I strongly suspect that the particularly tenacious bind-weed which haunts my borders is the real brains behind Planter's Guide - a database program intended for gardeners. What to plant. Where to plant it.
It will be twisting its heart-shaped leaves around my defenceless honeysuckle while I am waiting for the tape to yield that final elusive portion of Spectrum code (it lurks just beyond the horrendously long Commodore code).
And the bindweed will revel in the vast acres of space left in my tiny plot by the time I have pulled out all the plants which apparently - according to the Planter's Guide - have no right thriving in my garden at all.
Sad to report that out of the 1,000 plus shrubs, conifers, heathers and climbers featured in the Planter's Guide, only two actually make the grade for my back-garden.
The fact that I am not writing this from the barren wastes of the Kalihari but the midst of England's prime agricultural belt in East Herts, says something for the limitations of the program. Especially as it was conceived and written in the same County.
The guide purports to offer help in selecting plants which match your garden conditions. And is backed up with a chunky 130-page book giving 40-word descriptions of the many plants to choose from.
By keying in a page number and the number of the entry it gives a read-out on the screen of the height the shrub aspires to, the colour with which it will adorn your hedge-row and when to expect it to be at its best.
It will also suggest the conditions in which it will thrive: sheltered or exposed sites; sunny or shady conditions; moist or dry or chalky or acid soil and, finally, the type of plant it is.
The book description adds to this - but crucially it provides no pictures.
Alternatively you can use the program the other way around entering the conditions in your plot and seeing what the program recommends.
Computers being the unforgiving creatures they are, there is little flexibility and the variety of conditions which can be found in a garden are not so easily pigeon-holed. I have no doubt that author. Barrie Tyler has his information correct but, largely because the Planter's Guide is so inflexible in use the package is unlikely to please either gardener or computer buff.
Author: Barry Tyler
Reviewer: Terry Pratt
To plan a garden you need pictures. A good book would do the job far more effectively and cheaply.
WHAT I WANTED
It's sad the Planter's Guide didn't come up to scratch. My ideal imaginary Garden Designer uses Psion's date compression techniques from Scrabble, allied with Mike Singleton's landscaping craft from Lords of Midnight!You, the gardener, input your garden dimensions, draw in the size and shape of the plant beds and show changes of level where they occur and a 3D representation of the garden appears on screen. Choosing plants from the extensive list, you use your cursor to position them in the garden and hey presto it is drawn in, height, shape and outline. Gradually you build up the garden with shrubs, conifers and climbers until all the beds are full and the trees have been planted.All this is hoping for the moon but some sort of intelligent database was definitely called for with the Planter's Guide. Where the computer program could have scored over any of the colour guide books - and where this one didn't - is on the creative side. It would be fun to sit indoors on winter evenings and plan graphically your ideal garden, experimenting with different layouts, plants and shapes Even a simple plan-view option to lay out the garden would have been terrific.