Categories

Glossary and Definition of Gardening Terms

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A

Acid (soil)
Soil that has a low pH value between 3.5 and 6 (lacking in lime). Most peaty soils and some very sandy soils fall into this category.
Alkaline (soil)
Soil that has a high pH value between 7 and 9 (high lime content). Usually chalky soils and some clay soils.
Alpine
A plant that is usually native to a mountainous zone between the upper limit of tree growth and the permanent snow line. Can also be categorised as any small plant suitable for a rockery.
Annual
A plant that grows from seed and completes its life cycle within one growing season.
Anther
The part of the stamen that contains pollen.
Axil
The angle between the leaf (or lateral) and stem of a plant.

B

Bark-ringing
Cutting out a thin (4-6 mm wide) strip of bark halfway round the trunk of a tree. This reduces the flow of sap, and hence growth and is usually done to encourage flower production.
Bedding plant
A flowering plant used for a short-term garden display, to provide colour for part of the year.
Biennial
A plant with a life cycle spanning two growing seasons, where flowers and seeds are only formed in the second season.
Blanching
Excluding light from the stems and/or leaves of certain vegetable crops in order to make them white.
Block-sowing
Sowing across a wide area, rather than sowing in drills or lines.
Bolting
Applied to a vegetable that is prematurely producing seed heads (AKA gone to seed).
Bottom heat
Heat applied from below to encourage cuttings to take root quickly.
Brassicas
Plants of the genus Brassica, which include cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and kale.
Budding
Grafting a single growth bud from one plant onto the rooting system of another.
Bulbil or Bulblet
A small bulb formed at the edge of base of a stem above ground.

C

Catch crop
Any fast-maturing crop that can be grown between rows of a slower-maturing one or between the maturing of one crop and the planting of the next.
Chitting
Refers to sprouting seed potatoes - placing them in a cool, but not cold light place so that they will sprout.
Cloche
Panes of glass, plastic sheeting or other transparent covering, held together by shaped wires or canes, used for forcing outdoor plants.
Clone
One of several identical plants obtained from a parent plant by vegetative propagation.
Cold frame
An unheated low wooden or metal framed structure with glass or clear plastic sides and top used to protect young plants from rough or cold weather.
Compost
(1) Rooting medium, usually a mixture of peat (or peat free) medium, plus a balanced fertilizer, used for growing plants in pots or other containers.
(2) Manure substitute made from rotted vegetable matter.
Cordon
A plant restricted to a single stem by pruning.
Corm
A food-storage organ found in some plants, consisting of a thick, fleshy stem with a papery sheath.
Crown
(1) Part of a herbaceous perennial from which the roots and shoots grow.
(2) The main branch system or head of a tree.
Cultivar
Short for 'cultivated variety'. A variant of a species, arising in the wild or in gardens, maintained in cultivation.
Curd
Part of the edible head of cauliflower or broccoli.

D

Damping off
A fungal disease that attacks the stem of a plant in excessively damp conditions.
Deadheading
Removing faded blossom from a plant to prevent seeds from forming and to prolong the flowering season.
Deciduous
Applied to a plant (particularly a tree or shrub) that sheds its leaves each year at the end of the growing season.
Dibber
A stick for making holes for seedlings to be transplanted.
Disbudding
Removing surplus buds or shoots so that those remaining grow larger or stronger.
Dot plant
A plant grown singly or well spaced in a bed to emphasize a feature such as colour, height or texture.
Double
Applied to a flower with more than the usual number of petals.
Drawn
Applied to a plant grown too warm or kept without sufficient light so that it is spindly and pale.
Drill
A shallow furrow in which seeds are scattered or sown.

E

Earthing-up
Drawing soil up around a plant's stem to blanch it, to cover tubers and prevent greening, or to support it.
Espalier
A tree with branches trained to grow horizontally, in tiers, about 37cm (15 in) apart.
Eye
(1) A dormant growth bud, e.g. on a potato tuber.
(2) A centre of a flower-head.
(3) A single budded cutting, e.g. vine.

F

F1 hybrid
The result of crossing two related, pure-bred plants with certain desirable characteristics. Also known as a first-generation hybrid.
Fan-trained
Regarding a shrub or tree with its main branches trained like the ribs of a fan.
Filler plants
Plants used to infill a planting scheme while the main species are growing up.
Firming
Pressing down the soil around the base of a plant's stem.
Force
To cause a plant to grow more quickly and to produce early flowers or an early crop, usually with the aid of artificial heat.

G

Genus (pl. genera)
A group of plants with common characteristics that are different from those of all other such groups. A genus comprises one or more species.
Germination
The first stage in the development of a plant, indicated by the appearance of a root (radicle) growing from a seed.
Greenwood cutting
A tip or section cut from a current season's stem after the main burst of growth has slowed down.

H

Half-hardy
(1) Applied to a plant that can withstand average winters outdoors but needs protection from severe frost.
(2) A plant which is so susceptible to frost damage that it can only be grown outside during the summer.
Half-standard
A tree or shrub with 1m to 1.25m (3-4 ft) of stem beneath the branches.
Harden off
Acclimatizing plants grown in warmth conditions to cooler outside conditions.
Hardwood cutting
A cutting taken once the growth has ceased and become woody.
Hardy
An outdoor plant capable of surviving frost anywhere in Great Britain.
Heeling-in
Temporarily covering the roots of new trees and shrubs with soil.
Herbaceous
Applied to a non-woody perennial plant that dies back to ground level at the end of the growing season and re grows the following spring.
Herbaceous border
A flower bed containing herbaceous perennial plants.
Hybrid
A plant derived from crossing any two distinct parents.

I

In situ
A plant placed in its permanent growing position.
Infill planting
Plants used to infill a planting scheme while the main species are growing up.
Inter cropping
Sowing fast-growing vegetables and slow-growing ones near to one another so that the fast growing ones are harvested early to give room for the slow-growing variety.

J

K

L

Lateral
A side growth branching, away from a main stem.
Layering
A method of propagation in which a shoot is induced to send out roots while still attached to the parent plant.
Leader
The leading shoot at the end of a stem or main branch of a tree or shrub.
Leguminous
Concerning the Leguminosae family, most of which have pea-shaped flowers and bear seeds in pods, e.g. sweet pea and broad bean.
Loam
An ideal fertile soil type, consisting of a mixture of sand, clay and decayed vegetable matter.

M

Mulch
A layer (usually of organic material), spread around the base of plants to conserve moisture, condition the soil, feed the plants and inhibit the growth of weeds.

N

Node
The point where a leaf and bud join a stem.

O

Offset
(1) A young plant borne at the end of a short runner (e.g. strawberry).
(2) A small bulb formed at the base of another one.

P

Perennial
A plant that lives for several years (it will survive the Winter and regrow in the next season).
Pinching out
Removing the growing at the tip of a shoot by pinching with the tips of the thumb and fore finger.
Pipings
Tip cuttings taken from carnations and pinks.
Plunge
Burying a pot containing a young plant, cutting or tender plant up to the rim to guard against unwanted fluctuations of moisture content and temperature in the potting medium.
Pot-bound
Applied to a container grown plant with no more space available for the roots to grow further.
Potting on
Repotting a plant in a larger pot to allow further growth.
Pricking out
Transplanting and spacing out seedlings or small rooted cuttings into individual pots or evenly spaced-out in a tray.
Propagation
Any means of increasing a desired plant, by seeds, cuttings, layers or grafting etc.
Propagator
A covered tray or container that protects planted seeds and cuttings and promotes growth by providing a moist, warm environment.

Q

R

Raceme
A flower cluster with each flower borne on a short stalk from an unbranched stem (e.g. lily of the valley).
Rhizome
A thick fleshy, horizontal, underground or surface stem sending out roots and shoots.
Ring culture
Growing plants in bottomless containers which stand on a bed of free-draining aggregate.
Ripe cutting
See Hardwood cutting.
Root ball
A plant's roots and the soil or compost surrounding them.
Rootstock
A root system and stem onto which another plant is grafted.
Runner
A prostrate stem of certain plants (e.g. strawberry and blackberry) that forms new plants and roots easily.

S

Scarifying
Using a spring-tooth rake to pull out moss and dead vegetation from a lawn.
Seedling
(1) A young plant newly emerged from seed.
(2) A seed raised until it reaches the flowering plant stage, particularly concerning fruit trees and orchids.
Semi-double
Applied to a flower with only some stamens converted to petals.
Semi-hardy
See Half-hardy.
Semi-ripe cutting
A cutting taken when new growth from spring has started to 'ripen', or become woody.
Set
The successful fertilization of flowers, resulting in young fruit formation.
Shrub
A perennial plant with a number of persistent woody stems.
Single
Applied to a flower with the usual number of petals and stamens.
Soak away
A pit filled with stones and rubble that assists in draining an area, such as a lawn, and prevents it from becoming waterlogged.
Softwood cutting
A tip or side shoot cut from a vigorously growing non-woody stem.
Species
A plant, or a group of closely related plants, within a genus. Species have distinctive characteristics and always breed true to type from seed.
Spit
The depth of the blade of a garden spade or fork.
Sport (mutation)
A plant that markedly differs from the normal type.
Spring-tooth rake
A rake with a fan-shaped set of slender metal ribs bent down at the open end.
Spur
(1) A short branch bearing flower buds.
(2) A tubular or horn shaped prolongation of a petal.
Stamen
The male reproductive organ of a flower, comprising a stalk (the filament) bearing a pair of anther lobes, which contain pollen.
Standard
(1) A tree or shrub with 1.5 to 2m (5-6ft) of bare trunk beneath the branches.
(2) Uppermost petals of a pea-flower or iris.
Stem-rooting
Applied to a plant, such as types of lily, which puts out roots directly from the lower stem.

T

Tender
Applied to any plant that would be damaged by low temperatures when growing outdoors.
Tendril
A slender leaf or stem that twines around a support, enabling certain plants to climb.
Terminal bud
The topmost bud on a stem.
Tilth
Where the soil surface well broken down to a fine crumbly consistency (usually by raking) and is ready for sowing seeds.
Tine
A slender prong of a fork or similar tool.
Tipping
Removing the growing tip of a shoot to encourage growth.
Top dressing
A surface application of compost, fertilizer or fresh soil (see also Mulching).
Topiary
The art of trimming trees and bushes into ornamental shapes.
Transpiration
Emitting water vapour, usually from the leaves.
Truss
A cluster of bud, blossoms or fruit.
Tuber
A thickened, fleshy root or underground stem providing food storage, e.g. dahlia and potato.

U

Umbel
A cluster of flowers with stalks arising from the same point.

V

Vegetative propagation
Growing a new plant from a part taken from another plant (e.g. stem or root cutting).

W

Wind rock
The loosening of the base of the main stem and sometimes also the root system of a plant by the action of strong winds.

X

Y

Z

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