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Landscape (App)itecture

By on June 7, 2011.

Our day-to-day lives are becoming much easier to handle as advancements in technology continue to grow exponentially.  One advancement in particular is the cellular telephone, more commonly known today as a “smart phone”.  I’ll even bet that most of you reading this post have a smart phone.  Whether it’s an iPhone or Android, you probably already know that these phones have the ability to run applications or ‘apps’, which are computer-like programs that vary in uses from simple video games to programs commonly found on regular desktop computers.

It’s these smart phones and apps, that I feel, will have a positive impact on the way landscape architects work.  A couple of apps I have recently discovered are the Dirr Tree and Shrub Finder app from Timber Press, and LeafSnap (sorry Droid users, these apps are currently only available for the iPhone).

Dirr Tree and Shrub Finder is a digital version of Micheal Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, and allows you to browse or search through over 9,400 plants by way of 72 criteria, some of which include common and botanical name, form, hardiness zones, and fall colors.  The app, released at the end of 2010, is currently available for a small price of $14.99.

LeafSnap is a more recent app, released in May of 2011, and has the ability to identify a plant species by analyzing the leafs shape from a picture taken by the user.  This ‘first of its kind’ app uses facial recognition technology (developed by experts at Columbia University and the University of Maryland, a research staff at the Smithsonian Institution, and the non-profit organization Finding Nature) to distinguish characteristics of the picture.  If unsuccessful at determining the exact specie, the app will offer several possible matches, from which the user can then browse and more accurately determine the correct plant specie.  LeafSnap is currently available for a very small price of FREE!!!

These apps, along with many others available for smart phones and tablets, provide a wealth of knowledge at the swipe of a finger.  They not only allow the landscape architect to travel lightly (Michael Dirr’s manual is over 1,100 pages), but they also provide for a more accurate analysis of existing conditions while in the field, when you just can’t figure out what that plant you learned in college was called.

Will Ramhold is a contributing writer for Landscape Invocation.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Florida, and is a current graduate student studying architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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