Category Archives: Landscaping

Landscape Design Words-Glossary

 Landscape Design Words- Glossary

If you are contemplating speaking with someone about renovating your home landscaping, here are a few words that would be helpful in a discussion. These words are by no means all that could come up in your conversation, but may assist you in getting the most out of your meeting. A suggestion is look over some of the words that are pertinent to your needs and use them to become an educated consumer.

The intent of this blog is purely to help you and the person you meet have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish, when renovating your property. When you are talking about a specific subject your meeting will become fruitful and both you and the landscape professional will achieve your goals. Hopefully your meeting is a wonderful success.

I will be adding more information as time goes on. Happy landscaping is our goal.

Note…MW-Definition: means I took certain parts that pertained to landscaping terminology from the Merriam Webster dictionary. The second Definitions: are excerpts from By David Beaulieu, Guide found on the internet. Photos and some sentences are by Ken Thornsbury.

The List


 MW-Definition: completing the life cycle in one growing season or single year <annual plants>

Definition: something that lasts one year or season; specifically: a plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season
Botanically speaking a plant that germinates, grows, produces flowers and seeds, then dies within one growing season.


MW Definition a: of, relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful <aesthetic theories> b: artistic <a work of aesthetic value>

Pertaining to the appreciation of beauty or good taste, “aesthetic” (adjective) means visually pleasing. The noun that corresponds to “aesthetic” is “aesthetics,” which means the study of the appreciation of beauty or how we perceive beauty. Aesthetics is considered important enough to constitute a branch of philosophy

There are practical as well as aesthetic reasons for planting trees.


MW-Definition: a shelter of vines or branches or of latticework covered with climbing shrubs or vines

Wooden garden arbors (arbours) are open frameworks designed to offer shady resting places in a garden or park. Arbors are often made of rustic work or latticework which serves as a trellis on which climbers may grow or on which creepers may be trained.

I would like to design an arbor structure into my new landscape plan.

                        arbor structure


 MW- Definition 1a: concrete

 b: a powder of alumina, silica, lime, iron oxide, and magnesium oxide burned together in a kiln and finely pulverized and used as an ingredient of mortar and concrete; also: any mixture used for a similar purpose

2: a binding element or agency: as a: a substance to make objects adhere to each other b: something serving to unite firmly <justice is the cement that holds a political community together — R. M. Hutchins

There is a layer of cement under the bricks.

Definition: Concrete is a masonry product composed of cement, sand and gravel or other coarse aggregate. When water is mixed in with concrete, it activates the cement component, which is the element responsible for binding the mix together to form one solid object. Concrete is often used in hardscape construction. For instance, concrete may be used to form the flooring of a patio, or concrete footings may be used to support a wooden deck.


 MW-Definition 1: a platform in a ship serving usually as a structural element and forming the floor for its compartments

2: something resembling the deck of a ship: as a: a story or tier of a building (as a sports stadium) <the upper deck> b: the roadway of a bridge c: a flat floored roofless area adjoining a house


 MW-Definition: material that is used to build a deck

Definition:“Decking” materials are what forms the flooring of a deck, often 2×6 or 2×8 boards. This term should not be confused with the word, “deck,” which designates the entire structure. The decking, or “deck flooring,” is the uppermost element of the deck structure, save for the railings. Proceeding in order from the bottom to the top, the following elements support the decking:


 MW-Definition of a tree, bush, etc.: having leaves that fall off every year
▪ the bare branches of a deciduous tree in winter▪ the region’s deciduous forests [=forests that are made up of deciduous trees]▪ deciduous and coniferous trees/forests

Definition: “Deciduous” is a designation indicating a plant sheds its foliage at the end of the growing season. The term, “deciduous” is used primarily in reference to trees and shrubs, in contrast with those that are “evergreen.”

drip line

 Definition: The circle which would exist if you drew a line below the tips of the outer most branches of a tree or plant.


 MW-Definition: something that forms an edge or border

Definition:Garden edging is a line of demarcation that creates visual interest in a landscape by separating one segment of your from another. When used to separate a lawn from adjacent areas, it may also be called “lawn edging.” Others prefer the generic “landscape edging” for all uses of edging.


MW-Definition 1: a plant (as a fruit tree) trained to grow flat against a support (as a wall)

2: a railing or trellis on which fruit trees or shrubs are trained to grow flat


 MW-Definition1: having foliage that remains green and functional through more than one growing season — compare deciduous

2: retaining freshness or interest : perennial

Definition: The term, “evergreen” means having foliage that persists and retains its color throughout the year, rather than changing color according to the seasons. The term, “evergreen” is something of a misnomer, as the color in question needn’t be green. For instance, Colorado blue spruce trees are evergreens, but the color they retain throughout the year is a silvery blue. Trees and shrubs can be classified as either evergreen or deciduous.

Plants that do not lose all of their leaves at once. Evergreens can be conifers or broad-leaved.


 MW-Definition: one that fertilizes; specifically: a substance (as manure or a chemical mixture) used to make soil more fertile


MW-Definition 1: a representation of leaves, flowers, and branches for architectural ornamentation

2: the aggregate of leaves of one or more plants

3: a cluster of leaves, flowers, and branches


MW-Definition1: of, connected with, or being a function b: affecting physiological or psychological functions but not organic structure <functional heart disease>

2: used to contribute to the development or maintenance of a larger whole <functional and practical school courses>; also: designed or developed chiefly from the point of view of use

3: performing or able to perform a regular function

There is a very important statement that is very important to any design process: form follows function

The building’s design is not only functional but also beautiful.


 MW-Definition 1: belvedere : a structure (as a cupola or a summerhouse) designed to command a view

2: a freestanding roofed structure usually open on the side

Definition: A gazebo is a small roofed outbuilding erected for outdoor dining and entertaining. This hardscape feature is often octagonal, with open, screened, or latticework sides. The plural form of the term, gazebo is given either as “gazebos” or “gazeboes.”

 ground cover

MW-Definition 1: the small plants on a forest floor except young trees

2: a planting of low plants (as ivy) that covers the ground in place of turf

Definition: Groundcovers are low-lying plants, usually chosen with aesthetic considerations in mind and requiring minimal maintenance. If groundcovers are projected to cover large expanses of ground on the landscape, the initial cost will be much greater than for sowing grass seed; but groundcovers may save you money in the long run, as expenses such as tune-ups for lawn mowers will be eliminated.


 MW-Definition: : structures (as fountains, benches, or gazebos) that are incorporated into a landscape :

Definition: Hardscape, or “hardscaping,” consists of the inanimate elements of landscaping, especially any masonry work or woodwork.

For example, stone walls, concrete or brick patios, tile paths, wooden decks and wooden arbors would all be considered part of the hardscape. But by extension, anything used in landscaping that is not part of the softscape can be considered a hardscape element, including home accents such as water fountains and, yes, even pink flamingoes!

invasive plants

 Definition: Invasive plants are species that show a tendency to spread out of control. Although not synonymous with “exotic plants” (or “alien plants”), the “invasive plants” label is now often reserved for plants that have been introduced from other regions and spread like wildfire in their new habitats. It is thought that the tendency of invasive plants to spread so much may be due in part to the fact that the insects and diseases that plague them in their native lands are often absent in their new homes, where the invasive plants thus enjoy “free rein.”


MW-Definition 2: the watering of land by artificial means to foster plant growth

 landscape architect

 MW-Definition: a person who develops land for human use and enjoyment through effective placement of structures, vehicular and pedestrian ways, and plantings

landscape design

Definition: Landscape design is the art of arranging or modifying the features of a landscape, an urban area, etc., for aesthetic or practical purposes. Often divided into hardscape design and softscape design. Both landscape designers and landscape architects practice landscape design.

landscape gardening

 Definition: Landscape gardening is the decoration of land, as by planting trees and shrubs and designing gardens. “Landscape gardening” is used especially to refer to residential landscaping work.


Definition: The term, “landscaping” can be used grammatically either as a noun or as the present participle of a verb. In the latter case, “landscaping” either can take an object (transitive) or go without one (intransitive). For example, I can say either “I am landscaping to increase the value of my property” (intransitive) or “I am landscaping my property to increase its value (transitive). Either way, the noun, “landscaping” derives from the participial use and designates the process or result of such an action.

But what constitutes such action? One can loosely be said to engage in landscaping when one works to improve the outside of a property (i.e., virtually everything but the house itself). Improvement can be either practical or aesthetic. When undertaking new improvements (especially of a creative nature), “landscaping” is roughly equivalent to “landscape design.” But improvements must also be maintained, so “landscaping” also includes yard maintenance. Landscaping often involves work both with hardscape and softscape components.


MW-Definition: a framework or structure of crossed wood or metal strips b: a window, door, or gate having a lattice c: a network or design resembling a lattice : a regular geometrical arrangement of points or objects over an area or in space; specifically: the arrangement of atoms in a crystal


 MW-Definition: something constructed of materials used by masons b: the art, trade, or occupation of a mason c: work done by a mason

Definition: Masonry is construction achieved through the use of units of various natural or artificial mineral products, such as stone, brick, or concrete. The term, masonry can be applied to the craft itself or to the finished product. 


MW-Definition: a protective covering (as of sawdust, compost, or paper) spread or left on the ground to reduce evaporation, maintain even soil temperature, prevent erosion, control weeds, enrich the soil, or keep fruit (as strawberries) clean

Definition: a protective covering (as of sawdust, compost, or paper) spread or left on the ground to reduce evaporation, maintain even soil temperature, prevent erosion, control weeds, enrich the soil, or keep fruit (as strawberries) clean

The entire yard has been covered with a two inch layer of fresh mulch.


NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, (12-6-8) the three nutrients that compose complete fertilizers. You’ll encounter NPK when reading the contents printed on bags of fertilizer. The description of the fertilizer may not expressly say “NPK” (it may simply be implied), but you will at least see a series of three numbers, which correspond, respectively, to the nitrogen content, phosphorus content and potassium content of that fertilizer.

Why is it important to know what NPK means? It’s important because chemical fertilizers should not be used indiscriminately. Not all plants have the same nutrient requirements, and you can sometimes do more harm than good when applying chemical fertilizers haphazardly. For example, applying a fertilizer high in nitrogen (indicated by the fact that the first number on the package is high) will cause certain plants to put all their energy into producing foliage, at the expense of flowers.


MW-Definition: a structure usually consisting of parallel colonnades supporting an open roof of girders and cross rafters

A pergola is a landscaping structure very similar to an arbor, but there are differences between the two. If we look at the subtleties, the following distinction can be drawn:Garden arbors are simple, relatively small structures; often, they are arched at the top. Pergolas are larger structures. Sometimes given greater architectural treatment, they may exhibit masonry columns, for instance.

Like garden arbors and latticework, pergolas are often used as support structures for vines. The vines form a canopy over the pergola, affording shade in summer. But to afford complete shade, plus protection from rain, some people cover their pergolas.

In answering the question, What is a pergola? some experts would distinguish pergolas from arbors by noting that the columns of the former form something of a “colonnade.” For instance, Landscape Architect, Cynthia Cash writes, “The primary difference in an ‘arbor’ and a ‘pergola’ is that an arbor is a free-standing structure (also used to support vines), whereas a pergola is a long linear structure over a garden pathway

pergola structure  


MW-Definition1: present at all seasons of the year 2: persisting for several years usually with new herbaceous growth from a perennating part <perennial asters>

Definition: Perennials have a life cycle of 3+ years, as opposed to “annual plants” (1 year) and “biennials” (2 years). Using life cycle as a criterion dispels 3 myths about what makes plants perennials:

  • Myth #1: Perennials are hardy. True
  • Myth #2: Perennials die back in winter but return in spring. True
  • Myth #3: Perennials are the plants you see year after year in your garden. False…Some annuals reseed.


MW-Definition: a measure of acidity and alkalinity of a solution that is a number on a scale on which a value of 7 represents neutrality and lower numbers indicate increasing acidity and higher numbers increasing alkalinity and on which each unit of change represents a tenfold change in acidity or alkalinity and that is the negative logarithm of the effective hydrogen-ion concentration or hydrogen-ion activity in gram equivalents per liter of the solution; also: the condition represented by a pH number

Definition: Soil pH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity in the ground, numerically equal to 7 for dirt with a neutral pH, increasing with rising alkalinity and falling with increasing acidity. The soil pH scale commonly in use ranges from 0 to 14.

Soil pH is not fixed; you can take measures to alter it. If soil pH needs to be lowered (i.e., the earth isn’t acidic enough), apply commercial fertilizers containing sulfur / ammonium-N. Ammonium sulfate is such a fertilizer. If soil pH needs to be raised (i.e., the earth isn’t alkaline enough), apply lime.


MW-Definition1: courtyard; especially: an inner court open to the sky

2: a recreation area that adjoins a dwelling, is often paved, and is adapted especially to outdoor dining


MW-Definition: a low usually several-stemmed woody plan

specimen plant

 MW-Definition 2: something that obviously belongs to a particular category but is noticed by reason of an individual distinguishing characteristic

Specimen plants are plants grown by themselves in a lawn or garden for ornamental effect, rather than being massed with others as are bedding plants or edging plants. Specimen plants can thus serve as focal points in landscape design. An example of a specimen plant is a flowering tree that has a prominent spot reserved for it on a lawn.

systemic poison

Definition: Systemic poisons are insecticides mixed in a plant’s soil and drawn up by its roots to its stem and leaves, where they will be ingested by the pest that they are designed to kill. Although the landscaper adhering to an integrated pest management philosophy would prefer to repell insects altogether, the use of a systemic poisons is at least preferable to spraying. By the time spraying is carried out, significant plant damage may already have occurred.


MW-Definition1: a colonnaded porch or promenade b: a flat roof or open platform c: a relatively level paved or planted area adjoining a building

2: a raised embankment with the top leveled b: one of usually a series of horizontal ridges made in a hillside to increase cultivatable land, conserve moisture, or minimize erosion

3: a level ordinarily narrow plain usually with steep front bordering a river, lake, or sea; also: a similar undersea feature


MW-Definition: something composed of closely interwoven elements; specifically: a woven cloth

Definition: In landscape design terminology, texture is the perceived surface quality of an object. The texture of a plant’s foliage or bloom can be perceived as coarse, medium or fine.


 MW-Definition: of, relating to, or being the practice or art of training, cutting, and trimming trees or shrubs into odd or ornamental shapes; also: characterized by such work

Definition: The art of topiary entails the pruning of live shrubs or trees into decorative shapes, as of animals. Not only is the art form called “topiary,” but the results of such pruning are also known as “topiaries.”


MW-Definition: a woody perennial plant having a single usually elongate main stem generally with few or no branches on its lower part b: a shrub or herb of arborescent form <rose trees> <a banana tree

: something in the form of or resembling a tree: as a: a diagram or graph that branches usually from a simple stem or vertex without forming loops or polygons <a genealogical tree> <phylogenetic trees

Definition:A tree is a woody plant with one main, erect trunk with a circumference of at least 9 1/2 inches (or a diameter of 3 inches) at breast level (which is considered 4 1/2 feet above ground level) at maturity and a rather distinct and elevated head (crown). If not altered through human intervention, true trees (e.g., American elm trees) will, by definition, generally reach a height of 13 feet or more.


 MW-Definition1: the action or art of processing (as by carving, modeling, or welding) plastic or hard materials into works of art b (1): work produced by sculpture (2): a three-dimensional work of art (as a statue)

2: impressed or raised markings or a pattern of such especially on a plant or animal part


MW-Definition1: having discrete markings of different colors <variegated leaves>

Definition: The term “variegated” is applied to a flower or, more often, a leaf that is two-toned. I.e., foliage that is blotched, striped or bordered with a lighter color than that on the rest of it (or vice versa) is said to be variegated foliage.


MW-Definition: a plant whose stem requires support and which climbs by tendrils or twining or creeps along the ground; also: the stem of such a plant

Definition: Like trees and shrubs, “vines” are a plant group whose definition is based on the manner in which they grow. A plant is a vine, by definition, if its stem is too weak to support its vertical growth, meaning that it will either seek such support from other sources (e.g., arbors, pergolas, trellises, latticework, other plants, cliff faces) or simply be content to trail along the ground. Vines are often classified as either climbers or creepers.

 woody ornamentals

Definition: Woody plants, by definition, are plants that have hard stems (thus the term, “woody”) and that have buds that survive above ground in winter. For instance, trees (which are further broken down into the deciduous and evergreen categories) are woody plants.