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opinion jane perrone GARDENING EXPERT AND AUTHOR

Want to fi nd out what’s going on in the world of horticulture? My inbox acts as my weathervane, the arrival of each new email giving me clues

was to which way the wind is blowing. When an email trumpeting the launch of

another robot lawnmower pinged in the other day, it confi rmed what I’d already suspected – labour-saving devices will go from strength to strength in 2014. My father once summed up gardening as “struggling with a crowbar under a hedge”. There is a kernel of truth in that, but now it’s possible to ditch the crowbar and spend more time enjoying your garden. Technological innovations in horticulture

aren’t new of course: just check out the pineapple pits at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall for proof of that. But rather than attempting to make tricky things easier, today’s gadgets are aimed at taking the work out of simple but irksome tasks, like keeping the lawn in trim, or taking the guesswork out of the bread-and-butter jobs such as watering. Of course this doesn’t mean all of us are going to be kicking back with a Pimm’s while a robot grafts away on the grass: at around £1,200 a pop, they’re not going replace everyone’s Flymo quite yet.

apps as a matter of course: to help them pick plants for their garden, warn them when frost is due and troubleshoot pests and diseases – there’s even an app that fi nds the nearest garden centre and gives you its opening hours. Gadgets are springing up to cater for smartphone users, such as the Fliwer (www.fl, which measures conditions around your plants and tells you what they need, when they need it, feeding all the information through to your fi ngertips. Still, it doesn’t mean garden centre staff can fall back on technology for the answers: increasingly I’m snapping photos of desirable plants I spot in other people’s gardens on my phone and heading to the garden centre, expecting the knowledgeable staff to identify and then track down the object of my desire.

"rather than attempting to make tricky things easier, today's gadgets are aimed at taking the work out of simple but irksome tasks "

It’s not all Wi-Fi and remote controls, Bosch Indego robotic lawnmower However, with UK smartphone ownership

reaching 70 per cent, we can expect gardeners to be downloading gardening

though – another area of innovation has been in seed sowing. Seed tapes and discs used to be hit-and-miss, but the technology has been refi ned so that they’re easier and more reliable to use. Plus products such as the BeeMat ( and Simple Sowing’s wildfl ower carpet kit ( offer an easy way to tap into the ongoing trend for pollinator-friendly fl owers and meadow-style plantings. I am also defi nitely going to be investing in Simple Sowing’s fl ower seed tapes impregnated with a natural slug and snail repellent. Many of the seed fi rms have also cottoned on to the popularity of seed

shakers, too, with Suttons’ Floral Fusions seed mixes the latest to join the market. I think of these as the Shake n’ Vac of horticulture, a cheap and cheerful product that appeals to busy people who want to get things right fi rst time: although sadly gardeners still need to be reminded that there are no shortcuts when it comes to soil preparation.

Garden Glory’s Gold Digger hosepipe and holder

Let’s get back to the robot mower for a

moment. I am not sure it’s going to be bought by lawn obsessives: rather it’s a form of garden bling, something they’re hoping the neighbours will spot over the fence – and lust after. Companies are waking up to the fact that

customers want glamour. For years we’ve been able to buy hoses in any colour as long as they’re green, but not so this year. Garden Glory’s high-quality designer hosepipe (available from, which comes in black, pink and – shock horror – gold, and can be mounted on an antler- shaped holder.

Jane Perrone is The Guardian’s gardening editor and the author of The Allotment Keeper’s Handbook.

MORE FROM JANE @janeperrone



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