mini-series episode 1 | Beginner's guide to gardening terms
This first episode covers garden terminology which can feel a little intimidating if you are a beginner. Sarah and Arthur explain useful gardening terms and plant types and why it is good to understand Latin plant names. They also give a brief overview of their gardening year – describing a few simple jobs they do each month.
in this episode, discover...
- Sarah and Arthur explain the most useful gardening terms to know
- Why they love cut-and-come-again flowers and salads
- Understanding the difference between Latin plant names and common names
- A month-by-month guide to Sarah and Arthur’s gardening year
An annual is a plant which lives for one year, forming roots, leaves, flowering and setting seed all within a few months.
They divide into:
If it’s hardy, it can withstand some winter cold and wet, and will survive with foliage above ground through the frosts. If it is germinated in late August or September, the seedling will go into a semi-dormant period through the winter, coming back into growth in the spring. Classic examples are corn poppies, cornflowers, love-in-a-mist and sweet peas (these are hardy but don’t like the wet).
If it’s half-hardy, it cannot withstand winter wet and cold and will be killed by the frosts. Sow the seeds and grow the seedlings in a light, frost-free place, protecting them under cover until the frosts are over. You’ll then have decent-sized plants, almost in flower, and ready to put out in the garden at the end of spring. The plants will usually flower into autumn and then be zapped when the frosts come. Examples include cosmos, zinnias and tobacco plants — so-called ‘bedding plants’.
Biennials are plants that form roots and leaves in the first year, but only flower, set seed and die in the second. Foxgloves, wallflowers, sweet Williams and honesty are all biennials.
A swollen energy store which the plant draws on to grow back in the spring. Classic examples amongst the flowers are dahlias, and potatoes in the edible group.
Perennials are plants that live from one year to the next and examples include asters, echinops, and hardy geraniums.
They divide into:
These die back in autumn, and spring into life again in the spring. A classic example is a peony.
These stay with foliage above ground all year, including winter. A classic example is a hellebore.
This means what it says, if you pick a flower stem above a pair of leaves, by removing the leader, axillary buds form between the main stem and leaves to form next week’s flower. Amongst the flower examples include sweet peas, cosmos, snapdragons.
And similarly, if you pick the outer leaves of edible crops such as salad rocket, mizuna, spinach, chard, the heart grows more to replenish them.
This is when you move baby seedlings from a tray with all their siblings into a pot on its own. When seedlings have two ‘true’ leaves, use a teaspoon or dibber to gently tease the seedling out, don’t touch the stem, that can kill the little seedling. Make sure pot filled properly to give seedling a chance.
Whenever we refer to compost, we mean peat-free compost. By organic gardening, we mean we don’t use chemicals or slug pellets. We are dedicated to gardening for wildlife. Growing flowers that attract pollinators and providing habitats for important insects. Encouraging bird populations into the garden is good for the environment and the gardener as they eat slugs, snails and aphids.
Why use Latin names?
Latin plant names can be a little tricky for beginners but they are important for identification. A French Marigold and an English Marigold very different plants for example. There are many common names that can cover a number of different plants - a primrose can be a primula or a polyanthus. Learning the family name helps to see which plants are related, giving a good overarching structure of the plant world. It’s a good idea to learn the Latin names of your favourite plants to start with. All the plants sold at sarahraven.com are under the Latin name and the RHS website and encyclopaedias are another great reference.
A month-by-month beginners’ guide to the gardening year
Planning and preparation – writing lists and thinking about the year ahead. Order what you want to sow and grow.
In the garden it’s time to prune roses and plant them as bare root plants.
Flowers: sweet peas if you haven’t already. Sarah and Arthur will also sow tender perennial climbers now like Cobaea scandens – the cup-and-saucer-vine – so they are flowering fully before autumn frosts cut them back.
Time to start seed sowing hardy annuals like calendula and cerinthe. At Perch Hill they sow salvias, scabious and cornflowers now too as well as hardy annual veg and herbs like parsley, salads like mizuna and rocket as well as broad beans.
Last chance to sow sweet peas
By the end of March start potting up dahlia tubers
You can think about covering some soil with a sheet of plastic to warm and dry it if planning to direct sow in April.
As soon as clocks change it is time for lots of sowing, all the half hardy annuals like cosmos as well as lots of veg: courgette, squash, pumpkins.
May is a lovely time in the garden with alliums and tulips in full bloom. It is time to start mowing the lawn and also stake perennials. Make or order in supports like teepees for sweet peas.
Arthur sows his cosmos and sunflowers in May and he will also order plug plant seedlings in now – this is a good tip if you’ve missed the chance to sow from seed.
From the end of April through May is a key planting out time. Starting with hardy annuals then, from the middle to the end of May, planting out half hardy annuals. By the end of May n start planting out dahlias.
Now is the time to sow biennials – foxgloves, wallflowers and sweet Williams - to flower the following May/June.
Weeding and feeding starts in earnest especially for pots. If you’ve had a dry spring you may need to start watering now too.
Keep on top of pests like lily beetles and slugs using physical removal and organic methods.
Time to enjoy the garden and all your hard work.
Some deadheading and late staking will be needed and don’t forget to water pots regularly as well as feeding them.
A real harvest time – endless picking of dahlias and pumpkins.
Time to plan spring bulbs.
Bulb mania – planting bulb lasagnes, tulips, narcissi and allium bulbs into borders and pots, and narcissi in grass.
Time to put your feet up, get ready for Christmas and force some amaryllis, hyacinth and narcissi bulbs.
It is a good time to look at the bones and structure of the garden.
Don’t be too tidy – seedheads provide architecture as well as food for birds. Leaving foliage and leaves provide habitats for invertebrates.
For Christmas ask for a cold frame – the best investment for sowing seeds.
Find out more
Sign up to Sarah’s weekly gardening tips email (navigate to the bottom of the page and submit your email)
For more a more detailed guide read this month in your garden on our website
Sarah Raven calendars and diaries have sowing and growing tips along with recommended monthly gardening jobs.
Tracing the year from January to December, Sarah's latest book provides inspiration, planting ideas and expert advice for a beautiful garden all-year round.
Arthur’s inspirational booked packed full of down to earth advice and inspiration for small space gardens.
To learn more, Sarah runs gardening courses at Perch Hill and around the country, including The Cutting Garden, A Year Full of Flowers and Magnificent Pots.