A gardener’s vocabulary

Feb 3, 2010

Just like any other trade, gardening has its own language, and every so often I have encountered words or abbreviations that are somewhat difficult to understand or decipher. I remember my bewilderment when, for the very first time, I heard the word “deadheading” being used in connection with prolonging the flowering period for perennials. Being a novice, deadheading sounded like a very cruel act. But, that was then; I now deadhead flowering annuals regularly.
So, for the benefit of others – and me – I have compiled a condensed list of some common and not-so-common terms that gardeners like to use and their meanings. These words are not always familiar to everyone, including me.

ACIDIC – refers to soils having a pH of less than seven.

B&B – not bed and breakfast! To horticulturists, B&B means balled and burlapped. Plants are often sold with a ball of dirt around the roots, held together with burlap.

BIENNIAL – a plant that matures in two years, i.e., one that grows during the first year and flowers during the second year.

BOLTING – the premature elongation of a stem into a flower stalk.

CULTIVAR – a cultivated variety.

DECIDUOUS – losing all leaves at the end of a growing season.

ESPALIER – a tree or shrub trained to grow against a wall, often in symmetrical patterns.

HARDENING OFF – the gradual adjustment of plants started indoors to outdoor conditions.

HUMUS – mixture of partially decomposed organic material.

LAYERING – a type of vegetative propagation in which shoots produce roots while still attached to the parent plant.

NATURALIZE – to establish plants in an environment where they will continue to multiply unassisted.

pH – a symbol to indicate acidity or alkalinity of the soil.

SCARIFICTION – scratching or nicking a hard-coated seed to hasten germination.

VOLUNTEER – a cultivated plant growing from self-sown or accidentally dropped seed.

WEEPING – trees and shrubs with pendulous branches.

XERISCAPE – an attractive landscape that conserves water.

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