We can’t all be Alan Titchmarsh when it comes to planting and potting in the great outdoors, but we can learn the lingo in the hope that it might help.
So if you’ve just moved into a new Redrow, and you don’t know your scarifying from your Chelsea chop, or your root balls from your bare roots, we explain 10 mystifying gardening words and terms to help you make sense of it all! With thanks to our landscaping contractors Landstruction for their expert input!
1. Root Ball
A root ball is the main mass of roots at the base of a shrub or tree. When mature plants or hedges are grown in a large area, they can be lifted from the ground (root ball and soil) and wrapped and planted in decomposable hessian and a wire mesh to bind the roots together. This then protects the root ball while they get established in new ground - like your Redrow garden. Adding larger shrubs and trees can help a new garden to feel more established.
The major benefit of a root ball plant is it’s likely to be cheaper than a pot plant, BUT the success rate is not as high as container-grown and it can take a while to become established, especially if the fine fibrous roots have been damaged when being lifted.
2. Bare Root Plants
Bare root plants are those that have been grown in open ground, then dug up for despatch and planting during the dormant season. They’re called 'bare-root' plants as they are supplied with no soil around their roots, and are usually bought online, or by mail order. Planting them in the dormant season means that they should establish well because, while the top growth may be brown and twiggy, the roots are busy establishing beneath. All kinds of plants can be supplied ‘bare root’, from trees to perennials.
3. Container Grown Plants
Container grown plants, including edible plants, are simply those grown exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground. These are defined in litres based upon the size of the pots or containers they are grown in.
Including a wide variety of planting in your new garden can help to attract more wildlife so, if you want a garden buzzing with life throughout the year, do your research on wildlife-friendly planting first.
4. Chelsea Chop
The Chelsea chop is a pruning method by which you limit the size, and control the flowering season, of many herbaceous plants, and it is so-called because it is usually carried out at the end of May, coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. To carry out the Chelsea chop, clumps of perennials can literally be chopped back by one third to a half using shears or secateurs which will delay the flowering until later in the summer and keep plants shorter and more compact.
Scarifying is the process of removing all the debris and build up on the top of your lawn, like thatch and moss, that will otherwise prevent good dense grass growth. It’s essential if you want to improve the quality of your lawn as it will just thicken over time and create a barrier, preventing moisture and nutrients passing through and leading to your grass roots suffocating. It can be done using a spring-time rake by vigorously pulling the rake through the grass or, if you have a large area, by an electric scarifier, which you can buy/hire from local garden centres or DIY stores.
Watch our handy video below to find out more:
If you can, try to leave an area of your lawn uncultivated and add wildflowers to encourage biodiversity.
Deciduous is the term used for plants and trees that shed their leaves annually (at the conclusion of the growth season) and are replaced the following year. Oak, maple, and elm are examples of deciduous trees. They lose their foliage in the autumn and grow new leaves in the spring.
Annuals are plants that go through their entire life cycle in one growing season (they germinate, flower, set seed and die in one season or a year). But you can harvest the seeds and grow them year after year. Annuals include weeds, wildflowers, garden flowers, and vegetables, for example: calendula, pot marigolds, cornflowers, sweet peas, and sweet alyssum; and broccoli, radishes, lettuce, chard, kale, parsley and peas. Annuals like wildflowers are great for attracting pollinators to your garden!
So what does biennial mean? A biennial is a plant that completes its life cycle in two growing seasons. During the first growing season biennials produce roots, stems, and leaves; and during the second they produce flowers, fruits, and seeds, and then die. However, although their life cycle is two years, you’ll find that they appear continuously in your garden with the seedlings of the second year becoming the flowers of the next year and so on. Popular biennials include Canterbury bells, forget-me-nots, foxgloves, hollyhocks and stocks.
9. Herbaceous perennials
Perhaps the first question is what does herbaceous mean? Herbaceous simply means that the plant has non-woody stems that reach their full height and produce flower within one year, before dying back over the winter and then reappearing the following spring ready for a repeat performance. The term perennial essentially means that the plant will live for more than two years. Examples include delphinium, salvia, peonies, hostas, ferns, and most grasses.
10. Woody perennials
The term woody perennials describes trees and shrubs whose rigid trunks and stems don’t die back at the end of the growth season, and instead continue to grow year after year. Vines like climbing hydrangea and wisteria are woody perennials, as are herbs like rosemary and scented flowers like lavender, which both provide lots of nectar for bees.
Now you know the language, it's time to put it to use! Find out more about how to create a nature-friendly garden here.