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
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?