North Coast Journal


Horticulturally challenged: a glossary

by Terry Kramer

THOSE OF US WHO ARE horticulturally challenged may feel a bit helpless this time of year, especially after viewing a Martha Stewart television program or reading a spring edition of Sunset magazine. Attaining a perfect garden that billows with colorful flowers and exciting foliage texture all of the time is much like trying to have the body, clothes and lifestyle of a film star -- unattainable.

Don't feel too bad. Instead, consider this glossary tailored for the horticulturally challenged who seek to be horticulturally correct, or H.C.

ANNUAL -- That yearly spring trip to the nursery to buy little flowering plants that are devoured overnight by slugs, snails, cutworms or deer. Nurseries thrive on annuals.

BIENNIAL -- A flowering plant that takes two full years to flower briefly before it dies. Also, how often some of us sharpen the mower blade, whether it needs it or not.

CATALOG -- Mail order publications offering beautiful photos of impossible-to-grow plants designed to make you feel inadequate.

DANDELION -- A lovely, yellow flowered perennial that you do not want in your garden, but you get it anyway.

EVERLASTING -- A dried or plastic plant that flowers all year long without ever having to be watered, fertilized or pruned.

FICUS -- Evergreen indoor shrub or tree that wants to be deciduous. Short-lived in most homes and offices.

GARDENER -- Someone who spends a lot of time bent over pulling weeds and shoveling manure. A chiropractor's dream.

HERBICIDE -- Weed killer. A lot of gardeners use it, but do not admit it. Not H.C.

IRRITANTS -- The horticulturally correct use of certain natural materials, such as wood ashes or crushed red pepper, to deter pests. It is also a neighbor's overgrown tree that sheds in your yard and blocks sunlight.

JACARANDA -- It is not H.C. to go to the nursery asking for one.

KOHLRABI -- Very strange looking vegetable that belongs in an avant garden. A vegetable shaman.

LAWN -- The H.C. term to use in Humboldt County for the green carpet surrounding your home. Say, "I've got to fertilize the lawn," not, "I've got to fertilize the grass."

MARIGOLDS -- Shunned by horticultural elitists, probably because they are cheap, easy to grow and do not bloom in trendy hues of purple or lavender.

NASTURTIUMS -- Annuals that reseed prolifically, also shunned by gardening sophisticates. (But, gee -- they were good enought for Monet. )

ORGANIC -- The horticulturally correct method whereby you use heaps of manures, truckloads of compost, gallons of soaps and loads of other heavy, natural materials to grow food and flowers. Also produces an organic sore back. Chiropractors favor the organic approach.

PERENNIAL -- Flowering plants that are supposed to return bigger and better each spring, the most prolific being dandelions and bindweed.

QUEEN -- An overly popular common name tacked on to many plants, such as Queen Anne's lace, Queen of the Meadow, Queen of the Prairie, Queen's flower, Queensland nut, Queen's tears, Queen's wreath and Queen Victoria Arborvitae. Also, a very wealthy woman with a nice garden who never has to pull weeds.

ROCKS -- Some gardeners spend lots of money to put them in a garden to landscape, and then spend lots of money to haul them out so they can rototill.

SALAD PLANTS -- The wide variety of leafy plants in your garden that feeds slugs, snails and deer.

TOPIARY -- Ancient art of clipping and training shrubs into unnatural shapes. Also, what some home gardeners inadvertently create when pruning with hedge clippers.

TRANSPLANTS -- Newcomers to Humboldt County who ask for Jacaranda trees at local nurseries.

UH-OH! -- A four-letter utterance frequently muttered after over-watering an out-of-town-friend's ficus. Or when you take a credit card to the nursery instead of a limited amount of cash.

VACCINIUM -- Latin name for popular ericaceous plants like blueberries and huckleberries. It is not a shot a plant doctor can give plants to prevent disease.

WATER -- A noun. Irrigate is the H.C. verb which means to apply water to plants so that they will live to become just like the ones in garden catalogs.

XYLOSMA CONGESTA -- A perfect example of how an extremely beautiful and easy to grow landscape shrub can sound like a disease when given a Latin name.

YUCCA -- A term used by organic gardeners when shoveling manure or by teen-agers when asked to mow the lawn.

ZONE -- The state of mind of a gardener who has sat on the riding mower for long periods of time.



Terry Kramer is a Bayside free-lance writer and the owner of Jacoby Creek Nursery.

The North Coast Journal Table of Contents

North Coast Journal weekly banner