Glossary of Gardening Terminology
I spent most of my adult working career in office environments of various construction and manufacturing industries. And when filling out a job application applying for a new position I was inevitably asked for school and college information. I check the box, Yes, I went to college. Course of Study: Ornamental Horticulture. It’s always a mouthful to say, let alone write. And always got a comment like…Interesting…How did you get into that?…and left unsaid was the unmistakable…then what are you doing applying for OUR job?
But we all know if you’ve spent any time on this earth that life paths and directions change. Life paths change but that doesn’t mean you don’t care about things you did in the past even if you’re not fully involved with them in the present. And those of you that have spent more years on this earth than others, can probably attest that life paths often go in circles. They converge. They tend to take you back to where you started often, like going home after a long journey.
I loved the classes I took in college for Ornamental Horticulture and I still remember much of what I learned by rote of certain plant taxonomies. Also being with like-minded people who were passionate about plants and a career working in the industry. And the instructor’s were all professionals in the business dedicated to sharing with a new generation of plant lovers. But sometimes we need to step back and take a look in the rear-view mirror and see what you’ve learned and how far you’ve come. It truly is a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees scenario when you’re focusing on studying. You can lose sight of a long-range view of things when you’ve got your nose in a book or pressed to a computer screen.
A Rose by Any Other Name…
Now, many years later from my college days, as I look in the rear view mirror, I see the importance every day of calling a spade a spade! Do you call a shovel a knife? Do you call a cat a cow? Try milking a herd of cats and see how far that gets you! Naming is important. For instance, what someone in Vermont may locally call Blue Asters may not be the same plant someone in Oregon calls Blue Asters.
Taking the Asters example, here is a short list of a few by genus, species and common name. Some of them even have multiple common names. You can certainly see how important the cataloging of plant species is in being able to correctly identifying plants even on a simple scale for backyard planting. That’s why we have Botanical Nomenclature, also called Latin Names as compared to common names which can vary from state to state and region to region. The botanical name includes the genus and species, and can contain additional cultivar information of the plant or plant family. (That’s worth another post in itself!)
Extend that out to professional landscapers and plant nurseries working from plans and specs to create a certain garden. Everyone has to be sure they get the exact, specific plants everyone agrees they’re talking about. If the plan calls for Aster alpinus nobody wants to get Aster tongolensis by mistake! Oh my! Now of course, that’s an extreme example, but you get my point. And I illustrate it as a point only. To be sure, most landscapers might be okay with substitute plants if they worked for the planting plan overall. As long as it worked with color and habitat requirements and weren’t any persnickety client restrictions.
But in the garden calling a spade a spade is important. Besides, who doesn’t want to dazzle your friends and neighbors with your botanical knowledge! You can wax on about the peppers, namedropping Capsicum into your conversation, whether it be wax, bell, chili or hot! Plant taxonomy is important. Plant terminology is important. That’s why we created a Garden Glossary to help as a go-to for explanation of any garden questions.
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