Smart Phones and their ‘apps’ are increasingly playing a role in our everyday lives and now even orchid growers are getting a piece of the action. Here is a discussion of two widely used applications that cater to the hobbyist.
The concept of Orchid Notebook is brilliant. Finally a way to keep track of those dozens of orchids scattered around the house - what they look like, what their names are, how to grow them.
Orchid Notebook is easy to use for record keeping. Simply type in the name of the orchid, take a picture, and the entire orchid collection is at the tip of your fingers. Adding, deleting, or changing plants is a cinch. The app shows a running total of the number of plants for quick reference…as it is not uncommon for hobbyists to rapidly acquire new orchids – via shopping sprees at orchid shows or nurseries.
There is also relatively accurate culture information for the five most popular genera (Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, and Phalaenopsis) as well as four lesser-known genera (Brassavola, Encyclia, Phragmepedium, and Vanilla). Included are sample pictures that are generally helpful although a few of the examples are obscure or misleading. Noticeably absent is information about Cymbidiums, Miltonias, and Vandas. At the end is a list of ‘recommended favorites’ for each genera. Unfortunately, most are hard-to-come-by species along with a few unknown hybrids.
It is doubtful that any industry professionals were consulted when making this app. Throughout the program, key botanical words such as ‘species’, ‘hybrid’, and ‘variety’ are used interchangeably, even though they have entirely different meanings. As if correct orchid nomenclature isn’t confusing enough, this app is sure to complicate matters.
The ‘free’ version of Orchid Notebook allows for five entries of an orchid collection and is likely just for sampling purposes. The full version is quite affordable at $2.99. Despite its shortcomings, I would still recommend Orchid Notebook for the casual grower or someone just getting into orchids. Perhaps in future versions, the ‘kinks’ will be worked out.
One application that growers of all levels will appreciate is the Light Meter. With a few clicks, a phone can be magically transformed into a device that measures the intensity of sunlight – an important factor in plant growth. Originally developed for photographers, this program uses the tiny sensor of the phone to measure the sun and provide the result in ‘Foot-Candles’. Hobbyists who grow low light orchids such as Paphiopedilums and Phalaenopsis aim for light levels in the 1,500 to 2,000 FC range. Intermediate light orchids such as Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, and Oncidiums are happiest at 3,000 to 4,000 FC.
There are many companies offering Light Meters and, in reading the reviews, some are better than others. New and improved versions are being introduced regularly. I am especially taken by the ‘Retro’ ones with an analog gauge and needle that point to the Foot Candle reading. It is not necessary to be ultra precise with cultural aspects of orchid growing. These plants are from the rainforest and can tolerate a little give and take.
As new orchid applications hit the market, hobbyists will be further able to enhance their growing experience.