Garden glossary


key definitions of different plant types

If you are new to gardening, understanding the different types of plants will help you get to grips with how to care for them. Here are some useful definitions to get you started:


Annuals complete their life cycle all within the space of a year and are defined as hardy or half-hardy…

Hardy annuals can withstand frosts and are often planted in the autumn or early spring.  

Half-hardy annuals annuals will struggle to withstand winter wet and cold and will be zapped by frosts in autumn. Protect these plants under cover and only plant outside when risk of frost is well and truly over. 

biennials and short-lived perennials

Biennials are plants whose lifecycle spans two years. In the first year, they will produce roots and leaves, and in the second year they flower, set seed, and then die. If they like the conditions of your garden, they might reappear from the seed of the original plant

Short lived perennials have a lifespan of around 3-5 years. They may not last as long as long-lived perennials, but they generally bloom profusely early on


Perennials live for much longer than 2 years, and if they are hardy, they will remain in the garden from one year to the next. These plants are a worthy investment for any outside space. Some perennials are evergreen, whereas many are herbaceous, which means their foliage dies back completely to the ground in winter.

Top tip - labelling will help you identify what’s in your beds, pots and borders and will prevent you digging up dormant plants when weeding.

Tender perennials will start to suffer in low temperatures and won’t survive frost unprotected. You can protect these plants by covering them with a ‘duvet’ of compost or manure or lift them and store them undercover until early spring, either on a windowsill in a cool room, or in a greenhouse or polytunnel if you have one. You can treat a tender perennial as you would an annual. 

All of the above come in different shapes and sizes. Find out more below, along with instructions on how to get the most of from your plants.


other garden terms, defined

C&C: Cut and come again. The more you cut, the more flowers you will have. Win win!

Direct sowing: sowing seed directly into the ground or container that is the intended final location.

Pinching out: Removing the dominant growing tip of a plant to encourage the formation of side shoots. 

Potting on: Moving a young plant from the pot it is currently in, into a bigger pot. This will encourage quicker growth. if you order seedlings, you may do this if it is too cold to plant them directly outside straight away.

Deadheading: The act of removing dead flower heads from a plant to encourage new flowers to grow.  

Organic matter: Organic matter takes many forms, such as multi-purpose, peat-free compost, well-rotted animal manure and home-made compost.  

Crocks:Pieces of broken crockery or broken pots placed at the bottom of a plant pot to aid drainage. 

Naturalise: Bulbs or plants that can grow and spread in your garden without much care

Aspect: this refers to where the sun rises and sets in relation to your garden. A garden that faces south will get a lot of sun all day long, whilst north facing gardens are usually overshadowed by buildings etc and will get very little direct sun. East facing gardens get the morning sun while west facing gardens get the afternoon and evening sun.

Mulch: a layer of material placed on the soil surface. Mulching can keep weeds down stop soil drying out in summer, protect against cold in winter, and improve soil texture. mulch can come in many forms it could be biodegradable in the form of compost and manure, or non-biodegradable in the form of gravel or slate.