Urban gardener: Computer says 'grow'

We've got a stowaway in the garden. It came in a pot of Saruma henryi that Roy Lancaster gave me earlier this year after a visit to his garden. Squeezing up a couple of grass-like shoots and gladioli-like flowers just before we went on holiday, I wondered for a moment whether Roy had inadvertently given me something rare and precious. On sending a photo, he confirmed that the infiltrator was Gladiolus papilio, a variable species from the Transvaal. Despite competition from the saruma it still reached its mature height of one metre but will need planting out in open ground if it is to make a nice clump. The flowers (late summer to early autumn) are like small funnels with subtle shades of purple and yellow that marble to darker maroon, and gold on the lower petals giving the impression of a butterfly, hence the name. It needs cool, moist humus-rich soil in sun to thrive (it will colonise by underground runners) and a good mulch should see it safely through a UK winter.

It's one of the rare moments I've had anything to do with gladioli since I got sacked from one of my first gardening jobs in the Eighties. I'd blagged my way into maintaining a rather posh garden on Kingston Hill in Surrey, but was caught tying three gladioli to a cane instead of one. A fair cop I suppose but I swore never to plant gladioli ever again and, apart from one obvious exception (the designer's favourite Gladiolus communis var. byzantinus) I haven't, not really because of the faux pas with the staking but simply because gladioli don't set my pulse racing. And I know I'm not alone.

If you're hoping now for a comprehensive run down on the best gladioli for your garden then I'm sorry to disappoint. Neither is this a protracted introduction to leave just enough words telling you that you should be planting bulbs for next spring (although by sheer coincidence that's exactly what you should be doing). It's actually a round about way of telling you about some computer software that I have started using recently. No please don't turn over, this is actually quite interesting.

As much as I resent any time spent in front of a computer, the interactive Plant Finder & Pruning Guide from Complete Gardens will actually cut down some time in front of the screen and benefit my clients too with much more informative plant lists and maintenance schedules. There are 3,500 plants and 9,000 pictures on the CD-Rom with various ways of making selections (colours, conditions, flowering times, etc) that can be printed out (with notes, pruning and propagation advice, pests and diseases to watch out for) saving lots of time cross-referencing books. I'm not saying it will stop me buying more books for my sagging shelves but as a work tool (my assistant Humaira will love it) it's brilliant and it's British so it won't throw up lists that will have you trawling through plants that will only grow in Madagascar.

I should tell you that it's not for the exclusive use of garden designers who don't know as much as they should about gladioli. Anyone, amateur or enthusiast, who can click a mouse button can use it to make lists of plants in their own garden with all the information they need to maintain it. And get this. Click on any clematis species and it will show you the correct time and method for pruning. Seeing as I know many experienced gardeners who are as rusty as I am on clematis groups and how to tackle them it's worth getting the CD just for that. Of course I couldn't resist seeing if it had Gladiolus papilio. It has. It also has another six that, I must admit, are actually quite attractive.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living