Master Gardener Lucille Saunders clarifies some gardening terms that may be puzzling to some:

Have you ever listened to gardeners talk and been confused about what they meant when they spoke of texture, habit, contrast, season of interest even when they specify dwarf?

Season of interest seems the easiest and the most likely you would understand — spring, summer, autumn and winter. We look forward to the first blooms of spring, the beautiful colors of summer, and the changing colors of autumn but rarely think of winter as being very interesting, but it can be as there are many shrubs having evergreen foliage. Some bark on trees is at its showiest when there is snow on the ground.

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When speaking of texture, gardeners are referring to the plant’s foliage. Some plants that have small or narrow leaves are considered to be finely textured. Those with large foliage are identified as coarse textured. This isn’t a value judgment as both fine and coarse textures are important to create a beautiful landscape.

So what is habit? This is the general shape of a plant. Some are round, others may have a columnar shape or taller and full all around. There are plants that are narrow at their base and wider at the top and vise versa. Your garden should be planned with a variety of habits as it will give the garden more interest, just as well as different sizes will.

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Now contrast is what makes the design of a garden “pop” and probably the hardest to plan. Bright flowers and foliage look even better when planted near a classic evergreen. Contrast finely textured and coarser plants to add interest and a variety of habits and sizes to add more movement. Plants can also contrast with structural elements, such as planting soft arching shrubs near a spare, concrete bench.

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The term dwarf does not necessarily mean small. It means smaller than is typical for the species. Dwarf burning bush, for example, can get pretty large, although nowhere near as big as traditional burning bush. Little Lime hydrangea is a dwarf variety, half the size of a typical hardy hydrangea. Horticulturists like dwarf plants because they fit more easily into residential landscapes and require less pruning.

I think by now almost everyone understands what deadheading means — to remove the dead bloom from a plant. This encourages new blooms.

I recently read an interesting article on cutting flowers to bring in the house to make an arrangement. The first two facts I knew but was surprised by the third. First, cut your flowers early in the morning when the stems are most hydrated, which will mean less wilting and longer-lasting blooms. A flower cut in the middle of the day will not last as long.

Second is to remove all leaves from the bottom half of the stem so there is no foliage in the water, which can cause rot to the stems. Actually, I remove all the leaves from my hydrangea blooms that I wish to dry and then place the stem in a roll of wire to allow to dry out for later use.

OK, the third tip was to be sure the bouquet stays out of the kitchen. WHAT? As I looked in my kitchen and had a bouquet of cut flowers and two containers of planted flowers. WHY? The reason is usually there is a bowl of ripening fruit on the counter and the ethylene gas from apples and bananas will make flowers expire faster. I did NOT know that.

Hopefully some of the above information will help you to understand better what a gardener is talking about and be of help in planning your garden.

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