In gardening we are not talking about nuts and bolts or how fast you might want to chase away garden pests. One of the commonly used gardening terms, “bolt” is used to describe plants that send up flowers and set seed too early. There are some plants that you don’t want to flower (and subsequently set seed). Vegetables like carrots, beets and lettuce, for example, will become woody or bitter as soon as the flower shoots begin to develop. Certain varieties of plants are more prone than others to “go to seed” or “bolt” if temperatures warm too much or vary from ideal and plants feel rushed to complete their annual or biennial life cycles. Starting plants early enough that they can comfortably finish their growth rather than rushing into flower will prevent the problem. Choosing varieties that are bred for your climate will help, too.
Deciduous plants are those that drop their leaves – usually in the winter months. All plants slow growth when the days grow shorter. Evergreens retain their foliage even though they become partially dormant in less favorable weather conditions. Deciduous plants divest themselves of foliage and regrow anew after their rest period is over. There are advantages to both. Evergreens will shed a little foliage all year round, while deciduous plants lose it all at once. There are deciduous plants that are annuals, biennials and perennials.
A rootstock is the root system of a common or hardy plant that will accept a graft of a less resilient variety. By grafting the stronger root a more fragile plant will gain strength. Often used on roses (particularly standard forms) and fruit trees, grafting with rootstocks allows us to grow a wider range of desirable plants. Sometimes when a grafted plant dies, it will sprout anew from the stronger root, but don’t be surprised when the resulting plant is nothing like what you expect. The new growth is only that of the original, less desirable variety of the rootstock.
Currently these roots are being used to grow bigger and more disease resistant edible plants. Tomato plants are the first to come on the market and, although they are more expensive to buy due to the facts that two plants must be grown together into one and there is an added human labor cost, the increased plant survival rate and prolific production is making them cost efficient. Grafted fruits and vegetables offer a safe alternative to genetic engineering.
Sometimes you can find plants for sale — particularly fruit trees — that give you a choice of rootstock. In this case you will be as interested in which will do best in your soil conditions as you are in choosing the variety of the grafted upper part. Some combinations will do better depending on what your garden has to offer.
Growing heirloom flowers and edibles is currently very popular. There are many plants now bred for perfection on the market, but some people feel there is still a superior quality to the “good, old-fashioned” varieties. Heirloom seed comes from plants that have been grown for generations, the seed being open-pollinated, for the most part. Most have been selected to adapt best to local climates and conditions. These plants are less likely to have disease resistance bred into them. Some people believe the efforts made to produce strong, decorative and easily grown plants has all too often sacrificed beauty or flavor. Heirloom seed offers an alternative to the more heavily cultivated plants that dominate today’s gardening. Not all heirloom seeds are organically grown.
Some heirloom plants are not as strong as the cultivated varieties and more and more are falling prey to soil borne diseases. There is currently a new trend developing with the most popular plants — particularly tomatoes and other favorite vegetables — of grafting the roots of disease-resistant varieties to more desirable tops, or ‘scions’. The resulting plant is more resilient and often larger and more productive. At present the need for two plants to become one and the manual labor involved does increase the purchase price of these plants drastically. It also cannot be duplicated in seed. But not only will the result be more likely to survive, thrive and produce enough to balance out the extra expense, but if you want to give it a try, you can do the job yourself by growing your rootstock plant and your heirloom plant from seed, then grafting them together. Grafting also offers a thoroughly safe alternative to genetic engineering for producing higher yield plants.
Hardy and tender plants and seeds
Hardy and tender plants are listed on seed packets and potted plants. You’ll see the term used often in garden books and articles. What do these terms mean?
“Hardy” is used opposed to “tender” when describing how well a plant can handle frosty temperatures. Technically, it should also refer to the ability to tolerate all climatic adversity like heat, flooding, wind, lack of water and other conditions, but it is most commonly used for cold tolerance. Although most gardeners consider a hardy plant to be one that can tolerate a fair amount of frost and temperatures that can fall at least several degrees below freezing, the amount of hardiness depends on the plant. A true hardy plant can survive a hard freeze whereas a half-hardy plant is willing to flirt with a light frost or two without calling it quits. Hardy seeds can be planted when soils are warm enough to work even if there remains a threat of frost. Tender plants will die under 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but also can vary in their tolerance to cold. Some will die from cold in much warmer temperatures (like many true, tropical plants). Seeds from tender plants need to be planted indoors with protection when weather is cold or started outdoors only after it is warm enough to safely accommodate the needs of the particular plant.
The terms for hardy and tender plants are important to know when shopping for you garden. Buy the right plants for the right locations in your garden, plants that will thrive in your climate, and you are likely to end up with a successful landscape.
Annual flowers are often mentioned in garden talk. Literally the term defines things that last for a year. Annual plants grow for a year or less from germination to death. Some germinate, grow, flower and set seed in a single season or less. Annuals do not die down or go into a semi-dormant rest period then continue to grow as do biennials or perennials. They race through their short lives growing quickly, often flowering profusely so they can set as many seeds as possible before they fade away. This is why trimming faded flowers before they can set seed – dead-heading – keeps them in bloom longer. Annuals are good ways to add lots of color quickly to a garden. They also make excellent fillers for empty spaces in newly planted gardens while larger-growing plants are still small.
You will find plenty of annuals to choose from in garden centers. They are often offered as ‘bedding annuals’ or ‘bedding plants’ Because annuals only last for a single season you don’t have to worry what growing zone you are in. None will last for more than the season so it isn’t important how hardy — cold tolerant — they are. In warm-winter areas, annuals that prefer cool, but frost-free temperatures will grow well during those winter months. Some examples would be stock, pansies, calendula, ornamental cabbage and primrose. If you live where summers do not get extremely hot or where weather is variable, these annuals will do fine in spring, summer and autumn. Portulaca, sunflower, marigolds and annual sage do well in summers with high temperatures.
Some plants that are short-lived or temperature sensitive are grown as annuals even though they would last longer in favorable conditions. You will find snapdragons will sometimes last more than a year with a mild winter. Flowers like Gerbera daisies, chrysanthemums, gazanias and hibiscus are some plants often used for only a single season of bloom where they will not survive cold winters even though they are not annuals.
Tree topping is a term used for the most common method of cutting back a tree. Although it is usually used to reduce the head size of a tree, it is a form of pruning that is frequently more damaging than helpful to the tree. Indiscriminate hacking back of much or all of the leafy branches will weaken a tree, encourage it to sprout too vigorously (creating ‘watersprouts’) and expose large cuts that are vulnerable to insect and disease attacks or rot.
The best way to avoid expensive and damaging tree topping is to plant the right kind, habit and type of tree in the right location. If you buy a young tree, plant it where it will have plenty of space to grow — both above ground in the air and underground for a full, healthy root system. Train it in those first few years by judicious pruning and stake it only for a year or two if it is vulnerable to high winds. A well-shaped, healthy tree grown in the proper location is not likely to need much care when it gets bigger.
If a mature tree does need to be pruned severely, it should be cut back with proper tools to sturdy laterals, and only a limited amount of wood should be removed in a single year. Excessive wounds should be avoided.
Mature trees can be cut back severely, but the job should be done only by experienced arborists. Tree topping is advertised by some companies as a service, but as popular as it is, it is a dangerous way of shaping or controlling tree growth. It may seem like a less expensive solution at first, but in the long run it is likely to be more costly than proper professional pruning if the tree is turned into a tangled mess of rampant growth, dies from shock or disease, or creates property damage or personal injury when weak growth causes the tree to break or collapse
Hardscape is a term that covers the permanent features of the landscape. Most often used to describe structures, walls, swimming pools, and paved areas, it can also be used for large décor like big rocks and boulders, ponds or built-in fountains, or practical structures like fencing. Hardscapes are parts of the landscape design that are not alive like plant material (which is often referred to as ‘softscape’).
The term ‘rosette’ is commonly used to describe plants that grow leaves around a central growth point making a circle of layers, much the way petals unfold in a rose. Some plants that grow in a rosette look flower-like, others are less obvious. Succulents like aloes, aeoniums and agaves (Century plants) demonstrate the spiral form of growth clearly whereas the lettuce is a little harder to notice. Most plants that grow in a rosette form are neat-looking in the garden. They conform well to container growing and can be used to good effect in a formal or controlled landscape design.
This is one of the most popular buzz-words that is being used – maybe over used – in the garden and landscaping business. A sustainable landscape is one that takes minimal care and maintenance. It is built with eco-efficient materials that will last or will break down into elements that can be naturally recycled into the environment. Sustainable gardening can involve using native plants that require little extra care, permeable paving for efficient rain absorption, drip irrigation or other low-water irrigation systems, natural drainage techniques, recycling or repurposing, rain water storage, green walls and roofs and many more ways of building an outdoor landscape that functions harmoniously and efficiently with the surrounding ecology in a minimally disturbing and non-toxic way.
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