Plant Images for use with Gardenware: A discussion of sources

We hope that everyone who inquires about Gardenware or purchases Gardenware is aware that photographs of the plants are not included with the program. There are a lot of descriptions (close to 7500 of them) included in the program. Since the mid `90s, the Gardenware program has allowed the user to attach pictures to items in the libraries for printing on signs and (more recently) the Hang Tag. The Gardenware program will find the attached picture and print it in the appropriate place, as close to possible to the space allowed on the sign or label. We are often asked “Where can I get pictures for my signs?” There are a number of sources.

Your number one best source is your own digital camera. Keep one or more handy. They don’t have to be expensive, feature-laden ones. A garden center would be wise to keep a camera or two discreetly hidden but available to employees, or to key employees and encourage them to photograph plants as they come in to bloom, as fall color makes a statement as fruit ripens, etc. When cruising your city or town you are bound to come across specimen plants begging to have their picture taken. The really nice thing about your images is that they are undeniably yours and you are free to use them in any way you wish.

There are commercially produced photo libraries. Horticopia has been in the business of providing photos on CDs for many years. Horticopia approves the use of the images on most of their CDs with Gardenware. There are other CDs available. If you purchase a CD, be sure it is OK to use the images in your retail store or garden center for signage and promotion. In the mid 90s two well known horticulture educators prepared CDs with suitable images but the publisher required an additional royalty to use the images for signage.

In many cases, suppliers can be an excellent source of images. I talked with Pam Wasson, with Monrovia. There are plant photos that they make available to customers of Monrovia for use in their garden center(s) for point of purchase and promotional use. If you are a customer of Monrovia, your sales rep has probably informed you already. Pam also told me that they also offer a signage program called POP 1-2-3. If you have questions, contact Pam Wasson at Monrovia or your sales representative. Pam’s e-mail address is

Walters Gardens has an extensive library of perennial images. Susan Martin, marketing director with Walters Gardens, said that current customers are issued a login and password and for the period of a year, have access to Walters Gardens photo library for point of sale and promotional use within their garden center. Users, or customers, who have not re-ordered within a year will no longer have access. Those who need photos for other uses should contact Susan for information. Susan also mentioned that they have bench cards and other point of purchase materials available. Some are free, others available at very reasonable cost.

Weeks Roses has made it very easy to download a number of their photos. Here is the web address

Iseli Nursery has a library of plant photos for use by their customers. Here is their photo library link

Proven Winners has a photo library available to help you sell their products as well. Their photo library link is

These are just a few. Check with your suppliers and originators of plants that you sell. Chances are, you’ll find lots of photos for use with Gardenware to help sell your plants.

Consider trading images with your friends in the business. This is another good possible source of images.

We used to mention scanning images from catalogs as a source of images and in some cases it might still be appropriate. With permission, I have scanned a number of catalog images. It took a lot of time and work to eliminate or minimize the screen dots pattern inherent in commercial printing to make them suitable for my laser printer. Most suppliers now have their images available in digital format as discussed previously. Note that copyright laws apply to scanned images just as they do to any other image.

We really must discuss the “elephant in the room”: the internet. You probably already know that if you go to Google, there is a category called Images. It is right there with news and shopping, videos, etc. There are millions of plant images on the internet. I just Googled magnolia and in a few seconds there were over 850,000 magnolia images found. When a company or individual puts their images in a website or blog, they are subject to discovery by Google and the other search engines. Each of those pictures is owned by someone. It may be a business, photographer, horticulturist or a blogger but they all belong to someone. When you “hover” your cursor over a photo, details including the size of the image, title, possibly a short description, and a link to the website the photo came from. Some are watermarked to make it difficult to use discretely and some carry the name of the owner often in the form of a copyright notice.

Most everyone knows by now that these photos are easy to copy and borrow for their own use. Piracy in the internet age is rampant. Just because “everyone does it” doesn’t make it right or legal. Now, we have not yet heard of anyone being taken to court for misappropriating a photo and using it within a garden center. Others with whom I have discussed this issue tend to doubt that it would be economically feasible for the owner of a photo, used without permission, to take a garden center to court for damages for the misuse of a photo on a Gardenware sign. Certainly many copyright holders could be displeased to have their photos used without their permission. On the other hand there are probably others who would be flattered to think their pictures were considered worthy of piracy, but that’s not something one wants to assume.

Scott, here at Gardenware, is a photographer in his off-hours. Recently, he noticed a poster advertising a concert by a well known artist at a popular Portland-area venue. It featured a photo of the artist in performance. There was no question about the source of the photo. It was Scott’s photo and he had the original file to prove it. The photo had been “borrowed” without his knowledge or permission. He stated his case and was paid for the use of the photo. Scott’s thoughts about unauthorized commercial re-use: “If it’s worth stealing, it’s worth paying for. And when you see your own work staring you in the face, it’s a very visceral feeling of violation. It was like seeing a bike that was stolen from our front porch when I was a kid in a front yard a few blocks away. ‘Hey, that’s mine, and nobody said you could have it!’”

Fair warning: Using someone else’s photo without their permission is at least potentially illegal. The maker/owner may or may not approve of the use. Using such a photo on a sign in a garden center would likely be difficult to discover, however. Using such an image in a website could be a very different matter. There are businesses that use very sophisticated software to comb the internet for images that have been inappropriately used. They make their money reporting the misuse to image owners for the specific use of copyright litigation.

We’re not attempting to tell you what to do or not to do but it might be worth asking before “borrowing.” The best route, when possible, is still your own camera.