Glossary of Landscaping Terms

Essential Information for the Home Gardner

Image of vine-covered pergola.
Learn what makes a pergola different from an arbor. David Beaulieu

Landscaping is a field that is as diverse as a landscape itself. It encompasses many sub-fields, including landscape design, botany, soil science, plant care (arboriculture, etc.), carpentry (building decks, pergolas, etc.), masonry, and pest control. Homeowners researching any of these fields for help with a landscaping project will undoubtedly encounter some unfamiliar terms, even if they're familiar with gardening and plant life. This practical glossary should help fill in the gaps.

Terms for Plant Selection

If you are researching plant X to determine whether it is something you would like to grow, and you find a description that says it is a "biennial," you will get more out of the plant description if you understand what that term means, so you can make the right plant selection. Once you know what a biennial is, you may decide that it's not the right plant for you to grow in a particular spot.

Terms About Soil and Composting

Having some knowledge of soil science will help you grow your plants more successfully after you have selected them. But soil science has its own distinct vocabulary. At a bare minimum, you will need to become comfortable with terms having to do with soil pH and soil amendments (compost, etc.).

Terms About Plant and Tree Care

Getting plants to grow well is one thing; caring for them is another. Learning terms such as "girdling" will help you avoid costly mistakes when caring for your trees. When hiring professionals to do such work, it is important to realize the difference between pollarding and topping. 

Landscape Design Terms

Once you have become adept at growing plants successfully and caring for them, you may wish to try your hand at designing with them. For that, you will want to become familiar with the terms used in landscape design, such as "focal point" and "texture."

Terms for Hardscaping

Moreover, when researching hardscape projects, you will come across specialized terms. Do you know how an arbor differs from a pergola? In building a concrete patio or walkway, you will need to find out why a "control joint" is essential and what a "float" tool is used for. Before trying your hand at building a deck, learn about girders and header boards.