Focus – Your Garden Encyclopedia Deluxe Edition review

information on thousands of garden plants
Photo of Focus – Your Garden Encyclopedia Deluxe Edition

The English language is such a quirky and eccentric thing. Someone who’s good at gardening is said to have green fingers, yet we don’t call an adept swimmer blue fingered. Or a bad mountaineer black fingered. But whether you’re stereotypically green fingered or not, an informative garden encyclopedia is a must for the keen gardener, and why not have an easy-to-search CD as opposed to a whacking great book?

When it comes to the humble multimedia encyclopedia, there are always the obligatory statistical facts to deal with, so here goes. This disc contains information on over 17,400 plants, with almost 9,000 pictures, most of which are in colour. There’s no video content, which might seem fair enough – who wants to watch a sunflower growing, after all – although perhaps some filmed illustrations of gardening techniques such as correct pruning wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The main meat of the program is the database of plants itself. You can browse through this or search for a specific plant by name or, if it’s an unknown entity, by colour, shape and so forth. We performed a few test searches on some mysterious bushes in our back garden, but sadly the results didn’t narrow the database down nearly enough; we were still left with a thousand or so possible plants it could be, even after entering every drop of available information.

The plant descriptions are somewhat brief but reasonably informative, with details of flowering times, suitable climate, maximum growth height and so on. Pictures are provided with some entries and a handy cultivation screen is also linked. This informs you of the full range of optimum growth conditions; not just the required temperature the species needs to thrive, but the PH of the soil and other more technical details.

There’s also a plant health section which lists common disease and pest problems, as well as suggested treatments, and this is certainly useful. Rounding off the package is a season planner. Specify a month and it will tell you the basic tasks you should be getting on with when it comes to vegetables, flowers, hedges and more.

Unfortunately, Garden Encyclopedia Deluxe is let down quite badly by its presentation. The program is blatantly an old one, with a Windows 3.1 style interface, dated visuals and clunky menu buttons (the functions of which aren’t explained particularly well in many cases). Even the photographic material isn’t too hot, as it features rather small pictures. There’s a zoom button, but all this does is blur and pixellate the image.

Company: Focus

Contact: 01889 570156

There's a decent range of plants covered here and some useful information pertaining to them, particularly the health and cultivation sections. However, searching the encyclopedia for specific plants is an exercise in frustration, and the interface and presentation in general are poor. We expected better than this, even at a budget price.