Over the last couple of months I have taught garden classes for both children and adults and have come to realize that garden terms I am so familiar with are foreign to many. Just last week I was asked what biennial meant so today I will go over a few basic garden terms.
Annual-This is a plant that grows stems, leaves, flowers or fruits and dies in the same year. An example of this would be marigolds, zinnias, petunias, beans, peas, squash, alyssum and lobelia.
Biennial-This is a plant that produces leaves in the first season and in the second season it produces leaves, flowers and seeds and then dies. An example of this is parsley as shown above coming back for its second season. If carrots and swiss chard are left in the ground they will also return the following spring and produce seed in the second year of growth. For more info on what is a biennial vegetable check out my post here.
Perennial-A plant that returns year after year such as Rudbeckia, Crocosmia, Hosta, Irises, rhubarb and asparagus. There are many plants that are perennial but it also depends on your hardiness zone. What may survive here in our zone 8 climate will not survive in northern BC where they have colder winters and short summers. For an idea of what your hardiness zone is check out this link to see where you are on the map. The nation is divided into zones depending on temperature and weather patterns. Knowing your zone will help you choose plants that will survive in your climate. For example, you wouldn’t want to leave a houseplant such as Echeveria outside in zone 8 but it may survive in zone 11-12.
Pollination-The act of plants being pollinated by wind, insects or birds by the transfer of pollen from one plant to another. When this happens the plant is fertilized and grows on to produce food. Many plants need pollination to produce a crop such as squash, coffee, plums, strawberries, cherries and almonds.
Full sun-When plants require full sun it usually means eight hours of sun each day for optimum growth results.
Dappled shade-Placing plants in dappled shade of large trees and shrubs where some light filters through.
Full shade-This is the planting area under large trees and shrubs that provides protection from the sun. Many plants needing this type of shade will exhibit browning on the tips and edges of the leaves when in too much sun.
Deadheading- The act of cutting the flower heads off annual and perennial flowers to stimulate new growth. This is done by taking your secateurs to the leaf joint below the faded flower. A cut is made just above the leaf joint and the flower is removed. The spent flower can be composted. This will stimulate new flower production on the plant.
Deciduous- Plants that shed their leaves in the fall and stems remain bare over winter and leaf out again in the spring. Here in BC deciduous trees such as maple, oak, sweet gum and sour gum lose their leaves but our conifers retain their foliage. Now if you travel to a warm climate such as Mexico you will notice their trees keep their leaves all year round, very unlike ours. That’s because they are a different zone than us.
Evergreen- Plants that hold their leaves year round. These plants are the basis for most landscape designs as they provide winter interest. Plants commonly used here that are evergreen are Rhododendrons, Camellias, Viburnum davidii, Skimmia, Pieris and Yew.
Hardening off-This is the process in which one needs to acclimatize plants after bringing them out of a greenhouse environment such as a garden center or home greenhouse. It is usually done over a period of a week by slowing bringing your plants outside for an hour in the shade, then to two hours in the shade and increasing the time over the week until your plants can take the full sun and spend the night outside. You have to remember if it’s too cold for you it’s probably too cold at night for your plants. You can put a sweater on, they can’t.
Loam-Loam is considered the optimum soil, an even mix of clay, sand, silt and organic matter to obtain a nice crumbly workable soil suitable for plant growth.
Clay soil- This soil is common here and when you grab a handful of soil in your hand it sticks together and forms a ball that feels sticky. Clay soil often drains slowly but is water retentive. It can be very hard during dry spells. Adding organic matter to clay soil can help improve the structure of the soil.
Perlite- is a naturally occurring siliceous rock. It is commonly added to garden soil mixes. It provides aeration and drainage and stimulates root growth. It holds moisture but does not become soggy. It is commonly seen in soil mixes you buy at the garden center and is white in colour.
Compost- is a gardeners gold. This product is the result of decayed garden matter using a mix of both green material from plant parts such as grass and leafy stems and brown material such as dried leaves, sawdust, shredded paper and old soil. By adding equal amounts of both green and brown material to your compost along with air and water, you will stimulate microorganisms to break down the material into soil.
Foliage-The leaves of plants in the garden come in many different shapes, colours and textures and play a big part in garden design. My motto is if you have good foliage, your garden will always look great. Flowers are an added bonus.
Herbaceous- This is a plant that dies back to the ground in the fall. It usually has no stems or leaves left behind.
Pinching- This is a term used when one wants to create more growth on a plant. For example. I would pinch the central leader on a basil plant. By doing this it tells the plant to produce side shoots and creates not only a fuller plant but a better harvest. Pinching is also done with plants such as Chrysanthemums and Asters to promote more growth and flowers in late summer.
Bolting-Plants will send up a center shoot in response to temperature or day length. This often happens on cool season crops such as lettuce, spinach and cilantro.
As I wrote this post I realized that there are so many terms that I should really write a book about them. Good idea or not?