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!

What exactly am I doing here?

Mallorn Computing mentioned in The Garden.

Judy White and Graham Rice’s 1999 article mentioning Mallorn Computing in The Garden magazine.

What exactly am I doing here?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start an existentialist discussion.  This is more likely to be a discussion about social media, pleasing the masses, and picking a direction and sticking with it.  Maybe not even a discussion.  We’ll call it a soul-searching rant (with just a hint of existentialism, a smattering of positivism, and a dash of rationalism). has been around for eighteen years (sixteen if you don’t count the time it was hosted by Mallorn Computing, Inc.).  In internet years that’s as old as dirt.  Some of the same features that were started in 1995 are still active (which I’ll claim as a testament to my excellent coding skills and not some fluke or indication of laziness in updating things).  Other features are newer (like our sHORTurl service).  I’m trying to grow and accommodate the needs of Internet users, but lately it’s been like herding cats.  Or trying to find Thismia americana.

It seems that when I start working on a feature for the Internet landscape will change, and then I’ll have to switch gears to work on another feature.  Rinse, repeat.  I’m starting a lot of projects and finishing none of them.  For example, I was trying to make the image gallery into a canonical source of plant photographs for people.  But then Google essentially stole the content and people stopped visiting.  They could get the photos from Google without even being aware that existed.

So I started blogging and facebooking and tweeting to bring new visitors to, but it doesn’t feel quite right.  It might be because I’m rudderless.  I’m posting a scattered hodge-podge of miscellaneous gardening links with no real commonality.  A lot of people make a very successful living doing nothing and talking about it, but that doesn’t particularly interest me.  The whole social media thing is like a giant mutual appreciation society — I’ll follow you if you follow me.  And I have been — following right down the rabbit hole, wondering why my Klout score had dropped or I was unfollowed, and traffic to still wasn’t increasing.

I started to leverage technology for the green industry.  I have a BLA (Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a MS (Master of Science) in Horticulture from the same institution.  But as a kid I was a computer nerd and accomplished a great number of nerdly things.¹   In college most of my elective courses involved things like computer visualization, databases, and programming, and I took on special projects to tie it into my curricula.  This was cutting edge stuff in pre-internet days.  I saw (and still see) how little the green industry used technology, and I wanted to make a difference by melding the two.

I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished that…  yet.  I started down the right path, to the point that Mallorn Computing and were mentioned in magazines like RHS’s The Garden or Horticulture here in the states.  But I don’t have focus.

Instead, I think I need to pick one topic and run with it.  I have an idea, and I think that you’ll all like it when it’s announced.

Social media is great for getting the word out and has its place, but it’s not going to add content and features to the site.  It’s not going to make people want to stay and participate.  So for now I may tweet and post and blog and whatever, but my expectations and reasons will be different.  I’ll be sharing something because I think it’s interesting or needs to be said, but social media won’t be the focus.  I’m not doing it for the exposure, but instead for the ability to share with people.  I’ll tend to our gardens, both virtual and real, and let that feed my soul.  Hopefully I’ll make the world a better place in the process.

tl;dr²:  Now I’m hanging out with you because you’re interesting, not because I want something.  And is going to get cooler.

¹ At twelve I wrote programs to manage my stamp collection and balance my mother’s checkbook; by the age of 17 I had written a basic window manager in Assembly that ran on MSDOS 3.3.  I told you — nerdly.
²tl;dr stands for ‘Too long; didn’t read’.  It provides a summary.