> I have seen various programs on the shelf, but the problem is that
> almost all of their functions can be handled more effeciently with
> existing database, spreadsheet, and wordprocessing programs. I am a
> professional gardener whose hobby is programming (somehow that
> sounds backwards!) and I am curious just what the professional wants
> in a program. I am currently working on several projects in my spare
> time. I know what I would like to see, but I am not too sure I
> represent the opinion of the market, so to speak. Rrespond to this
> note with your suggestions.
I'm an electrical engineering professor (and sometime programmer) whose
hobby is gardening - sometimes I wish it were the other way around.
I've been trying to help out the arboretum at North Carolina State
University (NCSU). It is badly in need of a way to track its collection
of about 10,000 individual plants. The collection is constantly
changing. I guess this is more inventory than landscaping, but I am not
sure the two are really different.
Their problem with existing database tools is really graphical input and
output. One arboretum staff member refers to it as the "Camellia Society
Problem". The Camellia Society comes in and wants a map showing all
camellias in the collection. With existing database tools all you can
give them is a _list_ of all camellias and their bed number and them a
preprinted map of the bed locations. Since the beds are fairly large
it's still difficult to locate the plants in the beds. No where near as
user friendly as it should be.
Conversely, when a new bed is planted, the plant locations often come
back in the form of a sketch of the bed. The precise locations are not
as important as the relative locations. It would be much better to be
able to scan in a survey or aerial photograph of the arboretum and then
point and click at bed locations on the survey - this plant here and
that plant there - and so on. The plant coordinates would then be
automatically stored in the database. Then for output, you could print
out the entire bed. Alternately, to reduce the visual clutter, you could
print out only what's attractive _now_, e.g. not print the Narcissus in
I'm no database expert, but the ones I've investigated won't let you
interact with images in this way (at least not the Macintosh ones). I'm
willing to learn a database and write the program they need but not if
we can't do everything we want. The NCSU arboretum reports to me that
this is a problem at arboreta all over the country. There's a great
product in there somewhere for a talented programmer.
Thought you'd like this perspective.
Arthur W. Kelley