Gardening 101

The Gardener’s Vocabulary

Every segment of society possesses its own unique and special vocabulary in its particular field of interest. In the gardening world you know you have arrived when you start dropping words and phrases that have a transplant searching for natives and volunteers that are also self pollinating, don’t require deadheading and before bolting at the thought of double digging.

Gobbledygook right? Though totally incomprehensible as a sentence, there are numerous words included here that have their own specific meaning in the gardening world. And if you overlay a gardeners jargon with the Latin necessary to specifically identify a plant, then you can really impress your gardening buddies by casually adding that you have just planted a Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea Nana’ that has become a primary focal point of your new fairy garden.

So for you Triangle transplants from other locations of the world a transplanted shrub is a plant moved from one location to another.

Natives are plants indigenous to a specific climate and volunteers are any plant in your yard that was not planted by someone but was transported by nature.

Plants that self-pollinate possess the ability to produce young without a mate.

Deadheading is removing spent blooms for both the plant’s looks and to promote further blooms.

Plants bolt when excessively hot weather strikes primarily vegetables and herbs, resulting in extreme flower and seed production instead of leaf formation.

Double digging is the process of soil preparation by adding compost to the bed and digging in layers equivalent to the depth of two shovels.

Plants experience their own form of dormancy through a period of arrested plant growth typically in winter, but some plants go dormant during hot weather.

A plant’s scientific name is made up of two words. For example, the primary form of nandina is the genus Nandina capitalized and domestica is the species and is rarely capitalized, thus Nandina domestica. Varieties of nandina such as Alba, the white-berried form, or Compacta, a dwarf form, are capitalized as well.

Latin and common names of plants conform to the Code for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants. Clones or English varietal names are given single quotations and horticultural varieties are in italics. The desire of specific plants for your garden is somewhat dependent on a basic understanding of nomenclature and an avoidance of common names to guide your plant purchases.

The education of you as a gardener will take on many forms over the course of a lifetime. An understanding of basic garden terminology is integral in tackling the more difficult elements of developing your own garden. It is not just the introduction of words to your vocabulary, but the opportunity to develop new techniques and ideas that will keep you excited about horticulture and garden design.

Hoyt Bangs, a Raleigh native and landscape designer is owner of WaterWise Garden Design. You may reach him at

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