Avanquest – Growing Plants Interactive Encyclopedia 3 Deluxe review

vast source of gardening information
Photo of Avanquest – Growing Plants Interactive Encyclopedia 3 Deluxe

Do you wish you had green fingers? Maybe you have an extensive garden and have been taking tips from all those garden programmes on UK Living but now can’t remember when to plant that amaryllis belladonna and what diseases it’s prone to? Wouldn’t it be ideal if you could access Gardeners Question Time 24/7 to answer all your horticultural difficulties?

Well, thanks to scientist and flora adorer Julian Wright, you can now have instant access to enormous amounts of helpful advice and information about more than 20,000 plants via your PC. This is the third edition of his encyclopaedia and clearly many hours of loving research and categorising have gone into expanding and enhancing a database that is designed to be both user-friendly and fully customisable.

It’s not just a reservoir of knowledge about household blooms, also encompassing trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, aquatics, vegetables, fruits, ferns, wild flowers, orchids, cacti, palms and mosses. You don’t need to have any specialist training either, as the interface is aimed at everyone from beginners and amateur naturalists to professional gardeners and teachers.

Once the software is loaded, the introduction contains an extensive menu with spoken explanations from Julian, his wife and a couple of assistants. Their delivery tends to be rather dry and academic but there’s no issue with the clarity and depth of each description.

You’ll quickly learn how to identify any plant by its common or Latin name (and again there’s a verbal pronunciation to spare your blushes!) and there are 130 check boxes to refine your search via colour of leaves, flowers and fruit. With 15,000 images to illustrate your plants – all of which can be seen as full screen slideshows or as thumbnails – you’ll soon rival Alan Titchmarsh with your powers of identification.

Once you’ve found your bloom, you’ll be guided towards separate pages dealing with pests, diseases and disorders; cultivation issues like seasonal colours, preferred soil types, hardiness and shape; a glossary of all the horticultural terms, plus a detailed understanding of how classification works.

You can then head for the Season Planner, which not only contains the best times and conditions to grow veg, fruits and flowers in and out of the greenhouse, but also divides the year into Northern and Southern hemispheres and advises how to cultivate your plants in the most organically friendly method.

If that wasn’t enough, you can add additional text and photos to the database at any stage so that it truly becomes your personal record of your performance as a gardener – marks out of ten, though, are not included.

Company: Avanquest

Contact: 0800 289041

It's hard to imagine a more useful and extensive database of horticultural expertise and knowledge packed onto one disc. For both amateur and enthusiast, Growing Plants should be as vital as your pruning sheers.