away, leaving my phone in the capable hands of an Apple Expert, I started feeling a little anxious. What if a client needs me? What if something bad happens to my family and they went to the hospital? What if a gigantic tornado was heading straight for the Apple store to sweep me up like Dorothy and leave me flattened under a farmhouse like the Wicked Witch? All because I didn’t have my phone to warn me.

Experiencing this miniature version of a panic attack, I realized I had a problem. Somewhere, somehow over the years, I became addicted to this device. At what point did my cell phone morph into such an integral part of my social and business life that I now feel naked without it?

For one, the evolution of the cell phone into a “smart” phone has liberated us from being tied down to an office. Our phones not only make calls, they can now create emails, send text messages, give you detailed driving directions, take pictures, create videos, allow you to watch movies, read books, see the weather, purchase anything you need instantly and most importantly, have the choice whether to play Donkey Kong, Frogger or Pacman (which was impossible while I was in the sixth grade).

I’m so grateful my phone’s memory is a thousand times better than mine. Have you ever spotted a deteriorating plant at one of your accounts and made a mental note to replace it ASAP, only to come back the following week and see a now completely dead plant? Mental notes are easy to misplace. I’ll admit I’ve made that blunder a few times in my career. To prevent this situation, when I see a deteriorating plant, I get out my handy smartphone, take a snap shot of the dying foliage and then email it to myself with the location info. Before I place my plant order with the local nurseries, I am sure to go through that email folder.

If your company has a floral department, you know how insane Valentine’s day can be. Without fail, you will get one or more angry calls on Valentine’s Day from customers demanding a full refund or new arrangement, claiming the flowers they received were of poor quality, weren’t what they ordered or that they flat out didn’t receive their flowers at all. To protect myself, I have the delivery driver take a picture of the arrangement beside the customer’s doorstep and email it to me. This provides some proof of the delivery, the type of flowers delivered and the condition they were received in.

Garden Compass Plant / Disease Identifier

In addition to all the convenient features a smartphone has to offer, apps can make horticulture life even easier. One of my favorite apps is called Garden Compass Plant / Disease Identifier. This app is incredibly valuable for novice plant technicians. Garden Compass allows you to take a photo of the plant or disease and submit it to a team of expert horticulturalists. One of these experts will review your photo, identify your plant or disease and provide recommendations. While you can’t get immediate answers, you usually have a response within 24-48 hours. Not only can Garden Compass help you save time and money will you educate your staff, it is also free to use.

Another free app, Flowers & Plants, contains a large volume of foliage pictures matched with each plant’s description, light and water preferences, plant size, cultivation and propagation. It will even let you know the plant’s weakness to certain diseases as well as the closest nursery that carries it.

Drive Axle is a logistics app that allows documents to be scanned and sent without the use of a fax machine or scanner. It produces high quality images that are often times better than what a fax machine is capable of.

Red Laser is a great app that can can help a company keep more of its profit. It is a bar code scanner, QR code reading shopping assistant that compares product prices and alerts you to the retailer selling the item at the cheapest price. The next time you need a new company laptop, be sure to check Red Laser to get the best deal possible.

Last week, I downloaded Plant Nanny, an app that mixes entertainment with education. While you water your simulated plant, you learn horticultural requirements as well as interesting facts about the plant’s history. Despite this app being primarily a game, I’m all for technicians using it. As you watch your plant grow, you are exposed to a lot of horticulture knowledge that can translate into better employees.

With thousands of unique apps available, and more being created daily, there is something out there to help you with most horticulture/business situations. You simply have to go look for them. With a couple quick searches, you may just run into an app like Shazam, which can identify music playing on the radio and instantly download it into your phone’s music library with a few clicks. Sometimes hearing “Eye of the Tiger,” the Rocky III theme song, is all you need to keep your body going as you unload twenty-five lighted ficus trees into a reception hall.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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