Plant Database forum: Incorporating Plant Care Guides into our database

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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
May 29, 2016 3:09 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

This is a very lengthy and technical post that lays out a lot of thought about the parent plants aspect of the plants database. It's an important topic that will have large and long-lasting ramifications to how we run the database. The numbers of visitors to this website has increased by over 500% in the past couple months. The majority of those visitors are coming to our database and articles, and they are looking for information to help them succeed in their gardening endeavors. Our primary mission is to educate those gardeners, and we're all working together to do that.

Trish and I have been spending a lot of time reviewing the new content that came in via the old NGA website. Our goal is to incorporate everything that came with the website into the original design of the site.

Our current target is to tackle the Plant Care Guides. You can see them by clicking on "Plant Care" in the left-side navigation bar. It's a basic care guide for the most popular plants out there. Each guide talks about the plant, how to grow it, how to propagate it, etc. There are quite a few plants that are featured in that section, and we want to retain this content and then start expanding it, giving more information for each plant, and adding new plants to the guide page.

Well, our thinking is that the best way to accomplish this is to incorporate the Plant Care guide directly into the database. We have the "Parent Plant" feature, and we have a parent plant setup already for almost every popular kind of plant. We even have a free-form article system for each entry. Many people don't know that this already exists, but you can see an example of it here:

Irises (Iris)

As a separate but related note, I have never been perfectly happy with precisely how we're handling the "parent plant" system in the database. It is complicated and a little non-intuitive for many of our database users, but it has served our uses quite nicely. It's main use is as a place for genus-level pictures and notes (and soon care guides) but also for including databox details that will then be copied down to all matching plants under its own category.

What I want to do is change how we're showing the parent plants, and I want to change what we call them. I'm not yet sure what that will be, but it'll be something that conveys the meaning that it is a page that fills several objectives:

1) It's the "home page" for each kind of plant in our database.

2) It contains information that is common to that kind of plant. All care guides go there, as well as any data details. Also, it will continue to serve as a database plant entry where people interact with it even when they don't know what kind of plant they have, but don't know the specific species or cultivar.

3) It will be a portal to let people access certain tools specific to that kind of plant, like the "Search by type", "search by cultivar" and stuff like that.

So looking at Daylilies. We have two pages: The homepage for Daylilies, and then we have the parent plant itself:

Homepage: The Daylilies Database
Parent Plant: Daylilies (Hemerocallis)

So, my goal is to merge the above two pages (and do this for all plant types in the database) and from there, start adding the care guides and also reformat that merged page.

Then at some point in the near future, I will merge all the care guide information into each parent plant, and then we can make a new "Plant Care Guides" page that contains links to each "parent plant" homepage, where visitors and members can easily and quickly get access to the information they need for each kind of plant.

Depending on how my coming week goes, I am planning to get started with this work very soon. Any thoughts in the meantime would be welcomed, especially from our plants admins and moderators, but also from all the other users of our database.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
May 29, 2016 5:08 PM CST
Sounds like a wonderful plan to me ... making our database even better!
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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
May 29, 2016 5:11 PM CST
I'm having trouble visualizing this (no surprise) but if it will tell me what to do once my plants are past their prime, that would be wonderful. Seems that info is sorely lacking in garden books and other resources.
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Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
May 29, 2016 6:56 PM CST
The problem I'm seeing is to much information on one page. To me that Iris page is very long and if I was looking for Iris info I'm not sure how long I would have read before I gave up looking. I think what you should have done there is have a brief intro article about Irises. Then a list of article titles or title with a short snippet like the articles on the home page, that link to the actual articles. I like the idea of a central genus page as a portal to articles and "true" parent/category pages or whatever you might decide to name them. I've always had a problem with the genus/parents pages. The genus level is just to broad to clone data across the entire genus. Looking at Irises, the only date is perennial and showy. Look at my area of interest which is Hibiscuses. The genus is over 250 species that range from swamps to desert, 20 + feet to under a foot, annual to perennial. There is not much you can be applied to the entire genus, but if the genus page were linked to parent plants at the species level like Hibiscus moscheutos, H. rosa-sinensis, H. syriacus then you could much more easily clone data. You could also group articles specific to those species on each relevant parent page.
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
May 29, 2016 7:33 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Great feedback Jay.

The "genus page" and and in some cases will indeed link to the parent plant on the species level, exactly as we're doing with Hibiscuses.

I agree with you about having too much information on one page. It's something that we're definitely going to need to be smart and thoughtful about in how we design this.
Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
Region: California Plant Database Moderator Roses Irises Clematis Garden Photography
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Calif_Sue
May 30, 2016 9:25 AM CST

Plants Admin

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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
May 30, 2016 8:31 PM CST
The idea sounds good. I am all for what ever makes our database function even better. But like Deb, I am having trouble picturing what that might look like. Is there a way to create something we can look at and try out?
Name: Carol Roberts
Huntington Beach, CA (Zone 10b)
Sunset 24
Container Gardener Foliage Fan Annuals
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CarolHB
Jun 5, 2016 6:02 AM CST
I agree with Deb. There is scarce information on what to do with a plant from the time it begins to go into dormancy until it comes out, if it does.
Can't complain too loud about how the ball bounces when I'm the one who dropped it.

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