happy planting.


Plant terms can be confusing. If you find yourself a bit perplexed, the glossary below may help. If I have missed any, please let me know.

Happy Planting!


Acidic Soil Soil with a pH of less than 7
Alkaline Soil Soil with a pH of greater than 7
Amendment Any material, such as compost or lime, that is mixed with existing soil to improve properties
Annual Plant that completes its lifecycle in one growing season, then dies
Basal Foliage Leaves found near the base of the stem
Biennial Plant that completes its lifecylce in two growing seasons, then dies
Border A garden, usually containing a variety of plants, that is backed by walls, fences, or taller plants, such as, trees or shrubs
Compost Organic material used as a soil amendment
Crown Area on a plant where the stem meets the root, generally found at soil level
Cultivar Refers to a group of plants within a species that has slightly different characteristics, such as, flower color or size
Deadheading Removal of old, spent/dead flowers, may promote reblooming
Deciduous Refers to trees and shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, usually in the fall
Division The process of splitting up plants, commonly performed on perennials
en masse Planting masses of the same plant to create a bold statement
Evergreen Plants that retain their foliage for more than one growing season
Fertilizer Organic or inorganic material added to the soil to encourage plant growth
Groundcover A plant that spreads to cover the soil surface
Growth Rate Slow: 3-6" per year, Moderate: 6-12" per year, Fast: 12-24+ per year
Habit General form or shape of a plant
Hardiness Zone Zones that provide guidelines to measure a plants ability to tolerate hot and cold temperatures
Herbaceous Non-woody plant that dies back to the ground every year
Invasive Plant A plant that spreads rapidly and may take over a garden bed
Loam Soil that is a mixture of clay, sand and silt
Mass Planting A planting where large numbers of the same plant are used to provide visual interest
Native Plant A plant that naturally occurs in a certain area
Node (leaf node) a joint on a plant stem
Perennial Plant that survives for 3 or more growing seasons
Pinching A technique used to promote fuller or shorter plants, often resulting in more flower heads
Rhizome an underground stem
Semi-evergreen Plants that fall between evergreen and deciduous in terms of growth and leaf retention.  Some examples include:  they may shed their foliage for a very short time in late winter or they lose most, but not all, of their foliage for a fraction of the year; sometimes they may lose their leaves due to specific situations, such as, extremes in temperature or drought.  
 Stamen pollen producing structure, usually found within the center of the flower
Spathe Leaf like structure that encloses the flower
Taproot Main root of a plant, usually growing straight down

A plant whose green foliage is marked with another color, usually white or yellow

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Container Water Gardening

Most people, especially in the urban setting, do not have the room to construct a large water garden.  But, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the tranquility and calm that moving water brings to a space.  Container water gardens are easy to make, portable, and can be completed in an afternoon.  Place one on a balcony or deck, and they are perfect for the office or sunroom.     

Check out the steps below to create your pond-in-a-pot:

Materials required: 

  • 15 inch or larger decorative container (i.e. 24 inch half barrel, choose the size based on the space and what you can reasonably handle)
  • Plastic Liner - use any durable plastic liner, some liners are made to fit perfectly inside pond containers, or use flexible PVC liners.  Both types are available at many garden centers and home improvement stores.  Liners are only needed if your container is not water tight.
  • Bricks or empty Pots – to vary the height of the plants
  • Rocks of varying size
  • Water – you will want easy access to water even after the pond-in-a-pot is complete
  • Water Plants

Make sure your container starts out clean.

Container water gardens can get very heavy, so assemble in its permanent location.  Most water plants do best in full sun, placing your container in a location that gets 6 or more hours of sun daily will help your water garden thrive.

Determine how your pot will be viewed.  Plant placement will be governed by whether the pot is viewed from just a few angles or from all sides.  

Choose your water plants:

  •  Start out with only a few plants and keep it simple.
  • Choose plants that are in scale with your container.  In other words, don’t pick plants that are too big or small for your pot (check tags for plant height and width).
  • When creating your container design use plants with contrasting shapes, colors, and size.  Consider combining tall spiky plants (i.e. cattail, yellow iris, or sweet flag) with shorter broad leafed varieties (i.e. cranberry taro and houttuynia).  
  • Select one or two floating plants, such as water hyacinth or water lettuce.  

Most water plants can remain in their original pots and placed directly into your water garden container.  If you wish to pot up a size, use aquatic pond media, and a container with lots of drainage holes (you can buy one or make it yourself, use an inexpensive plastic pot and, using a drill, make lots of small holes all over).


  1. Place your container in its permanent location.
  2. If needed, line your container.
  3. Fill your container 1/3 full of rocks. 
  4. Fill your pot half way with water.
  5. Determine how your container will be viewed.  If the container is to be viewed from only the front and sides, place your tallest plant near the center rear of the pot.  If viewed from all angles, place it dead center. 
  6. Place your plants at the appropriate water depth.  The plant tag will provide you with this information. 
  7. Use bricks or empty pots to vary the height. 
  8. Insert your tallest plant first, creating the backdrop for your water garden.
  9. Next, place your shorter broad leafed plants, placing them in front of, but off to the side, of the tallest plant.  Use bricks to adjust the height or your plants.
  10. Strategically place more rocks to help hide bricks and pots.
  11. Fill container to the top with water.
  12. Finish with your floating plants. 
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Container Maintenance:

Keep your container filled with water.  Usually a topping off every few days is adequate. 

After your water plants have started to show signs of new growth, provide some nutrients with fertilizer tablets specifically made for water plants. 

In colder regions outdoor containers will require a bird bath type heater to prevent the water from freezing.  Or, you can dissemble the container for the winter and bring the plants indoors.

If needed, divide the plants in spring, sharing the extra plants with your neighbor or start another container water garden. 

Plant Suggestions:

Rooted Floating Plants – or deep water plants, have roots at the bottom of the pond (or in a container, at the bottom), with their leaves stretching up to the water’s surface.  Examples of rooted floating plants:  lotus, water poppy, nardoo, water hawthorne, golden club.

Marginal Plants – grow in the shallow margins, around the edge of the pond.   Examples include:  arrowhead, cattail, water plantain, water iris, yellow flag, lizard’s tail, horsetail fern, dwarf papyrus, aquatic mint, pickerel rush, houttuynia, vietnamese mint.

Floating Plants – as the name suggests, these plants float on the water’s surface.  They get their nutrients from the water, helping to control algae.   These plants include:  water lettuce, water hyacinth, duckweed, fairy moss.


          Happy Planting!