Hartley Magazine

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Solve Horticultural Conundrums with a Handy App—Editor Kathleen Brenzel Tells How

Why consider a gardening app? Let’s compare:

The New Sunset Western Garden Book costs $23.47 at Amazon, features 768 pages, and weighs four pounds. The New Sunset Western Garden Book mobile app costs $19.99 through Inkling, totals one gigabyte, and weighs—well, how heavy is your phone or iPad?

While the Sunset Western Garden Book has long been the horticultural starting place for gardeners in the west, much of the information is also relevant across the rest of the country. Because it’s updated more often than most garden encyclopedias—the newest print edition came out last year—I predict the app is  destined to become your go-to resource. Full disclosure: I know this book well because I wrote the fern entries for the eighth edition. Editor Kathleen Norris Brenzel oversaw the conversion. So this month I talked with her about what gardeners can do with the new app.

When you’re plant shopping, you now have instantly available information, Kathleen says, so you can make more savvy choices. Nursery labels are often short on specifics. Type the name into your app. Up pop the newest details about ultimate size, growing needs, and companion plantings. Plus, Kathleen says, “In the descriptions we have tried to always include something unique—surprises about plants you might not see even on the best labels.”

At home, use the Plant Finder feature for more research. You can turn to the app’s suggestions for plants that solve your garden challenges and address design needs. For instance, you can discover what grows on slopes, or in dry/wet places, attracts bees, or thrives in a tropical greenhouse.

You download the large one-gigabyte app to your device. Not constrained by book bindings, the app contains treasures beyond the print version, including extra plant entries. Kathleen promises frequent updates. You can take notes, earmark interesting information and share it on the web with your friends. There’s a whole section of how-to videos.

With a book, when you can’t find the plant you want, the hunt stops. With this app, nifty buttons at the bottom of the page bump you onto the web for a wider search.

For gardeners familiar with USDA zones, the many Sunset climate zone numbers might seem confounding at first. However, the west’s varied weather delineations mimic much of the rest of the US landscape. You can usually find a corresponding Sunset zone description that accurately portrays the climate in your garden.