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It’s our Day! It’s our Special Day! Garden Sketch App Launch

It’s our Day!  It’s our Special Day! Garden Sketch App Launch

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Flowers, Front Yard, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Gardening Apps, Gardens, Inspiration, iPad App |

The long wait is over.  After much fussing, planning and worrying it is finally time for the Garden Sketch App launch!  It is now available for iPads in the App Store.  Click here to download.  Garden Sketch will be free for the next few weeks, after which the price will be set to $3.99.  So download it now!

Use Garden Sketch to map your yard with the house, sheds, existing trees and gardens, then create new plans of future garden designs.  There are preset logos for plants, shrubs and trees in three sizes and different colours.  There is also the option of straight or freehand lines and freehand shapes to define spaces.  You can easily add notes to create plant lists.   Export your designs to email or social media platforms as screen grabs or pdfs.

Garden Sketch has a quick and an easy learning curve, but also has plenty of subtlety.  As your skill improves and the designs get better and better and you can fine tune the details.  We’ve found that working with a Stylus really helps to get nice lines and precise plant placement.

Autumn is a great time to use Garden Sketch.  Your garden is still beautiful and full of summer colour.  Use Garden Sketch to record all the plants in your garden and get a head start on your ideas for next year’s plans.

Send your comments and questions to me via email to maija[at]gardensketchapp.com.

Thanks to Jane for sending us this design!  Feel free to share your plans on our Facebook page or with us on Twitter – @GardenSketchApp.  Stay tuned, for a contest with prizes!

Garden Sketch Plan

Garden Sketch Plan

We’ll have a series of posts over the next few weeks with tips for you to get the most from Garden Sketch.

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Garden Sketch Tests Well at Beta, Soon to Launch

Garden Sketch Tests Well at Beta, Soon to Launch

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Front Yard, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Irrigation | 2 comments

Our design team from Denim and Steel has been working hard to implement the suggestions recommended by our alpha testers and we were pleased to present the results to our discerning panel last week. We had two returning members and two newbies to test the latest version. Overall, the feeling was that Garden Sketch tests well at the beta phase.

Opening up the App, small changes made it easier to get started.  We provided a lot less verbal direction at this phase as the instructional tutorial was now functional. We noted any user friction, seeing where our testers ran into difficulty.

Garden Sketch Live Testers

Garden Sketch Live Testers

Testers seemed excited by the variety of house shapes they could now incorporate but he biggest news was on the design tab. The colours were much brighter and our designers now had the choice of small, medium and big of any of the shapes they wished to use. We also add yielded to the public outcry for the option of a water feature and flower pots.

Garden Sketch Tester Design with Notes

Garden Sketch Tester Design with Notes

It was a lot of fun to watch our testers as the navigated. Their focus and intensity was notable and lasted at least forty-five minutes to an hour. There was complete silence as they worked to perfect their designs.

For me, the biggest surprise was how much I enjoy using the shape drawing tool to give a sense of space. I used it to represent the Pergola in my back yard because it didn’t match the shape of the gazebo.

Our goal at the outset was to develop an iPad App that would help the home gardener to map their yard, noting the existing structures, trees and plants and enabling them to make garden plans. We thought these plans could be useful by getting people looking at their gardens in a new way: is this space working for me? What would I like to change? What would my dream garden look like? How can I achieve it? Garden Sketch creates a low risk opportunity to try out different ideas and share them with your friends and family for input and feedback.

Garden Sketch is being submitted to Apple’s App Store for approval this month and we expect to announce its release in September. Stay tuned!

Here are some of the other designs we’ve been creating:

Garden Sketch Plan

Garden Sketch Plan

 

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Gardening as an Act of Creation

Gardening as an Act of Creation

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Backyard, Flowers, Front Yard, Garden Design, Gardens, Inspiration |

I’ve always brought green things into my life.  My first year of university, I bought a plant so I could share my boarding house room with another living thing.  I always pulled the weeds and planted annuals in the gardens of our rental houses, but it has been here in this house that gardening has become an act of creation.

Breaking it down, I would say that I garden for three reasons: beauty, to create spaces and joy. The beauty piece is self evident.  It’s why we buy tulips on those grey days when winter seems in its final convulsive fits.  Beauty seems like a luxury in tough times but it is also very powerful.  Beauty draws us in and brings us closer.  And as fleeting as it seems, it connects us with the human condition as Robert Frost once said, “Nothing gold can stay.” Wandering my yard, I have realized that what gardens do is create spaces, like small acts of architecture.  As someone walks by on the sidewalk, they are invited into the space created by the ridiculously cheerful wall of Black Eyed Susans.  I’ve watched the smiles come over their faces as they reach out to check if the flowers are real.

The front sidewalk

The front sidewalk

On the other side of the same garden bed, there is a completely separate space–one that is shared with the people invited into my home.  It’s a view that is private and separate from that public facade.

The Other Side of the Garden

The Other Side of the Garden

In the backyard, the cute low fence keeps the dogs in, but still grants a view.  Here the pergola gives us a place to site our deck chairs as we enjoy the coolness of the evening.  With a few bird feeders, we’ve also created a space for creatures to visit.  The chickadees, juncos, finches and sparrows hover and flit, filling the space with life.  Our most welcomed guest is the Rufous hummingbird, who always exits the yard with an acrobatic flourish. IMG_0874 When we create these spaces for beauty in our lives, we can’t help but create joy.  I feel it as I sit here in the early morning scribbling my words.  I know it as I putter, watering my charges and pulling weeds.  I indulge myself as I daydream about the plants I will add next year.  The beauty of the garden is a luxury, but there are precious few things that we can do that bring us such joy.

What about you?  Why do you love to garden?

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Introducing Garden Sketch

Posted by on Jul 24, 2014 in Do it Yourself, Flowers, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Gardens | 1 comment

The Front Garden

The Front Garden

My quest to build a gardening App began two years ago. We had finished landscaping the yard at my new house. The lawn and garden beds were beautiful, but empty. I knew I had to get started but I had no idea how. It was classic blank page syndrome.

Front Yard Blank Slate

Front Yard Blank Slate

As I stared at my property from the sidewalk, I thought, “There must be an App for that!”  It’s exciting to be here a couple of years later and be introducing Garden Sketch, our flower gardening App.

At the time, I visited out the App store looking for something to simplify the job of mapping my yard so that I could plan what to plant. To my great surprise, there weren’t any. There were encyclopedias and ‘look books’, gardening magazines and weird photo Apps, which would allow you to take a picture and then paste pictures of plants into your garden on top.  Nothing to help me map the yard and then make a good plan for a flower garden.  There were lots of functional Apps to lay out vegetables gardens, complete with tips about how to grow carrots and lettuce. I was interested in planning flowers gardens. Vegetables would come later.

In the absence of a technological solution, I reverted to pencil and paper and got started.

Rough Sketch August 2012

Rough Sketch August 2012

We planted a Japanese Maple and added in the Shasta Daisies. I had loved the cheerful Black-Eyed Susans all summer, so I lined the sidewalk with them. It seemed like a couple of Smoke Bushes would add a wide brush stroke of colour to compliment the Maple, so those went in as well.   We planted in September and then we waited. Unsure how anything would look the next summer. It has been all trial and error, but I am happy with the way things have come along.

As I was moving through this process, I began talking to other people, friends and neighbours, but most understood and seemed excited about the idea of doing their garden planning work on an iPad. So I approached Todd and Tylor from Denim and Steel about what it would take to actually build what I imagined in my head. This past winter we applied for and received funding from Creative BC for the purposes of building a working prototype of what has become Garden Sketch.

With a cash infusion, we’ve begun construction. This past Thursday night we shared an Alpha vesion (early days!) with a small group and they got to play with the App and provide feedback to what we’ve built so far.

Alpha Testing Team for Garden Sketch

Alpha Testing Team for Garden Sketch

Our testers had a short steep curve to get started by learning how to use the App. They quickly go the hang of it and were soon calling out suggestions, especially to brighten the colours and the thickness of lines. Our older eyes are rather unforgiving. Here are some of the maps and designs they produced.

Alpha Tester's First Garden Sketch

Alpha Tester’s First Garden Sketch

I’m afraid our Todd from our tech team has thumped us all with his beautiful plan of what his perfect yard would look like.

toddsieling_2014-Jul-19

 

Coming soon? Water features.

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Tentative Gardener

Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Gardens |

Very few things are permanent in my garden.  I plant them, stare for a while (sometimes for a couple of years) before making a change.  I guess I’m something of a tentative gardener.  I need my plants to be hardy enough to sustain a move or two.  I suppose the best way to avoid this problem is to make a good plan.  Unfortunately, however, sometimes I fall in love with plants at the nursery and have to find a place for them when I get home.  Other times I second guess myself and must reverse the initial decision.  Finally, there are the times when I just realize that the plant just needs a better home.

Let me give you a few examples.  I really love what Proven Winners has done in the last few years.  You can buy a set of four to six plants to create your own beautiful containers and hanging baskets.  I bought this white set and added the Heliotrope to the centre for a bit of colour and some height. As the plants grew in, it looked ok, but not perfect, at least in my mind.

Container Garden Original

Container Garden Original

So I replaced the purple with a bit of Japanese Blood Grass that I had in another pot.  This is how that looked:

Container Gardening Take 2

Container Gardening Take 2

I think I really like the difference in height better.

Check out the side garden in my back yard the first summer after I set my hostas.  The was a fun exercise the autumn before.  Having spent so much money on landscaping, I then pillaged Ian’s and my friend Debbie’s garden for donations.

Stater Hosta Bed

Stater Hosta Bed

As I stared at my garden over the next summer, I decided that the lack of symmetry, was making me a little crazy, so I decided to move the large hosta from the front row to a position in the far right corner.  I also decided to split the Siberian Bugloss in the middle which had really begun to spread this spring.

The garden looks more balanced now.  It benefits from the symmetry, and of course the additions I have made.

Hosta Bed Makeover

Hosta Bed Makeover

There are risks.  My Siberian Bugloss looked rather limp for about six weeks after I made the move. I had split this chunk off to create a third patch.  Siberian Buglosses have become one of my perennial favourites.  It is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring and then literally explodes with tiny blue flowers reminiscent of forget me nots.  With a little prune, their variegated leaves have a metallic sheen for the rest of the summer and last long into our temperate winters.

Traumatized Siberian Bugloss

Traumatized Siberian Bugloss

I needn’t have worried.   With six weeks of gentle rehabilitation, my Siberian Bugloss had made a nice recovery.

Rehabilitated Siberian Bugloss

Rehabilitated Siberian Bugloss

There are lessons of course.  For me anything I bring into the yard will have to be hardy and bear with me as I find the ideal spot.  This may mean a couple of moves, but that is the way of the tentative gardener.

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Garden Basics: Water

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Gardens, Irrigation, Vegetable Gardens |

Weeping Hose Lay Out in Veggie Garden

Weeping Hose Lay Out in Veggie Garden

Gardening can be a little hard on the wallet.  There are always new gadgets and more plants to fill in that space, you know, between the hostas and the astilbes.  That said, I think that hands down the best purchase I made this year was a handy contraption: the Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer Watering System with Four Valves.  I bought mine at Lee Valley Tools, but it is widely available online.  Once I got it set up I realized how it helped address one of those key garden basics: water.  I am now convinced it will pay for itself in water savings and the increased produce from a regularly watered garden.  

The key problem I was trying to solve was that I had two separate garden beds initially  with two lines go out two separate sections of weeping hoses to water my front flowers gardens and my veggie garden running off a splitter attached to a manual timer (up to 120 min) screwed onto the tap which I had to manually activate each day.  Then if I wanted to do anything else, set up the lawn sprinkler or water my pots by hand, I had to start disconnecting hoses.

120 min Manual Timer with Splitter

120 min Manual Timer with Splitter

Now the two weeping hoses are on dedicated valves to water my front flowers gardens and my veggie garden for two hours each at 6 am daily.  Using the digital screen, there are loads of self explanatory programming options.  It was easier because I practiced programming it before attaching it to the tap.

Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer

Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer

The big upside for me was that I  now I have a the fourth valve which I can operate manually for these other jobs like wasting the car or manually watering my pots.

A couple other things to bear in mind when you are ready to install this digital water timer: 1) it takes two AA batteries  and 2) it has a high profile and will require some head room.  I installed mine in the garage and had to shift some shelves to fit it in.

If you search this product the online reviews were quite mixed.  I think this is because there is one critical piece of information that is not clear from the trouble shooting guide for this product.  After the first day I realized that the weeping hose off valve two was not closing and the water just continued to run.  If you just switched it to another valve, valve two would just consider to pour out, no matter what is was programmed for.

The instructions indicated that you should take out the batteries to reset the device, but this did not work.  Eventually I came across a very helpful review on Amazon.com that indicated that you need to do this as many times as it takes to reset the magnets in the valve.  In my case it took five times.  I was so relieved when it finally worked!  Since that the timer has worked beautifully and I highly recommend it.  It has saved me time switching out hoses and ensures that everything gets watered with consistently.

We’ve had a sunny, cool spring here in Vancouver this year with very little rainfall (except that one record breaking day–but that’s another story) so this system has proved critical to my early success.  I’m looking forward to finding something similar for the backyard.  Ian has another programmable timer but I have  become kind of attached to have that one line dedicated to manual watering without have to disconnect hoses and drag them across the yard, so may look for something that allows for more than just two lines.

I may just be in the market for another Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer Watering System.

If only these elaborate systems could also keep the weeds down!

If only these elaborate systems could also keep the weeds down!

 

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