Acanthus 'Summer Beauty'

The aim of this page, and it is probably an over ambitious one, is to gather together a collection of terms used in gardening/horticulture and explain what they mean and try to justify there use. The reason of attempting this is two fold. On the one hand it will I hope save me from repeatedly explaining the same words over again in the remainder of the site and on the other provide a general source of reference when the terms are come across elsewhere.

I have deliberately avoided using the word “complete” because lists of the sort can never be complete and some of the explanations may well contradict what you hear elsewhere. If that is the case all I can say in my defence is I will of course endeavour to check my explanations and many will be based on my profession training and experience.

Then again I am no more infallible than the next person and look forward to your feedback.


This is a water based solution which has a pH below 7. Most acid soil lie in the range of 7 to 5 though some peat soils may be lower.


This is a water based solution which has a Ph above 7. Most alkaline soils (also called basic soils) lie in the range 7 to 9.


This is a pattern that tied individual components together both structurally and visually and comes in a variety of styles including stretcher, Flemish, English, English Garden Wall, Herringbone and Random.

Bond, English

This is one of the commonest method of constructing a brick wall which is more than ½ a brick thick and consists of alternating courses of heads and stretchers.

English bond brickwork

English bond brickwork

Botanical Latin

Botanist quickly found Latin lacked words they needed to describe the parts of a plant, the Romans having never seen any need to do such things, so they modified the language for their own needs. The school Latin you may have learnt  has evolved considerably since the Romans; to the point a Roman would hardly recognise it. This has lead to Botanical Latin, which has branched off from ‘School Latin’, and has developed its own means for words and grammar. Anyone wanting to learn more would do well to look at Botanical Latin by William T. Stearns which is the standard text on the subject. Its very heavy going though!


A small regular building unit traditionally made from fired clay but occasionally concrete. They have been used for thousand of years in various sizes and still are available in a range of sizes; with different standard sizes in different countries. In addition to the normal cuboid shape bricks are also many  other shapes available for specific purposes and these are called “specials”.

Standard Uk brick with nominal dimensions
Standard UK brick with nominal dimensions

Brick wall thickness

The convention for describing the thickness of a wall is relative to the length of a brick so goes like this. It may seem counterintuitive but as its long established deviating from it will lead to confusion.

A ½ brick wall which was sometimes called a 4 inch wall is:

A half brick thick brick wallA half brick thick brick wall

A 1 brick wall which was sometimes called a 9 inch wall:

 A one brick thick brick wallA one brick thick brick wall

A 1½ brick wall which was sometimes called a 14 inch wall:

 A one and half brick thick brick wallA one and half brick thick brick wall

And so on, so the next is a 2 brick wall (18 inch wall) and then a 2½ brick wall (22 inch wall).


This is anything constructed from bricks which are normally fired clay, yes we are really still building from mud! The small size of the individual bricks makes brickwork and incredibly flexible building material to make garden structures out of.

A few points to note:

  • The thickness of a brick wall is described relative to the bricks length so the wide of a wall goes up in half brick steps starting with a ½ brick.
  • The mortar between the bricks is there to keep the bricks apart and stop them wobbling, it DOES NOT STICK the bricks together! In fact to an engineer brickwork has no tensile strength, that is to say it has little or no strength when being pulled apart.
  • Most bricks have little resistance to frost when wet so unless engineering bricks are being used things like retaining walls will need to have the brickwork protected from moisture.


This is a plant which has been selected in cultivation because of specific characteristics it shows which separate it from its wild origins and other cultivars. The rules regarding what is a cultivar, how it is named and how the word is used are laid down in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. Only plants which are not found in the wild can be called cultivars and to show that they are the cultivar name is written in normal upright letters and enclosed in single quotation marks.


A plant with the male and female flowers on separate plants. For example, Holly.

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