Announcing our plant patent tracker

PP25095, submitted image

PP25095, submitted image

We’ve been interested in plant patents for a while at  It’s fascinating to track them and see what’s in the pipes for floriculture, crop sciences, or landscaping.  We realized that it was becoming tedious to monitor this stuff using the standard tools that are out there, so we started populating our own database with plant patent data.

Every Tuesday we report on the past week’s issue plant patents.  Right now we just give you the name of the plants that patents were issued for, but we’re extending our database to include:

  • assignee
  • inventor (breeder/discoverer)
  • attorney
  • patent examiner
  • applicant city/state/country
  • expiration date
  • scientific name
  • all plant patents available electronically, back to December 1976

We think it would be interesting to be able to search for all of the patents issued to a given breeder, see which countries are specializing in hybridization of what species, etc.

What features would you like to see?  Comment below, and check back every Tuesday to see the latest updates!

Email changes at, caused by AOL and Yahoo!

The problem

Recently AOL and Yahoo! implemented changes that prevented mail from and from going through any server other than their own.

This meant that AOL and Yahoo! users couldn’t send mail through many internet mailing lists — their messages were just deleted and nobody ever saw them.

We didn’t think this was very fair for AOL and Yahoo! to do to their users, so we came up with a workaround at

The solution

Now, when you send an email to a address you get a unique email address at that will be tied to that email address forever.  We replace your email address with one for, so now it doesn’t look like it came from your address any more.

For example, if

sends an email to the perennials mailing list, their email might be rewritten to look like it came from

Our mail server will always remember that address, and if anyone sends a message there it will be forwarded back to the original email address associated with it (after spam and virus checking, of course).

There are lots of advantages to this:

  1. AOL and Yahoo! users can now send messages to mailing lists at again!
  2. If other sites implement policies like AOL and Yahoo! did their mail won’t be lost.
  3. Email addresses can be hidden in future messages added to the archives.
  4. Putting this change in place made some of the other plans easier to implement.  You’ll be able to change how your name appears in emails, for example.

So when you send an email to one of our mailing lists, don’t freak out if the address looks weird.  It’s intentional, it’s good, and it’s making sure your message gets out while protecting your privacy.


On green thumbs, luck, and magic in the garden

Woman peering into crystal ball

This young gardener scries to figure out why her plant died.

We all know somebody with a green thumb.

It’s a grandmother, an aunt, a grandfather, father, or sometimes it’s some young Johnny Appleseed who just has to look at a tree to make it grow.  We wish we had that green thumb, but we joke that ours is black, we’re cursed, or what have you.  It turns out that many of us actually believe it.

A recent survey by Today’s Garden Center shows that most gardeners “under 49 years old often think success in gardening is a result of luck.”  Many of the respondents viewed gardening as a risk — they had to weigh the potential gains against the potential financial loss when buying a plant.

I’m going to share a secret:  There is rarely luck; it’s mostly science.

It’s sometimes hard to figure out what plants need because plants can’t talk back and tell us when they need something, but the information is out there.  Mostly, it comes down to experience.  That’s probably why people aged fifty and over didn’t list luck as a major factor in gardening any more.

So how do people get that knowledge?  You could muddle your way through and learn by trial and error, but it’s an expensive route in terms of both time and money.  There are two easier ways to get there:

  • Read!  Follow blogs, read some books, search the Internet!  But be careful and make sure that your sources are good ones.  There’s a lot of misinformation out there.
  • Interact!  Join a gardening club or seed swap.  Join some online gardening groups like the ones at  Talk with people and pick their brains.  Chances are you’re not alone in whatever you’re trying to do.

We’re going to help you here, too.  These winter doldrums are getting to us, so it’s time to start writing tips. Things like how to dig a hole (believe it or not, this isn’t as straightforward as you might think).  How to make your own soil mix.  Ways to propagate plants, install your own irrigation, battle deer, battle weeds, battle pests…  The list goes on and on.  But don’t let this daunt you — sure, there are a lot of possible topics.  But you don’t need to know them all to garden well.  Following these rules is almost always enough:

  1. Respect your plants’ needs!  Research their needs and try to grow them in a matching space.  Think about sun, water, drainage, and temperatures.
  2. Make sure your plants get water if they need it.  If a plant dries out too much, it suffers.
  3. Don’t overwater your plants!  This is probably the #1 cause of death in cultivated plants.  Make sure they get drainage if it’s needed.
  4. Fertilize your plants accordingly.  Plants usually do better with fertilizer.  Just make sure you use the right fertilizer for the right plant.
  5. Watch for diseases and pests.  If you see something that looks wrong with a plant, find out what it is and fix it, if possible.

Do you have any questions you’d like to have answered?  Let us know!