feedback on search tutorial here, please

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Please let us know what you think about the new PlantFiles search tutorial:

Is is helpful, does it need more work? If you spot an error, or have a suggestion how to improve it, please let us know!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, Terry,

Thanks so much for the E-Z to understand PF tutorial.

In the past I was a reluctant user of Plant Files because of the seemingly complex search. I would rely on Google and that would usually bring up DGs PF listings I wanted... (Nevertheless, I can see the need for PF searches for many advanced plantspersons and gardeners.)

I started using Plant Files more often, though, when someone finally told me where to find the "Generalized" search button. And I find that most useful. I wish it were more prominent on the webpage, though. Most people would not read that far into the PF search instructions to find it but if they did, I am sure they would go wild with using it.

Also, I would like to know how to do a 'forum search' and not have all the plant files entries come up.

One more question--on the 'most popular' entries--you said they were there because of 'comments'--is that the number of comments or the content in the comments? Are "comments" the personal experience notes at the bottom of the PF entry page? (Some of the 'most populars' surprised me.)

Thanks so much for making all this plant information so accessible. t.

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

I think it's great! I didn't notice anything you didn't cover.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

If my recollection is correct, the most populars are based on the number of positive ratings/comments received. I don't know if Dave weights them according to the whether the rating is positive or negative, or if each receives an equal (but opposite) weight in the scoring.

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

Okay, one thing unless I missed it when I looked. A link to the tutorial thread on the PlantFiles home page would be good. :)

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Chuckle. That's a to-do for Dave. But I thought I'd give the tutorial a bit of a "road test" first and see if anything needs to be changed or fixed before I ask him to include a link on the PF home page ;o)

NW Qtr, AR(Zone 6a)

Ahhh .. some guidance, finally!

Yes ma'am. TIS a most wonderful addition.

With a quick glance, I can already tell that (this) will prove to be the needed guide .. in what has long been my relentless bouts of 'duh' dom! (contrary to popular belief: there are corners to be found in the roundest of buildings). Complexity; simplifed ...

Many many thanks, Terry ...

- Magpye

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

You mean to tell me, I am not the only one who can't tell the name of the nursery apart from the name of of the cultivar or even the hybridizer? The sun breaks through the clouds: EUREKA! A very helpful tool, which deserves many, many links to it, from every page.


Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I learned a couple of things that were puzzling me. Thanks, kids.

One thing you did not mention, which I use all the time, is the wonderful aid in "generalized search". You can put in part of a plant's name and it will search that. Myself, not being a contender for a Spelling Bee, uses that feature all the time.

Now that this all is being looked at.......ahem...

Could not all the searching options be on one page? I generally use the General Search but have to keep clicking to get to that point. (Not being a good speller, remember?)

I know it looks very nice the way is it, the the "General" moves all around, depending on the page size that I have at the time. I know it's green, but I still have to look for it. Could it not be separate, as a listing under/above the big box?

Thanks for listening,, Terry, and Dave.

Thanks, also, improving our Home, again.


Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Happy, I thought I covered the general(ized) search towards the end....

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

OK, I'm a little tipsy just now, but I'm not stupid. WHERE IS THE GENERALIZED SEARCH LINK? Do I have to click something? I was so happy Hap mentioned it...... but where is it?

xxx, Carrie

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

carrie, see my last two posts for an overview of the "generalized" search.

One of the reasons we don't highlight it more is because it can bring up a MASSIVE number of results. Most people know whether they have the plant's common or botanical/latin name. If it's the latter, they most likely have either the genus and/or species.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hey! I mentioned the "Generalized Search" in the first post! LOL

I think it's great and it's a 'no-brainer' (---don't have to think or fiddle too much about genus/species/cultivar/common) and you can get some great results!

As 'Happy' says, though, you have to be a sleuth to find the button.

I think it should be a big red button on the first page!

(unless searching this way requires too much energy from the site, or whatever technical issues might be involved).

Otherwise I think the PF Search and the Tutorial is brilliant!

Happy gardening today. t.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

I see, you did mention it. What I need to know is which is the genus, the family, the cultivar, the nursery, the brand name, and how do you tell? Like I'm planting a lot of Bacopa "Snowstorm" these days. Is Bacopa the common name? The genus?
xxxxx, Carrie

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Carrie, here's a generalized search for just the word "Snowstorm" (no quote marks.) Hint: anytime part of a plant's name is in quotes - should be single quotes - it is most likely the cultivar name.

The plant you're talking about is the fifth entry out of seven. If you re-ran the search putting "snowstorm" (again, no quote marks) in the cultivar field of the "main" search page, you'd get the same results.

And here's a generalized search for the words "Bacopa snowstorm" (again, no quote marks.):

As you'll see in these entries, Bacopa is the common name for Sutera (and I think maybe it was the genus name at some point in the past, but I won't swear to it.)

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks Terry, for the demonstration.

And, carrie, I'm in the same boat. family/genus/species/common--the way plants are marked, often times you never really know. And the way taxonimists (sp?) are changing names is something else, again.

My usual fall back is to put key words into the 'generalized search' and most likely I can find my plant. Since I found the 'Generalized' button I use PF much more often.

Of course, the other more 'advanced' search methods are wonderful if you are looking for 'all yellow iris siberica that are hardy in zone 5, etc., etc.'

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Arigato, Terry, as well as thank you and merci and Danke schoen. I could go on but I would, sadly, soon run out of languages. I noticed that if, after your search, you look at the scary part at the top it does give the genus and all that stuff. THANK YOU TERRY for shining a flashlight into that dark, moldy place I call my brain!

xxxxxx, Carrie

OC, CA & Twin Lakes , IA(Zone 4b)

Haven't used it yet but am so thankful for it. In the past I had better luck to have google locate it within Dave's. LOL

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Well, give it a whirl - if you get stuck, or my instructions don't make sense just holler!

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

As far as knowing what's the genus, species, etc:
--If you look at the label and it has two Latin sounding names (the first one should start with a capital letter and the second one should start with a small letter), the first one is the genus and the second one is the species
--If there's only one Latin sounding name, then it's the genus (many hybrid plants don't have a species, so you will often find a plant that has a genus name but no species; however species names aren't used on their own).
--If there's a non-Latin sounding name and it's not in quotes, that's likely the common name
--And as someone mentioned above if it's in quotes it's the cultivar.

Some plants will have all these parts, but many will not. Of course there are always exceptions or nurseries that label things incorrectly, but hopefully these tips will help you narrow your search down. And there are the occasional confusing ones like Bacopa where it sort of sounds latin but is actually the common name (although I agree with Terry--I think it used to be the genus but now is the common name because that's the name everyone knew it by before they changed it)

Crossville, TN

No wonder when I asked Mystic to ID a plant for me she was so fast in sending me the correct answer!!! She knew how to navigate the PF...(I wonder why?) LOL Jo

Cheltenham, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

Hi - I looked through the Search help but still not discovered how to search within a genus for plants of a particular height or particular zone. So for exmaple if I want to find all the asters which are 120 cm (4 ft) or more how do I go about it without pulling them all up and looking at each one in turn?


Roger T

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Roger, for the largest genera in PlantFiles, the Advanced Search can be run on just that group. Currently those include:

Japanese Maples
Crepe Myrtles

Asters have fewer than 200 entries, so we haven't given them this treatment yet. Unfortunately, that means that you have to pull each up separately to see its characteristics.

Cheltenham, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

Can't you get your computer guys to look at that ? it can't be beyond the wit of science to have a "select height" or "select zone" when you search under genus. Unfortunately I thought that was I would get when I paid my subscription !!

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Roger, our computer "guys" is Dave ;o)

Your request is logical, and it may seem on the surface that it would be easy to implement, but unfortunately it's not as easy as it looks.

You do have the ability to run advanced queries to narrow down your search results for height, hardiness, bloom color, time, etc.

But to also narrow the search to any one of 4,200+ genera is more difficult. That's why we review and add to the 20 or so genera I listed above - when a particular genus gets large enough to be unwieldy, we then set it up for its own advanced search.

Cheltenham, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)


I note your comments - but the trouble with the advanced search is that the stuff comes up in a totally random order. If you could search for "perennials 4 ft - 6 ft zone 7" and get them all in alphabetical order that would be one thing - but as it is ther is too much hunting, if what you actually want is "rudbeckias 4 ft & over, zone 8 and less". But may be you could think about it for the future - ?

Roger T

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

That's a very good suggestion - I'll see if Dave can sort the search results - I'm guessing the most logical would be to "drill down" - by genus, within genus by species and/or cultivars.

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

I cheat when looking for plants on the PlantFiles.

Just go to Google and type in (for example)

"Asclepias tuberosa Dave's Garden"

Usually hit a bingo the first shot. :-)

Crossville, TN

WUVIE....,me too...LOL Jo

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Terry, you sweetheart, it's me,with most of the same ?? I had before. [silly me] I frequently buy plants on eBay, and I have added PF to my Firefox browser. Sadly, the eBay sellers don't now nearly as much as you folks. So what I do is copy what the seller calls it, and stick that in the PF box. I am not usually successful with this route, but you know that 'leap of faith' we keep talking about? So when I do that, what type of PF search is it doing?

xxx, Carrie

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

For instance, perilla, magilla purple took a while, as did Alternanthera grenadine. I eventually found that Perilla is the name of the plant and there is no "purple". Alternanthera is the name of the plant and grenadine is the cultivar? Once I got to the alternantheras, it was easy to scan down andsee that one of them was called grenadine. But why doesn't Alternanthera, Grenadine (copied straight from the listing) not tae me straight to the page?

xxxxx, Carrie

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

The "generalized" search has a glitch - as best I can tell, it is ignoring the common name fields. So if the name you're using is the plant's common name, it probably won't find it. (Sorry for the inconvenience, but Dave groans every time I bring it up - I think that means the fix is harder than it looks ;o)

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Well, thanks for the fast answer. So that window goes to the generalized search. Tell him the natives are threatening an uprising!

xxxx, Carrie

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I'll...uummmmm....well, I'll see what can do to tug on his sleeve ;o)

Scottsdale, AZ(Zone 9b)

Happy weekend everyone.

The one thing I couldn't find are acceptable file formats that can be uploaded in PlantFiles or any other area. I know .jpg is the standard and thought I saw something about you accepting .pdf's now? But what about .bmp, .gif......anything else acceptable?

Maybe you can put it as a STICKY in one of your Intro Pages or as a FAQ.



Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

jpg, gif, and png are the only accepted formats as far as I know. Or at least that's what the error message says when you try to upload something that's in a different format.

Los Altos, CA

I could not find a reference to plants with manzanita colored bark. There is a rhododendron (white, fragrant flowers) with red bark, and I could not find that either.

Houston, TX

There are 309 petunias. That's not enough to have its own genus entry in the Advanced Search?
I want a strongly fragrant one. They're almost all reported as fragrant but that's not actually true in real life. I know a few cultivar names - 'Flamingo' - and the 'Madness' series - and I don't get any results searching for those no matter what I do. Is there a way to do this search?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Here are a couple from the Madness series: If you look at the top of the page in the link you'll see the search criteria I used. I tried the same thing with Flamingo and nothing came up so it could be that nobody's entered any of those into Plant Files. I didn't find much on Google about a Flamingo series of petunias either, so is it possible that the name was given to you incorrectly? Either that or it's something really new and there's not a lot of info out there about them period.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Quote from mskittydg :
There are 309 petunias. That's not enough to have its own genus entry in the Advanced Search?
I want a strongly fragrant one. They're almost all reported as fragrant but that's not actually true in real life. I know a few cultivar names - 'Flamingo' - and the 'Madness' series - and I don't get any results searching for those no matter what I do. Is there a way to do this search?

Here's a quick way to see where a particular genus "ranks" in terms of number of entries:

That's not the sole criteria we use to determine which plants need their own advanced search and browse tools, but it is a big part of the equation.

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