An American Living In An English Garden (Part 2)

Last week we sat with Erica Simmons in the tranquility of her Blue Mountain River Lodge garden. Today, Simmons shares how she cares for her garden using technology.

Given her professional technological background, using this method seems quite fitting.

Among the unfamiliar plants encountered by the new occupant was a vine intertwined with the bougainvillea at the front of the cottage. The vine produced the most interesting tubular bud. Instead of contacting the Jamaica Horticultural Society (JHS), Simmons searched for a gardening app that allowed her to take pictures of the plant and upload them to its database for identification. The app worked well and quickly in identifying the plant as a Dutchman's pipe cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum), also known as “Queen of the Night”. Over three to four days, Simmons' family watched as the most beautiful night-blooming flowers emerged. The flowers were white and large, and released an intoxicating perfume at night. The app also informed her that the cactus's blooms would take a few days to open and thereafter, a large white flower opened and released its scent. The bloom lasts for one night only.

“I spent several nights up late past midnight waiting for the flowers to open and fully release the fragrance.” The Queen of the Night was also quite easy to care for, relatively trouble-free and can grow up to six metres. It blooms in the springtime in full to partial sunlight. The 2021 spring saw a minimum of two blooms per six flowers.

Armed with the app that worked so well on the Dutchman's pipe cactus, she decided to use it on other plants. Her Blue Mountain River Cottage is home to a large colony of Doctor Birds. She has become used to hearing the humming of the wings and seeing them flit around the yard, and they always stop at these unusual red and yellow arching shrubs. The gardening app identified the plant as another interesting shrub called Rubra or Red Chinese Hat or cup and saucer plant (Holmskioldia Sanguinea). These winter deciduous shrubs are also easy to take care of and can be pruned in winter for fuller, showier blooms.

Additionally, the app also identified the firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis) or coral fountain plant, a favourite of butterflies, Cat's Claws (Gloriosa superba lily), the Euphorbia leucocephala or snow-on-the-mountain plant. This plant appears green all year round, but it changes colour to completely white during December. This plant also releases a lovely perfume. The app also stated that the plant spreads by seeds, and she has seen at least five clumps of this small shrub all around her yard.

Additional technology used in gardening

Simmons shared that the app used to identify plants is one example of available technologies. Other high-tech gardening solutions include sensors and data collecting products such as sprinkler systems that sense when it is time to water the yard and lawnmower robots that create maps of the lawn; and then optimise the cutting paths. These outdoor cameras allow you to monitor the yard for wildlife movements and WiFi. Sensors are placed inside pots to measure temperature, humidity, and sunlight levels.

It is important to note, with the implementation of 5G technology, Jamaicans should have quicker access to more and more data in the palm of their hands. It is vital to support the implementation of the highest quality of broadband access throughout the island for gardeners.

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