Garden Glossary

Posted by on March 21, 2013


Gardening with Confidence Blueberries

Acidic soil: Acidic soil: The pH scale is logarithmic, from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Soil with a pH level below 7 is acidic. The lower the pH, the more acidic it is. Acidic soil is also referred to as sour soil.



Alkaline soil: The pH scale is logarithmic, from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Soil with a pH level above 7 is alkaline. The higher the pH, the more alkaline it is. Alkaline soil is also referred to as basic soil.


Annual: Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle (from germination to seed) in a single growing season. Basil is an example of an annual.


Arbor: An arbor serves as a portal into a garden room, a transition point to tell a visitor it’s time to pause, to change perspective. Training vines to cover the arbor brings garden life to another dimension. There are so many reasons to want to find the perfect spot in your garden to add an arbor.


Gardening with Confidence® ParsleyBiennial: Biennials are lants that complete their life cycle in two years. The first year they grow only leaves; the second year they bloom, set seed and die are considered biennials. Parsley is an example of a biennial.




Bed: The terms garden bed and garden border are often used interchangeable; but I make the distinction of where the garden plot is placed in the garden. A garden bed is place to plant that typically doesn’t have a backside to it, such as an island bed.


Berry: The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single flower and containing one ovary. Grapes and avocados are two common examples. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels. The seeds are usually embedded in the fleshy interior of the ovary, but there are some non-fleshy exceptions, such as peppers, that have air rather than pulp around their seeds.


Gardening with Confidence Border

Border: A garden border typically refers to garden space that has a backdrop, and borders the property.





JC Raulston Arboretum What's in a name  Botanical Latin





Bract: In Botany, a bract is a modified or specialized leaf, especially one associated with a reproductive structure such as a flower, inflorescence axis, or cone scale. Good examples of bracts are the modified leaves of the poinsettia and hellebore.

Gardening with Confidence Biub

Bulb: Not all bulb are the same. There are five types of bulbs falling under that title: true bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, and tuberous roots. It’s a good idea to understand there are differences (see definitions), but it’s also OK to call them all bulbs. Or at least I think so.  True bulbs contain a fully formed plant. Daffodils, tulips, lilies, grape hyacinths, and amaryllis are all true bulbs. If you slice open a daffodil vertically, you will find the entire embryonic daffodil—flower, stem, leaves, and roots—ready to spring forth once the time is right. True bulbs can be annuals or perennials.

Butterfly Cycle: The butterfly life cycle goes from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, and finally the full-fledged butterfly. Butterflies feed on specific host plants while in the caterpillar (or larvae) stage. Adult butterflies will sip nectar to provide energy.

Calyx: The calyx is outer whorl of protective leaves around the base of the flowers.

Gardening with Confidence  Carl Linnaeus Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778): Carl Linnaeus, Father of Taxonomic Botany





Carpel: Carpel is one of the leaflike, seed-bearing structures that constitute the innermost whorl of a flower. One or more carpels make up the pistil. Fertilization of an egg within a carpel by a pollen grain from another flower results in seed development within the carpel.


Cauliflory: Cauliflory is the botanical term referring to plants which flower and fruit from their main stems or woody trunks rather than from new growth and shoots.




Chlorotic Foliage: A condition in which the leaves of a plant turn yellow is called chlorotic foliage. This is usually caused by an iron deficiency in the soil or lack of oxygen to the roots due to over watering.

Corms: Corms are similar to true bulbs, in that they contain a stem base, but they do not hold the entire baby plant. The roots growing from a basal plate are located on the bottom of the corm. (The basal plate is the base area of the bulb.) The growth point is located on the top of the corm. A corm only lasts for a single season, but a new corm will form on top of the old. Plus, “cormels” are also produced, forming around the base of the corm’s basal plate. Popular corms include gladiolas and crocus.

Gardening with Confidence Crepe MurderCrepe Murder: Crepe Murder  is a copy-cat crime of improper pruning of Lagerstroemia spp.





Cold-hardy: Cold-hardy refers to zone-specific perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees that can survive cold and/or subfreezing temperatures and return for another growing season.

Cold snap: A cold snap is a sudden drop in temperature, usually during the spring, and may cause damage to already blooming and leafing plants.

Gardening with Confidence Companions

Companion plant: A companion plant, is a plant that goes well with another in terms of height, texture, color, or fragrance. This also can refer to two plants that benefit each other in terms of health, such as keeping insects away. A good example of companion plants is tomatoes and marigolds, with the marigolds reducing cutworms populations that attack tomatoes.



Compost: Compost, also called humus, is a soil conditioner made up of partly decayed organic material, usually consisting of plant materials such as leave and pine needles, plus manure and soil.

Cool-season grasses: Cool-season grasses are those grasses actively growing when its cool, and its green in the summer, as well as, the winter.  Common cool-season grasses include fescues, bent grass, and bluegrass.  Cool-season grasses tend to flourish in the spring after breaking winter dormancy and in early fall, when temperatures moderate and droughts and heat waves are typically behind us.

Corolla: The petals of a flower are called the corolla.

Crown: The part of a herbaceous perennial at or just below the soil level where the roots converge to form woody tissue from which the buds for new stems grow.

Cultivar: A cultivated variety from a plant that grows naturally in the wild. A Nativar is a term catching on to refer to a cultivated regional native.

Curb Appeal: Curb Appeal

Cutting Propagation: Propagation by cuttings is taking a piece (cutting), either a stem or root section, of a plant and transplanting it.

Cutting Garden: Growing a garden to routinely cut the flowers to enjoy indoors.

Dead-heading: Dead-heading is cutting off the spent flower heads on plants after they have bloomed.

Dead-leafing: Dead-leaving is removing the leaf die-back or cutting off unattractive plant leaves.

Phil Hathcock

Deer Resistant: Deer resistant plants are those that are less likely to be eaten. But, if a deer is hungry enough, they will eat anything.  Wildlife browsing habits change from region to region and season to season. Environmental conditions such as droughts, fires or development can have dramatic and unpredictable effects on wildlife feeding habits. Animals are more likely to eat tender new growth. Younger animals are more likely to taste a new plant in a garden than mature animals.

Deep watering: Thoroughly soaking a plant so the roots get a good soaking is referred to as deep watering.

Gardening with Confidence ® edging

Edging: Edging

F1 hybridA F1 hybrid is when two pure lines are crossed, the plant resulting from their seeds is an F1 hybrid.

Fast-draining: Sandy, gravelly, or light-textured loam soils tend to be fast-draining soils that allows water to pass through quickly, and doesn’t stay wet for an extended period of times.

Fertilizer: The three top nutrients needed in the soil NPK:  Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium

Fragrant Garden: A fragrant garden is designed around fragrance. A fragrant garden can become a place to spend the evening with a glass of wine. The fragrance garden could also serve as your cutting garden, allowing you to bring these flowers inside to enjoy. Plant where the scent can be approached most–under a window, near the back patio, or the path leading to the front porch.

50 Ways Cover 2Garden: A garden is anything you want it to be.Create your style and a place that is a true expression of who you are.






Garden Conservancy: Garden Conservancy.





Gazebo: A gazebo is a structure, either freestanding or attached to a garden wall, roofed, and open on all sides, to  provide shade, shelter, or as an ornamental feature in a landscape.

Greening-up: Greening up refers to plants and shrubs that are beginning to put out new growth in the spring.

Healing Garden: A healing garden is an outdoor therapeutic space designed to meet the healing needs of the people using the garden as well as their caregivers, family members and friends.

Helen’s Haven:  My home garden; a certified wildlife habitat.Book Cover Photo





Harden-off: Harden-off refers to the process of gradually acclimating young plants from being grown indoors. Too much sun, wind, and low humidity can damage seedlings slowly introduced to these outdoor conditions.

Hardy Annuals: Hardy annuals are annuals that complete their life cycle in one year, but are cold-hardy enough to take frost. They can be planted in fall in mild climates or earlier in spring while night temperatures are still frosty (such as pansies and snapdragons.)

Heeling In: In the fall if you are not ready to plant recently purchased potted plants or bare-root trees, shrubs, and perennials you can heel them into a trench to winter-over. The word heeling in is derived from the word ‘helan’ which is kin to the word ‘hell” meaning to cover up. So heeling in for the winter is to cover up plants to protect them until the following spring.

Herb: Traditional references to an herb are any plant used as a medicine, seasoning, or fragrance.

Herbaceous: Herbaceous perennials are those plants with soft tissues as opposed to woody stems. These plants also die back to the ground during cold winter months.

Inflorescence: This is the arrangement of blossoms on a stem and can refer to flowers growing in clusters or individually. An example is a cluster of lantana blooms.

JC Raulson Arboretum: JC Raulston Arboretum

Leaf-out: When trees are putting out new leaf buds in the spring, it’s referred to as leaf-out.

Lean soil: Soil low in humus or rich organic matter, such as clay or sand, are considered lean.

Marcescent: Many oaks  (Quercus sp.)have marcescent leaves. I have one and at first thought it was a disadvantage b/c I’m raking leaves in the spring. But then I learned to appreciate the sound of the leaves shimmering in the breeze. Marcescent is when foliage writers but is retained on the plant stem, holding on to their dried leaves until spring.

Mole: A mole is a carnivorous underground Insectivora (not a rodent)  that will eat worms, grubs, and adult insects.

Mulch: Mulch is a material laid on the ground around plants to retain soil moisture, moderate soil temperature, insulate the roots during the winter, reduce erosion, and suppress weed growth. Organic mulches include bark (pine, hardwood, etc.,) wood chips, straw, composted leaves, and newspaper. Inorganic mulches include gravel or stone.

Nectar: Nectar is a sweet liquid in many flowers that serves as food for a variety of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

IMG_0273Night-blooming Garden: A night-blooming garden is one that is creating to be appreciated in the evening, after working all day. This can be with white (and light colored) flowers, and those that scent is more pronounced in the evening like an flowering tobacco.



NPK: This is expressed with three numbers (10-10-10 for example) on bags of fertilizer and refers to the nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium ratio in the mix. N=nitrogen; P=phosphorus; K=potassium.

Organic: Organic materials are those originating from a living organism. Organic has also become the common term to refer to a method of gardening in which no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used.

Gardening with Confidence ParterreParterre:  A formal garden constructed on a level surface, consisting of planting beds arranged to form a pleasing, usually symmetrical pattern, with gravel paths laid between. This is one of my all time favorite design styles. The other is the complete opposite–an open field of wildflowers.



Patio: A patio is an outdoor space generally used for dining or recreation that adjoins a residence, and is typically paved.

Perennial: A perennial are plants lasting at least three life-cycles, such as rosemary, lavender, and many other long lived plants.  


Permaculture: Permaculture is sustainable land use design.


Pergola: A pergola is a garden feature forming a shaded walkway, passageway, or sitting area of vertical posts or pillars that usually support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice. As a type of gazebo, it may also be an extension of a building, or serve as protection for an open terrace, or a link between pavilions.

Perlite: Perlite is a very light weight, heat-treated volcanic rock that is used to improve drainage and to increase the pore space, for oxygen availability to the roots, in potting soil.

Pinnately compound evergreen foliage: Includes individual leaflets on a stem. If such a leaf is evenly pinnate, it has an even number of leaves, one on each side of the stem. Oddly pinnate means having the same arrangement as evenly, but with the addition of an extra leaf at the very top of the stem. A leaf whose blade is divided into two or more distinct leaflets.

Pod: A pod is the dried fruit or seed vessel on a plant that encases the seed.

Plants with BenefitsPlants with Benefits: Plants With Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers, & Veggies in Your Garden (2014, St. Lynn’s Press)




Pollination: Pollination is the spreading of pollen between plants for reproductive purposes and the development of fruit.

Propagation: plant reproduction, done in three ways: division, cutting (see above), and seed. Division propagation is taking plant clumps, roots and all, and dividing them into smaller pieces to transplant elsewhere.

Seed propagation means growing plants from seed.

Slow movement: The Slow Movement advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace. The slow movement  began in 1986 with Carlo Petrini’s protest against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Plazza di Spagna, Rome. Thus the slow food organization was born.  Over time, this developed into a subculture in other areas, such as slow garden, slow design, slow food, slow flowers, slow travel, and so on.

Sun Requirements: Sun Requirements

Scoring, scratching, or teasing roots: The loosening of roots when taken from a nursery pot so they won’t continue growing in a circle is referred to as teasing the roots.

Scratch-in: Scratch-in means raking granular fertilizer into the soil either with fingers or a small rake or hand cultivator.

Soil minerals: Soil minerals, also called nutrients, are necessary for plants. The minerals needed in large amounts (macronutrients) include: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Other elements are needed in smaller amounts (micronutrients) such as iron, manganese, copper, zinc, boron, chlorine, and molybdenum. Other nutrients include carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; these are obtained through water and air.

Spike: An elongated main stem that supports many separate flowers on shorter stems, usually symmetrically arranged, as with Penstemon.

Stolon: A stolon is a horizontal stem growing above ground that forms roots at its tip.

Spring: Spring

Spring Fever: Oh, you’ll know it, when you have it!

Scarification: In horticulture, stratification is the process of pretreating seeds to simulate natural winter conditions that a seed must endure before germination. Many seed species undergo an embryonic dormancy phase, and generally will not sprout until this dormancy is broken.

Succulents: Succulents are plants with fleshy, thick tissue adapted to storing water. Common succulents include agaves, ice plants, and stonecrops.

Suckers: Suckers, often called watersprouts, shoots, or canes, is growth from the roots of trees, some shrubs, roses, as well as from rootstock of grafted trees or roses.  

Sustainable:  Sustainable gardening

Tuberous Roots: Tuberous roots are the fifth and final type of bulb. Most often, tuberous roots are not thought of as bulbs at all (at least, not by me), but they are. Their parts below the ground are unmistakable. Unlike other bulb types, those tuberous roots have puffy root-like structures that look as though someone pumped them up like a balloon, but they are really adapted stems—not a true root. Instead, the actual root grows from the sides and the tip of the tuberous root. Familiar tuberous root plants include dahlias and daylilies.

Umbel: The flowering part of a plant made up of a cluster of flowers, as with lantana.

Up-pot: To up-put mean to repot a plant when it’s outgrown its pot to a larger one. Increase the size of the pot and freshen the old potting soil with new soil. This gives the roots more room to grow.

Vernalization: Vernalization is the  subjection of seeds or seedlings to cold temperatures in order to hasten plant development and flowering. The seeds and buds of many plants require cold in order to break dormancy.

Vole:  A vole is a vegetarian rodent. A vole will gnaw at the base of a tree or shrub. A vole may also damage flower bulbs and potatoes in the garden; but mainly, the vole will eat the stems and blades of lawn grass.

Warm-season grasses: Warm-season grasses are those grasses actively growing when its warm, and its green in the summer and the color of hay in the winter.  Common warm-season grass include Zoysia, Centipede, and Bermuda.  Warm-season grass tend to flourish during the warmer summer months, and therefore require fertilizing shortly after green-up in the spring and again in the late summer months.

Water-in: To water-in means using a liquid vitamin, plant food, or some other additive with water so it can be readily absorbed by the soil.

Water-wise: Water-wise.

Wildlife Habitat: Wildlife Habitats.

Winter Interest:  Gardening for winter interest is to add color, exfoliating bark, berries, and flowers that are interesting during the winter months.   Winter Protection: Winer protection means to protect plants from cold, dry winds, and low winter temperatures to minimize plant damage or death. Container grown plants need winter protection to protect the roots from repeated freezing and thawing.

Xericscaping: Xericaping is a type of garden or using a particular plant that tolerates a low moisture growing environment. Water-wise refers to the same concept or type of plant.  


One Response to “Garden Glossary”

  1. Lee says:

    great list, long as hell. there quite a few on there i hadn’t come across.

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