Monday, 26 January 2015

Plan to Garden - Garden Planning eTools

Got garden planning fever?  A bout hit me while online, so instead of my usual garden planning MO (grabbing a random piece of paper and pen, doodling, and inevitably misplacing it), I decided to give two free online garden planning tools a try.

Garden Planner 3 

Start creating your own birds-eye-view garden plan or open up one of four sample plans and start editing.  The online demo version allows for printing, but not saving.  A 15 day free trial of version 3.2 is available and for $ 34 you can own the program

My backyard (approximately) in Garden Planner 3
  •  A number of generic items you would find in a garden (such as flowers, trees, furniture, planters) are programmed in
  • It's easy to change the colour and size of these items once you've added them in
  • You can draw your own items using the "tools" tab and label accordingly

  • You need to click a button to switch between "moving" or "resizing" an object
  • When resizing, instead of one edge changing, the object increases or decreases with the middle point staying static
  • Windows keyboard short cuts (e.g. Ctrl-C to copy) do not work.
  • Online demo (free) cannot save

Overall thoughts:
Fun to play with, but not very user-friendly.  Other reviewers of the free demo have called it no better than moving around paper cutouts.

Better Homes and Gardens' Plan-A-Garden

Create a free account with Better Homes and Gardens ( to start dragging and dropping plants and garden elements onto one of 27 "scenery" backgrounds.  Upgrade with a $ 9.99 subscription or purchase the program license to "unlock" plants and items or to upload your own photo as a background.

My front yard (approximately) with horizontal plan view in BHG's Plan-A-Garden

  • Plant information is included: You can filter by shade and light requirements and clicking on the object's information button will take you to the BHG's plant encyclopedia
  • Realistic looking plants and objects 
  • Search available for objects
  • The main view let's you view the plan vertically, while the "Plan View" allows you to to see and edit the horizontal layout

  • Undo button undoes all changes until last save
  • No drawing abilities - limited to item lists (which do not include annuals or some of the most common plants in Edmonton e.g. peonies, mountain ash trees)
  • Can increase or decrease the size of items, but not change its proportions or colours
  • Print function is of main view and includes no notes on plants used

Overall thoughts:
Moderately fun to play with, but lacks functionality and practicality. The pretty plants and objects are quickly overshadowed by the limited selection and inability to "create your own" stand-ins. 

Final Notes 

Again, while fun to play with, neither program really delivered what I needed.  One gets what one pays for!  Of the two, based on the features shown in the free version, I'd more likely buy Garden Planner 3 for it's flexibility and then search online for plant information.  But, I think at the moment I'm just as good to invest in a dedicated garden planning note book for my doodles and some coloured paper to make cutouts.  

Have you tried other online Garden Planning Tools?  Have you found one worth the cost?  What's your favourite way to plan a garden? 

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