We did this interview on my 51st birthday, Tuesday, July 31, 2018 and here’s some pre-chat before we talk about how to make your plants smart and the Smart Plant App and their beautiful Smart Plant Website.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up with a dad who was a gardener. So we were in the yard all the time and he paid me 50¢ an hour to weed which is now my least favorite thing to do in the garden. We grew radishes because they were easiest thing to grow and graduated to giant pumpkins!
I grew up and knew all the latin names for the plants more then the common names because that’s how my parents referred to them and I would just say them and people would say what?
I ended up with my husband working on the
west coast garden line
with horticultural expert Bruce Asakawa.
Where people could call in for 2 hours on Sat and Sunday. My husband and I were not on the radio we were on the board, doing the mechanics of radio network broadcasting. So I had 4 hours of listening to an expert every weekend and then I spent
many more years
learning about gardening intentionally.
Gardening in the millennial age
Now, here I am today, our company has evolved we have a gardening app that helps people garden in the millennial age
- super easy
- handhelds people
- don’t have to become a master gardener to have a successful planty life.
Let’s just go right into it because I’m sure listeners, I am curious what is it, are going to be interested and they are going to love your gorgeous website that is just streamlined and every picture just makes you just want to crawl right into it.
so we founded the millennial gardeners, there’s sort of this big blip of demographics. We found that they didn’t want to become gardeners like their grandparents. But they lead these lives that are maybe
- city based
- inside on balconies
- teeny plots of land
They really wanted information given to them, they are used to things being sort of immediate gratification.
We had this idea we developed an app
like to travel (Follow Siri on Instagram here) and I love plants. I would be walking in my neighborhood, or foreign countries and I would see plants and I would want to know what it was. It’s super hard to do it on google.
So we developed this app!
You simply take a picture of something
- live people
- submit the photo through the app
- ask a question and they tell you what the plant is!
Initially the app was getting tons and tons of people downloading it but we found they weren’t sending in photos.
We found out that people wanted more specific information on care so we created the
care calendar, you send it in to the app, and the experts send you regionally care specific. Zip code specific. Eventually you will be able to get that info through the app and you’ll get notifications that say hey bring that ______________ in because it doesn’t like the frost tonight!
For now it basically tells you
this is the time you need to be deadheading or fertilizing because this is the plant you told us you have.
That gets more specific because now we have the barcode scanning function and we’ve partnered with
- garden stores
- plant manufacturers
and you can walk into a garden retailer,
- open the app
- scan the barcode
- all the plant info loads onto your phone
and load that into the care calendar.
You don’t have to go through the process of taking pictures, you can still do that, we have the plant library but we are always looking to streamline.
Oh when you get care information, the Smart Plant App will also tell you what you need. If it says you need fertilizer, we tell you what kind of fertilizer you don’t have to
you have the option
if you want to click through and see where you can buy it but we’re trying to make it super easy for people to keep their plant alive.
This sounds too good to be true? And amazing! How long have you been working on it?
We launched the app 3 years ago, but you know how it is with technology it’s never great right out of the gate, there’s fixes and fixes.
This April we did a massive overall and now it’s as elegant as the website and super functional.
- see videos
- look for plants according to the room they do well in
some plants like humidity and will do well in the bathroom
You can choose bathroom and say I should go get a Boston fern or whatever for your bathroom
Or for your balcony or bedroom.
Some plants put off more oxygen at night so those kinds of plants help you sleep
Now you can get all that from the homescreen of the app it just keeps getting better and better and better!
And it’s free right? How does that work?
Just like all free things, there is a paid version as well. You know how if you download Words With Friends you can download for free, but you can get rid if you want to get rid of the ads you have to pay.
We don’t do that, but we do pay the live people who are looking at all your stuff all the time, so there is a cost and we have to make money.
that includes a certain amount, you get like 3 free ids and chats and you get one new free one every month, if you don’t want to have any new ids.
If you just want to barcode scan all your plants
You just put them in your care calendar
let’s say you need a lot of things identified then you would get the paid version
What’s wrong with this plant?
a lot of questions we don’t just identify plants like you can send in a picture of a sad yellowing plant or
What’s wrong with my ficus?
An expert will look at it and say it looks like this kind of bug. That kind of interaction counts and you get 3 initially
- one a month
- if you need more of those you can buy the premium plan
No way! That’s amazing! People ask that all the time! You know cause you listened to 4 hours of garden questions a week! You obviously know, I just talked to a listener Angel Garbabino in episode 239 who was saying, she had this mildew and she couldn’t figure out what to do.
It’s available on both iTunes and Android.
I can’t remember how I found you, but the thing I fell in love with was the Book Club! I see you have Floret ‘s book and I’ve been thinking about starting a book club with Jean Martin Fortier’s Book Market Gardener: A successful Grower’s Handbook for Small Scale Organic Farming and the John Jeavon’s
I tried to do one on Anna Hess’s Home Grown Humus but I had a hard time getting everyone online and the technology to work.
I have a feeling you’re gonna have to message me after this interview and telling me your favorite books and include them in the book club.
So we have this app and everyone’s all tech savvy
Then you have books, and books are like the opposite in a way. They are tangible and you can bring them into your home. I don’t think they are going away.
I don’t either.
So I grew up with this gardening dad but he was also a massive reader. I personally love books, so I said let’s start the book club. We have a place where people are using our app so we could make a place where there could be community.
We could do give aways and ship them. It gives you something tangible in the intangible world of the internet.
plants are hard to ship but books you can ship
Books are beautiful like gardens are beautiful.
I am only gonna do books I love. It’s personal I like the book.
- bought by a publisher
- will you review your book
- I wonder if it’s weird if I never do a bad review,
- sponsored or something
If it’s a book I don’t like, I’m not gonna read a book, I don’t want to have a book club collection with a crappy book.
I might be in Anthropologie
When I find a book that I like, I’m like cause I will see if this will be good for the gardening book club members.
I do that thinking will the author do an interview with me, or I almost always start out first at my library and see if they have it before I buy it. Then I can look at it and see, then if I want to buy it, I go that way. I do the same thing taking pictures in the book stores or garden stores.
When I find a book that I like and I am going to feature it.
I contact the publisher and ask them to send an extra copy or two just to give away.
Give aways for just book club members
So we create these book give aways just for book club members.
Sometimes we just surprise send a book to someone! Somebody could get a book and go what! I think at the end of the year I want to do something fun and have someone get all the books we featured in one year, so it would be 12 books to one person! IT’s just fun!
There’s something about books that fuels your soul, maybe similarly to how plants do. There’s something you get, or I do threw paging through books.
So that’s our book club!
There’s something about garden books you tend to go back and read them for reference, you go back and read them and read them. Idk how many times I have read the
And in school we spend so much time studying the comprehension strategy reread, teaching the kids to reread, I reread my curriculum guides everytime, I watch movies over and over too.
My listeners are really into reading
I know they are, they talk about it on my show, they talk about it they’re very into learning, I’ve had very few guests say they don’t read, but I would say if you are episode 249, the other 248 are pretty prolific readers.
I have a tendency to choose books that are somewhat easy reads and not encyclopedic. I haven’t yet, I haven’t chosen you books that are teaching you how to graft or how to do a perc test. I think most people aren’t doing things these days.
Like my first book was
that took me back to my childhood, and I was like I totally remember how to macrame, and that’s such a big feature and trend right now.
For the term urban jungle
the interior wilding of spaces people are doing macrame wall hangings for their plant based decor, and indoor plants
That’s awesome I totally remember macraming planters in fifth grade and when we had a hemp business way back in the early nineties we made hemp bracelets that were macramed and my mom has tons of indoor plants, my friend Nola is like the African Violet queen. We don’t talk about that much at all.
Thinking about the indoor books, one was called the
You might think what do rocks and crystals have to do with plants?
Most people don’t think about it but they’re like roommates. I did research into it and people are putting crystals with plants and putting them with pots. I did a study and if you make shongite water you get this black stone and water your plants you get these measurably increased results with your plants.
Different rocks had different effects on your plants
No Way, Who knew?
Our August book is
- making cocktails
- persimmons spritzer
A lot of times we grow those things and don’t know what to do with them.
One of my most downloaded episodes is my brother on Long Island and he talks about mint in their cocktails.
They’re having a Renaissance, let me tell you. These sort of master crafter people.
IDK why I didn’t join right then. Cause it’s free too? Right?!
It’s fun! Someone said we should do this thing like shop the look like everyone else does.
Shop the Look
- read the review
- buy the book
- supplies that you need
Like for the
Macrame book you get the
- o rings
- all the things that you need
Which is really handy for the Terrarium book.
So where do they get that? In like their email?
So when you join the book club, you get one email a month which talks about the book and you get the link to the book with the full review and get the link to the shop the look page. There’s a member access page, you get the email and we remind you what the password is. You get the full access.
Listeners you’ve got to get the shop the look for Erin’s book Floret‘s book it’s got everything like the pruners that she uses etc. Maybe I was busy that day, if I’m editing, and I find a page, I will quickly send the email off to invite the guest but I have to get the episode out so I don’t always have a lot of time but I will forget if I don’t just do it right then and there. I’m sure that’s what happened that day. I feel like I could spend hours on your website digging through your shop the look. You seem to have the data of what people want and this is amazing!
We’re all in it together and we all want the same things.
I’m gonna read the Terrarium book and get all hyped up about making my own terrarium, and it’s not always that easy, and so we just know what we like and put it all together.
It totally reminds me of that movie the Intern with Anne Hathaway and Robert Di Nero
and the director is Nancy Meyers, she’s one of my favorite movies.
I had to show my mom, she’s about the look, no about the fit, but this is like about the fit for gardeners. Plus my website needs so much help, people go to my website and leave right away but one of these days I’m gonna figure it out.
So make sure you sign up here for the book club
How do we connect with you?
You can get the app on itunes or googleplay and download for free called smartplant
is our handle
Also on Instagram we have a secondary feed
Every week we profile someone with a story
A lot of people garden with their grandparents, one woman said ivy saved her daughters life because she had a mold allergy and it controlled the mold
interesting anecdote and featured story
It’s all about people and their journey with plants so it’s a fun feed to follow
join the book club and you put your email address and you get one email a month and you can read it or not!
THANK YOU SO MUCH! This has been the best birthday present. Thanks so much!
It has so been fun talking with you! Chow!
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