I sometimes forget that homeowners, even amateur gardeners, can be confused by landscape jargon. In my world a "bulb" will not illuminate a room, "dead-heading" has nothing to do with attending a Grateful Dead concert, a "flat" is not an apartment, and the kind of "broadcasting" I do isn't licensed by the FCC.
Here, then, is a glossary of landscape terminology.
Amend: To add nutrients, compost and other materials that improve soil structure. While generally a positive horticultural practice, amending can be detrimental, such as overfertilizing, which burns plants and can make them more susceptible to disease.
B and B: Balled and burlapped, in reference to how shrubs are dug and moved. The roots are dug with enough soil to make a ball. Then they're wrapped in burlap to keep the soil ball a solid mass around the roots.
Broadcast: A way to evenly scatter seed or fertilizer. It's a fast method of application, but the material being broadcast can be caught by the wind and can blow into areas where you don't want it. It's good to broadcast fertilizer and seed, but not weedkiller, which should be drop-spread.
Bud or growth point: A bud is the raised area or bump on a stem from which new growth emerges. A growth point is where a leaf, stem or major branch is already growing. Always prune just above a bud or growth point, a very important practice for the health of trees and shrubs. If you cut long stems without a bud at the end, the stems usually die back to a growth point, but the resulting dead wood is the perfect place for disease and insects to enter.
Bulbs: Defined loosely as plants that grow from large roots that store food from the previous year or earlier in the season and use that food for flowering. Plants called bulbs are often corms, rhizomes or tubers. Lilies, daffodils and tulips are bulbs. Irises can be rhizomes or bulbs. Daylilies and dahlias are tubers. Gladioluses are corms. All are often classified as bulbs. Remember, bulbs that flower in spring need to be planted this fall.
Container plants: Plants that are propagated and grown entirely in containers. They are usually transplanted from small pots into larger ones. Faster-growing herbaceous plants are available in 2 1/2-inch pots, four-inch pints, quarts and gallons. There also are outdoor ornamental containers of all sizes. A limitation is that you usually can't get container-grown trees as mature as B and B (see above) nursery stock. One caveat with container stock is that you must spread or slice the tightly growing roots so they will grow into the planting area.
Dead-heading: The practice of pruning off blooms or entire flowering stems as soon as they fade, which helps plants bloom again or produce more foliage. If a plant spreads many seeds, dead-heading can also keep it from becoming invasive.
Drip line: The outermost edge of a branch spread, including the leaves. When a tree or shrub is grown without much pruning, the root spread is generally thought to equal its branch spread.
Leaf mold: Partially decomposed leaves. Also called leaf mulch, this is an excellent soil amendment for all plants. It's especially preferred by shade trees and the plants that grow beneath them. As leaves decompose, leaf mold mixes into the top mantle of soil to make a nutrient-rich, moisture-holding medium. Let leaves lie where they drop this autumn, unless they are covering lawn, groundcovers or other low plantings. They'll improve the soil and help plants grow healthier.
Microclimate: A climate created in a small area because of local conditions. It can support plants that are not typically hardy to a location. For example, mild climate conditions can be created by a house wall that offers extra heat through winter. Because of this protection, you might have a microclimate where you can grow cleyera, loropetalum or banana shrub (michelia figo), none of which ordinarily thrives here.
Mulch: Any of a wide variety of materials that can be spread over the soil to hold moisture and control weeds and erosion. It can be plastic, newspapers, ground-up tires, stones, landscape fabric, bark chips and more. I prefer organically based, partially decomposed mulch that conditions the soil as it decays, such as compost or aged double-shredded hardwood bark.
Naturalized: Plants that have relocated on their own or have been placed by humans or other animals. They have the ability to colonize (naturalize), spreading by stems, roots or seeds.
Pesticide: Any herbicide, fungicide or insecticide used to kill a pest.
Root pruning: The act of cutting a plant's roots while it's still in the ground. The job is performed with a flat nursery spade by slicing deep into the soil, 12 to 18 inches, in a circle around the perimeter of a plant. Root pruning is usually done on trees and shrubs a year or more before transplanting to encourage new feeder roots to grow.
Selective pruning: Pruning by choosing and cutting one branch at a time--for example, pinching new tender shoots, cutting off old rose blooms, taking out select branches from a lilac, yew, crapemyrtle or other shrub, or cutting off huge limbs on trees.
Softscape: The flora on a site. In addition to plants, water can be a part of the softscape.
Wet feet: A potential condition of any plant growing in constant moisture. There are plants that thrive with wet feet, but in many cases wet feet rot or suffocate plant roots by keeping oxygen from getting to them. This is why the expression for keeping most plants watered is "moist but well-drained."
Lerner is president of Environmental Design in Capitol View Park, Md. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org