Garden Glossary

Posted by on March 21, 2013



Abiotic: A non-living organism.

Gardening with Confidence Blueberries

Acid: An acid or sour substance that has a pH below 7.0

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.

Aeration: Supplying soil and roots with air or oxygen.

Aerobic: Having oxygen.

Aeroponics: Growing plants by misting roots suspended in air.

Aggregate:  Clumps of inorganic material of varying size.

Aggressive:  Referring to a plant’s active growth behavior.

Agriculture:  The art and science of cultivating land for production of food.

Akaline: Refers to soil with high ph; any pH over 7.0 is considered alkaline.

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.

Allelopathic: Allelopathic is a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals that influence the growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms.

All-Purpose Fertilizer: A balanced blend of N-P-K; all purpose fertilizer is used by most growers.

Alternate: Horticulturally speaking, alternate refers to leaves that are arranged on the stem in alternating fashion.

Anaerobic: With Oxygen.

Amendment: Fortifying soil by adding organic or mineral substances in order to improve texture, nutrient content or biological activity.

Angiosperm:  A flowering plant whose seeds are housed within an ovary.

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.

Anther: The part of a stamen that contains the pollen.

Apetalous: A flower having no pedal, such as a Lindera sp.

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.

Arborist:  An professional trained in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining individual trees.

Arching: As in arching branches–have the curved shape of an arch.

Aromatic: Having a pleasing scent from a plant or plant parts.

Ascending:  Describes an upright growth habit.

Asexual: Propagation with out pollination.

Auxin: Classification of plant hormones; auxins are responsible for foliage and root elongation.

Axil: The upper angle between the leaf and stem.

Axillary Bud: A bud that grows from the axil of a leaf and may develop into a branch or flower cluster.

Bacteria: Very small, one-celled organisms.

B & B or Balled and BurlappedDigging a round root ball and held intact by a large piece of burlap. This is then held in place with wire or twine.

Bare Root:  Plants sold without soil around the roots. Many roses come bare root as do asparagus.

Gardening with Confidence® Parsley

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.


Bedding Plants: Bedding plants typically refer to plants that are produced and sold for mass plantings in a flower bed.

Beneficial Insect: Insects that are benefitial to have in the garden and landscape.

Berry 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.

Biennial: Biennials are plants 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.

Biodegradable: A material that is able to decompose or break down through natural bacterial or fungal action, substances made of organic matter are biodegradable.


Gardening with Confidence Border

Bolt: Term used to describe a plant that has gone to seed prematurely.

Bonsai: A very short or dwarfed plant.

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

Botany:  The scientific study of plants.

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.

Bramble:  A shrub with thorns that is in the rose family, such as blackberries and raspberries.

Breathe: Roots draw in or breathe oxygen, stomata draw in or breathe carbon dioxide.

Broadcast:  To spread fertilizer over a large growing area.

Broad Spectrum:  Pesticides that affect a wide variety of pest. No such pesticide is used in Helen’s Haven.

Broadleaved Evergreens:  A plant with leaves year-round.

JC Raulston Arboretum What's in a name

Botanical Latin




Bud: An embryonic shoot that normally occurs in the axil of a leaf or at the tip of a stem. The nickname of my oldest child.

Bud Break: When the buds break open after a period of dormancy.

Bud Blight: A withering condition that attacks flower buds.

Budding:  Budding is a term with two meaning–one for propagation and the other for what a plant naturally does as it emerges from the cold of winter.

Buffering: The ability of a substance to reduce shock and cushion against pH fluctuations.

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.

Cambium: Tissue in the plant that produces new cells.

Cane: A hollow or pithy jointed, wood stem.

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




Carnivorous Plant:  A plant that attracts and consumes insects.

Carbohydrate: Neutral compound of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Sugar, starch and cellulose are carbohydrates.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): A colorless, odorless, tasteless gas in the air necessary for plant life and biomass accumulation.

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.



Caustic: Capable of destroying, killing or eating away by chemical activity.

Cell: The base structural unit that plants are made of; cells contain a nucleus, that houses it’s DNA.

Cellulose: A complex carbohydrate that stiffens a plant tissue: tough stems contain cellulose.

Chelate: Combining nutrients in an atomic ring that is easy for plants to absorb.

Chlorine: Chemical used to purify water.

Chlorophyll: Green coloring matter of leaves and plants, essential to the production of carbohydrates by photosynthesis.

Chloroplast: Containing chlorophyll.

Chlorosis: The condition of a sick plant with yellowing leaves due to inadequate formation of chlorophyll chlorosis is caused by nutrient deficiency, usually iron or imbalanced pH.

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.

Clay: Soil made of very fine organic mineral particles, clay is not suitable for container gardening, but works very well in the garden bed when amended with organic matter.  A country and western turned pollution in NC

Climate: The average condition of the weather in a garden room or outdoors.

Cloche: A bell-snapped glass cover that is placed over a seedling in the early season to protect from cold temperatures and to encourage growth.

Clone:  An identical reproduction of the parent plant.

Coir:  A fiber that is extracted from the husk of coconuts, and used a liner for hanging pots, window boxes, etc. to keep potting soil in place.

Cold Frame: a four-sided frame of boards with a removable glass or plastic top. The frame is placed on the ground and is used to house, protect, and harden off seedlings and small plants, without artificial heat.

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.

Color Tracer: A coloring agent added to many commercial fertilizers, so the horticulturist knows there is fertilizer in the solution.

Compacton: Soil condition that results from tightly packing soil; compacted soil allows for only marginal aeration and root penetration.

Gardening with Confidence CompanionsCompanion 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.

Compost Tea:  Authentic Haven Brand Moo Poo is my go-to organic tea fertilizer.

Cone:  The conical fruit of pines, firs, and cedars.

Conical: Describes the shape of a tree where the base is the widest point of the plant and it gradually becomes more narrow at the top.

Conifer:  A group of cone-bearing plants.

Cool-season crops: Plants that tribe during cooler temperatures.

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.

Core: The transformer in the ballast is referred to as the core in hid lighting systems.

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

Corm: 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.

Cottage Garden: A Cottage Garden is a style of garden that is free-flowing and filled with flowers.

Cotyledon: Energy storage components of a seed that feed the plant before the emergence of its first true leaves.

Cover Crop:  A crop that is planted by gardeners to improve soil health.

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



Cross-pollinate: Pollinating two plants having different ancestry.

Crop Rotation: The practice of growing a succession of different crops on the same land in order to deter weeds, pests, and diseases.

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. The top of the head of a tree. 

Cubic Foot: Volume measurement in feet: L” x W” x H” / 1728″ = CuFt

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. In common garden jargon, these are not popular terms.

Culture:  The basic needs and conditions that a plant requires in order to thrive.

Curb Appeal: Curb Appeal.

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

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


Dampling-off: Disease that attacks young seedlings and cuttings causing stem to rot at base.

Days to Maturity or Harvest:  The length of tim from when the seed germinates to the harvesting.

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.

Dead Spot:  An area of your lawn or on a plant this is dead.

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

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.

Deplete: Exhaust soil of nutrients, making it infertile

Dessicatte: Cause to dry up. Insecticidal soap desiccates its victims.

Deciduous: Plants that drop all their leaves at the end of a growing season.

Determinate:  Referring to tomatoes where growth of the plant is limited.

Dibbler:  A simple tool used by gardeners to poke a hole in the ground for planting.

Dioecious: Having distinct male and female organs on different plants within the same species.

Direct Sow:  Planting seeds directly onto the ground.

Disease: Any abnormal condition in a plant that interferes with its growing processes.

Disease Resistant: Referring to how well a plant either resists or tolerates pests.

Dorment: A plant in an inactive growth state.  

Double Digging:  I do not practice I do anymore. First dig 18 inches, set it aside. Then dig 18 inches more.

Drainage: Way to empty soil of excess water: with good drainage, water passes through soil evenly.

Drift:  A strategic grouping of plants in the landscape forming a drift.

Dripline: A line around a plant directly under its outermost branch tips: roots seldom grow beyond the drip line.

Drip System: A very efficient watering system that employs a main hose with small water emi1ters.

Drought Tolerant: A plant that can withstand longer periods of time without irrigation or precipitation.

Dwarf: A smaller variety of a plant.


Earthing: The process of absorbing the Earth’s free flowing electrons from its surface through the soles of ones feet.

Gardening with Confidence ® edging

Ecosystem: A comunnity of animals, plants, and microorganisms.

Edging: Edging

Erosion: The wearing down of materials, such as moving water, rain and wind.

Espalier: The practice of pruning a plant to grow in a single plane.

Exfoliating: When the bark of a tree or shrub has a peeling pattern. Crape Myrtles are a classic example.

Equinox: The point at which the sun crosses the equator and day and night are each 12 hours long; the equinox occurs twice a year, in spring and fall.


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

Fairy Garden:  A garden in miniature. The design includes dwarf or small plants and to scale accents to give the illusion that fairies occupy the garden.

Fairy Ring:  A naturally occurring ring of mushrooms.

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.

Fastigiate: A tree’s growth habit where the branches of the plant are erect and parallel to the trunk.

Feed: Deliver nutrient to the plant via roots or foliage.

Female: Pistillate, ovule, seed-producing.

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

Fertilizer Burn: Over fertilization: first leaf tips burn (turn brown) then the leaves curl.

Fibrous Roots: A highly branched root system that occupies a large volume of soil around the plant’s base.

Flat: Shallow, three inch deep container, often 18 by 24 or 10 by 20 inches with good drainage, used to start seedlings or cuttings.

FloricultureThe science of cultivating flowers or flowering plants.

Foliage: The leaves or more generally, the green part of a plant.

Foilar Feeding: Misting fertilizer solution which is absorbed by lilt foliage. Best to do when first turning on your lights.

Foundation Plant:  A plant used to hide the foundation of a home.

Fragrant: Having a pleasing scent from a plant or plant parts.

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.

Frost Tolerant:  A plant that can withstand a light frost and survive.

Fungus: A lower plant lacking chlorophyll which may attack green plants; mold, rust, mildew.


50 Ways Cover 2

Garden: 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.

Gene:: Part or a chromosome that influences the development of plant; genes are inherited through sexual propagation. Genetic make up the sit of genes inherited from parent plants. Also, my neighbor.

Genus:  A hierarchical level in plant naming. Genus comes below family and before species.

Geotropism:  The effect that gravity has on plants.

Germination:  The transformation processof a seed developing into a young plant.

Girdling: The removal of bark from around the entire circumference of a branch or trunk of a tree.

Girth: The size of something measured around the middle. When measuring a tree, it’s typically measured at check height.

Graft: A type of propagation in which two separate plants are joined together to benefit from the ideal creatures of each. A good example, is grafting conifers on Abies firma.

Green Manure: Green manure refers to turning a cover crop into the soil.

Green Roof: A roof covered with living plant.s

GreenhouseA building or “house” that is protected from the elements to winter-over tender plants or to start seeds.

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

Ground Cover: Plants that are low growing to the ground.

Gymnosperm: A vascular plant that produces seeds that are not protected in an ovary. A good example is conifers.

Guttation: Guttation is the exudation of xylem sap that accumulate on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants, such as grasses. Not to be confused with dew, which condenses from the atmospher onto the plant surface.


Habit: Refers to how a mature plant carries itself.

Habitat: Areas which certain plants thrive.

Ha-Ha: - A sunken wall or ditch with one side being a retaining wall, These were used in England to divide lands without interrupting the beauty of the landscape, yet keepings animals within their bounds.

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.

Hardiness: The ability for the plant to endure difficult conditions within their range.

Hardscape: The nonliving or man-made fixtures of a planned outdoor area–walls, gazebos, paths, etc.

Hardpan: A hardened impervious layer, typically of clay, occurring in or below the soil and impairing drainage and plant growth.

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.)

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.

Heaving:  Frost heaving or just heaving, is an upwards swelling of soil during freezing conditions caused by an increasing presence of ice swelling towards the surface, often taking plants with it.

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

Heirloom Plant: An heirloom plant, fruit, variety, or vegetable is an old cultivar that is still maintained by gardeners and farmers particularly in isolated or small farming communities. These may have been commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are not typically used in modern large-scale agriculture.

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.Herbicide:  

Herbivore: An animal that feeds on plants.

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.

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




Hermaphrodite: One plant having both male and female organs; the breeding of hermaphrodites is hard to control

Hip: A hip, as in rose hip, is the fruit of the rose plant.

Honeydew: A sticky honey like substance secreted into foliage by aphids, scale and mealy bugs.

Horticulture: The art or practice of garden cultivation and management.

Horizontal: Parallel to the horizon, ground or floor.

Hormone: Chemical substance that controls the growth and development of a plant. Root-inducing hormones help cuttings root.

Host: A host is a plant upon which an organism, such as an insect subsists. For example, the common milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly.

Humidity (Relative): Ratio between the amount of moisture in the air and the greatest amount of moisture the air could hold at the same temperature.

Humus: Dark, fertile partially decomposed plant or animal matter. Humus forms the organic portion of the soil.

Hybrid: An offspring from two plants of different breeds, variety or genetic makeup.

Hydrated Lime: Instantly soluble lime, used to raise pH or sweeten soil.

Hydrogen: Light or colorless, odorless gas; hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water.

Hygrometer: Instrument for measuring relative humidity in the atmosphere


Inbred: Inbred is a true breed offspring of plants ofthe same breed or ancestry.

Indeterminate: Referring to tomatoes where growth of the plant is isn’t limited. 

Inert: Chemically non reactive; inert growing mediums make it easy to control the chemistry of the nutrient solution.

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.

Integrated Pest Management: IPM

Internode: A part of a plant stem between two of the nodes from which leaves emerging

Introduced: An introduced, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its native distributional range, which has arrived there by human activity, either deliberate or accidental.

Invasive: An invasive species is a plant that is not native to a specific location (an Introduced species); and has a tendency to escape cultivation.

JC Raulson Arboretum: JC Raulston Arboretum


Lacewing: Beneficial insects that preys on aphids.

Larva: the active immature form of an insect, especially one that differs greatly from the adult and forms the stage between egg and pupa, e.g., a caterpillar or grub.

Lateral Bud: Aanother term for axillary bud. See above.

Lath House:


Leach: Dissolve or wash out soluble components of soil by heavy watering.


Leaf curl: Leaf malformation due to over-watering over fertilization lack of magnesium, insect or fungus o or negative tropism.

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

Leaflet: Small immature leaf.

Leaf Mold:

Leaf Pattern or Attachment: The pattern by which leaves are attached to a stem or twig. There are two large groups, alternate and opposite patterns, and a third less common pattern, whorled.

Leaf Scorch:

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

Leaves: The external part of a plant attached to branches and stems for the purpose of taking in light from the sun s energy, they do this with chloroplasts in the cells which contain chlorophyll.

Leggy: Abnormally tall internode space, with sparse foliage. Leggyness of a plant is usually caused by lack of blue light or CO2 too much nitrogen can also cause this.

Life Cycle: A series of growth stages through which a plant must pass in its natural lifetime; the stages for an annual plant are seed, seedling, vegetative and floral.

Liner Plant:

Lime: Used in the form of dolomite or hydrated lime to raise and stabilize soil ph.

Litmus Paper: Chemically sensitive paper used for testing ph.

Loam: Organic soil mixture of crumbly clay, silt and sand.


Macronutrient: One or all of the primary nutrients N-P-K or the secondary nutrients magnesium and calcium.

Marcescent: Many oaks  (Quercus spp.) have marcescent leaves. I have one and at first thought it was a disadvantage because 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.

Margin:  The area along the leaf blade.

Mature:  Fully grown.


Meristem: Tip of plants growth.


Micronutrient: Also referred to as trace elements, include S, Fe, Mn, B, Mo, Zn, and Cu.

Moisture Meter: An electronic device that measures the exact moisture content of soil at any given point.

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

Monoecious: A plant having both the male and female reproductive organs in the same individual; hermaphrodite.


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.



Native Plants:  Native plant is a term used to describe plants endemic (indigenous) to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area.


Necrosis: The death of most or all of the cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury, or failure of the blood supply

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


Neutral:  Neutral soil has a pH of 7.



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.


Nemophilist: One who loves the forest and its beauty and solitude.


N-P-K: 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.


Nutrients: A substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.


Open Pollinated:


Organic Matter: 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.




Organic: Made of, or derived from or related to living organisms. In agriculture organic means natural. in chemistry organic means a molecule or substance that contains carbon.

Ovule: A plant’s egg found within the calyx, it contains all the female genes; when fertilized, an ovule will grow into a seed.

Oxygen: Tasteless, colorless element, necessary in soil to sustain plant life as well as animal life.


Parasite: Organism that lives on or in another host organism; fungus is a parasite.

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

Peat: Partially decomposed vegetation (usually moss) with slow decay due to extreme moisture and cold.

Pesticide: A substance used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals. Not used in Helen’s Haven.

Pest Resistant:

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.


Petrichor: The smell of earth after rain.

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.

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)


Pluviophile: Some one who loves the rain, who finds joy and peace of mind in rainy days.

Pluviophila: A love of rain; a feeling of joy, hope, and relief on stormy days.

pH: A scale from 1 to 14 that measures the acid to alkaline balance of a growing medium (or anything); in general plants grow best in a range of 5.5 to 6.8 pH.

pH Scale:

pH tester: Electronic instrument or chemical used to find where soil or water is on the pH scale.



Photometrics: The study of light, especially color.

Phosphor Coating: Internal bulb coating that diffuses light and is responsible for variations in color outputs.

Photoperiod: The relationship between the length of light and dark in a 24 hour period.

Photosynthesis: The building of chemical compounds (carbohydrates) from light energy, water and carbon dioxide.

Phototropism: The specific movement of a plant part towards a light source.

Pigment: The substance in paint or anything that absorbs light, producing (reflecting) the same color.


Piquancy: Is a term applied to foods with a lower degree of pungency that are agreeably stimulating to the palate.

Pinching Back:

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


Pollen: Fine, dust like micro- spores containing male genes.

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

Pome: In botany, a pome is a type of fruit produced by flowering plants in the subtribe Malinae of the family Rosaceae. A fruit consisting of a fleshy enlarged receptacle and a tough central core containing the seeds, e.g., pyracantha, pear.


Potting Soil:

Primary Nutrients: N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium)


Pre-Emergent Herbicide: 

Propagate: (1) Sexual: produce a seed by breeding different male and female flowers (2) Asexual: to produce a plant by taking cuttings

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.


Prune: Alter the shape and growth pattern of a plant by cutting stems and shoots. A restaurant in NYC.

Psithurism: The sound of wind through trees.


Pungency:Pungency is the technical term used by scientists to refer to the characteristic of food commonly referred to as spiciness or hotness and sometimes heat.

Pyrethrum: Natural insecticide made from the blossoms of various chrysanthemums.



Rain Barrel:

Rain Garden: 

Rejuvenate: Restore youth; a mature plant, having completed its life cycle (flowering), may be stimulated by a new 18 hour photo period, to rejuvenate or produce new vegetative growth.



Root: Their purpose is to anchor a plant and provide a means in which to feed and hydrate a plant.

Root Bound: Roots stifled or inhibited from normal growth, by the confines of a container.

Root Flare: 

Root Rot: Root rot is a condition found in both indoor and outdoor plants, although more common in indoor plants with poor drainage. As the name states, the roots of the plant rot. Usually, this is a result of overwatering.

Root Stock: A rootstock is part of a plant, often an underground part, from which new above-ground growth can be produced. It can refer to a rhizome or underground stem.

Row Cover: In horticulture, row cover (or cloche) is any material used as a protective covering to shield plants, usually vegetables, primarily from the undesirable effects of cold and wind, and also from insect damage.


Runoff:  The draining away of water from the surface of an area of land, a building. or structure.


Salt: Crystalline compound that results from improper pH or toxic buildup of fertilizer. Salt will burn plants, preventing them from absorbing nutrients.

Secondary Nutrients: Calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg).


Seed Pod: A dry calyx containing a mature or maturing seed.

Seed propagation means growing plants from seed.

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.

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.



Shade Cloth: 



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.

Slow Release Fertilizer: 

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.

Soil Test:

Soluble Salts: 

Soluble: Able to be dissolved in water.

Specimen: A plant that has interest enough to stand on its own and not be apart of a mass planting.

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!

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.  

Sun Requirements: Sun Requirements

Sustainable:  Sustainable gardening,

Spore: Seed like offspring of a fungus.

Sprout: (1) A recently germinated seed (2) Small new growth of a leaf or stem.

Square Feet (SqFt): Length (in feet) times width equals square feet.

Stamen: Male, pollen-producing.


Starch: Complex carbohydrate; starch is manufactured and stored in food.

Sterilize: Make sterile (super clean) by removing dirt, germs and bacteria.


Stress: A physical or chemical factor that causes extra exertion by plants; a stressed plant will not grow as well as a non stressed plant.


Stomata: Small mouth like or nose like openings (pores) on leaf underside, responsible for transpiration and many other life functions; the millions of stomata, must be kept very clean to function properly.

Succulent: A type of plant with thick, fleshy leaves, stems, or tubers.


Sugar: Food product of plant. Carbohydrates that contain hydrocarbon chain.


Susceptible Host: 


Synthesis: Production of a substance, such as chlorophyll, by uniting light energy and elements or chemical compounds.

Synthetic Fertilizer:



Tap Root: The main or primary root that grows from the seed; lateral roots will branch off the tap root.



Tenalach: Used to describe a relationship one has with the land, air, and water. A deep connection that allows one to literally hear the Earth sing.


Tepid: Warm 70 to 80 degrees F (21 to 27 degrees C); always use tepid water around plants to facilitate chemical processes and ease shock.

Terminal Bud: Bud at the growing end of the main st



Thin: Cull or weed out very slow growing seedlings.




Tissue Culture: 






Transpire: Give off water vapor and by products via stomata and carbon dioxide intake at the leaves.


Treated Seed:

Trellis: Frame or netting (lattice) that trains or supports plants.

Triecious: Of or pertaining to a species having male, female, and hermaphrodite flowers on different plants.


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.



Variety: Strain, phenotype.

Vascular System: 


Vent: Opening such as a window or door that allows the circulation of fresh air.

Ventilation: Circulation of fresh air, fundamental to a healthy indoor garden, an exhaust fan creates excellent ventilation.


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.

Vertical: Up and down perpendicular to the horizontal.


Volcano Mulching: 

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 crops: 

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 Soluble: 


Water-wise: Water-wise.



Wetting Agent: Compourd that reduces the droplet size and lowers the surface tension of the water, making it wetter.

Whirled: Sometimes more than two leaves arise from the same location (node) on a twig, the leaves may radiate from the twig like the spokes on wheel.

Wick: Part of a passive hydroponic system using a wick suspended in the nutrients solution, the nutrients pass up the wick and are absorbed by the medium and roots.

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.  







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3 Responses to “Garden Glossary”

  1. Lee says:

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

  2. Teri speight says:

    This is an awesome list! A great guide for new gardeners to become familiar with and experienced gardeners to refresh their memory with!

  3. HelenYoest says:

    Thanks, T! H.

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