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.


These are catalysts which drive and control all the processes in living things. These are proteins just like muscle and hair and work as a result of their complex structure. Catalysts are something which causes a chemical reaction to occur but remain unchanged by the reaction so that it can repeatedly act on the same reaction.


This is a catch all term for plants which need acidic soil to grow in.


This is a group of closely related genera and the names should be written in italics (or underlined) and start with a capital letter. The names of plant families should end in the letters –aceae; but some long established names which do not have this ending are still used, all be it with standardised alternatives used in parallel.


This is a collection of very similar species and forms the first part of a plant’s scientific name. For example Alchemilla in Alchemilla Mollis and as such it is very important in the naming of plants. Ideally it would be best to have a clear definition as to what constitutes a genus and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants goes into great detail as to how a genus should be named. It does not though make any attempt to nail down what actually constitutes a genus and for a very good reason – you can’t. In practice it would be impossible, plants evolve into genera in what ever way evolution takes them and only much later to people come along and try to group them into genera, species, etc. In the end a genus is a collection one or more species which a consensus has been arrived at that they should be placed together because of there botanical similarities.

Hard Landscaping

This tends to be used, principally in professional horticulture, to refer to the none plant parts of a garden. So landscaping an area would be divided into either hard or soft landscaping. Generally this doesn’t include the soil and compost but where there is a lot of earth moving that could be included in hard landscaping and then the preparation of the ground for planting would be soft landscaping.

Hardy Perennial

These are plants with no woody stems lasting from one year to the next. Some have leaves which persist from one year to the next but by enlarge they die down to the ground at the end of each summer. Hardy perennial grow by spreading horizontally and tend to establish and flower quicker than trees and shrubs.


The proper name for a weed killer. It’s formed from ‘herb’ meaning a plant (from the latin herba meaning a green plant) and ‘icide’ meaning it kills things. So you get insecticide, fungicide, biocide, pesticide, etc.

International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants

The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is as the title says the set of rules that govern how plants, fungi and algae are named and how the names are arranged into ever broader groups. The last published edition was the Vienna code but it is soon to be replaced by the Melbourne code s soon as it is published.

International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) lays down a set of rules in an attempt to standardise the way plants produced or selected by humans, as opposed to wild plants, are named. It is in effect a supplement to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN).  The first edition of the code was published in 1953 with the hope of applying some order to the naming of cultivated plants and in 1988 Hortax, a committee if plant taxonomists, was set up to supervise its continued development. The most recent edition, the 8th, was published in 2009.


From the word landscape, originally landskip, which was an artist term referring to a country scene which was painted. Later the word was combined with gardening to give us landscape-gardening and this has been further contracted to landscaping. The term landscape-gardening only really can into use with the English Landskip movement of 18th century. It generally refers to the construction of ornamental gardens, either public or private, and commercially it is often split into soft and hard landscaping.  

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