Let’s take a moment to have a short class in some basic Gardening Terminology.
Hardiness zone: Expressed as a number and letter combination from 1a to 13b, the US Department of Agriculture has assigned a zone to every geographic area of the United States based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. Tags on plants sold commercially often identify the zone(s) in which the plant will grow. The bulk of Somervell County is in a bit of an island in Zone 7b (5º to 10º) while the outlying areas to the east and west are Zone 8a (10º to 15º). Click each photo to see a closeup of Somervell County and the bulk of Zones 7b and 8a in Texas.
Microclimate. Climate affected by landscape, structures, or other unique factors in a particular immediate area. The north or sound side of a structure, under a shade tree, next to a stream bed, all can play a part in changing the localized climate for a small area. These need to be considered when designing a complete landscape. To further complicate matters, microclimates can develop or change over time with the growth or death of landscape plants, trees or shrubs, as well as the addition or subtraction of structures and hardscapes.
N-P-K: Acronym for the three major plant nutrients contained in manure, compost, and fertilizers. N stands for nitrogen, P for phosphorus, and K for potassium. Very basically, nitrogen promotes leaf development, phosphorus plays a key role in the growth of roots, blooming, and fruiting, and potassium also plays a part in root growth as well as in stem development.
Compost. Simply defined, compost is organic matter that has decomposed in a process that recycles this ‘once living’ material into usable, nutrient dense matter. Compost is used in the garden or landscape to add a natural fertilizer or soil conditioner to the soil.
Mulch. Material used on the soil surface to aid in preserving soil moisture, reducing weeds and provide aesthetic appeal. When an appropriate organic mulch is used, it can also aid in improving the fertility of the soil as in breaks down over time. Mulches can also be inorganic, such as rocks, rubber or even sheet plastic. These inorganic materials will aid in the suppression of weeds and assist with soil moisture retention but will do nothing to add nutrients to the soil.
Integrated pest management. A method of managing pests that combines cultural, biological, mechanical, and chemical controls, while taking into account the impact of control methods on the environment. An entire article would be needed to fully explain the concepts of IPM!
Xeriscape. Pronounced zeh·ri·skeip. A combination of two critical horticulture terms, xeric, meaning low to no water use and landscape, meaning the visible features of a piece of land altered by planting trees, shrubs or ornamental items. Xeriscape landscaping is quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment. This concept is a comprehensive approach to landscaping for water conservation. Note – xeriscape does NOT mean no landscape plants. Many xeriscapes are actually quite lush!
Zeroscape. Often confused with and a mispronunciation of xeriscape. Zeroscape is a landscape made up of dirt or gravel with essentially no plants in it. There is no planning or design involved in zeroscape landscapes. Zeroscape yards are typically extremely plain.
Annual: Plants started from seed that grow, mature, flower, produce seed, and die in the same growing season. They may return from seed each year, but not from the roots of the original plants.
Biennial: Plants that take two years, or a part of two years, to complete their life cycle. By freely reseeding, a biennial plant may seem to come back year after year, but you are actually seeing new plants, with some germinating one year and others the following year. Standing Cypress is a great example of a wildflower in this area that is a biennial, as well as parsley in the garden.
Perennial: A plant that lives more than two years and produces new foliage, flowers, and seeds each growing season. Tender perennial: A perennial that is not tolerant of frost and cold temperatures. Applying a winter mulch can help it survive. It may die off above ground and regrow from the roots. Esperanza or Yellow Bells is a tender perennial in our area. Woody perennial: A plant that goes dormant in winter and begins growth in spring from above-ground stems. Deciduous trees and many shrubs are woody perennials. They drop their leaves in the winter and regrow from branches in the spring. Herbaceous perennial: A plant that dies back in the winter and regrows from the crown in spring. Most of your bulbs would fall into this category, as does asparagus.
Exotic: A plant of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized. Naturalize: The process whereby plants spread and fill in naturally.
Native plant: A plant indigenous to a specific habitat or area. Nativar: A plant that is a cultivar of a native plant. Cultivar: A cultivated variety of a species. Propagation of cultivars results in little or no genetic change in the offspring, which preserves desirable characteristics.
Invasive. Growing vigorously and outcompeting other plants in the same area; difficult to control. Even some of our native plants can become invasive. Our local common cedar trees, or Ashe Juniper, is a good example of a native but invasive plant.
Noxious weed. Weeds that have been declared by law to be a species having the potential to cause injury to public health, crops, livestock, land, or other property. Noxious weeds are very invasive. There are 31 plants in Texas that meet the legal criteria. Fortunately, there is only a handful of these found in Somervell County!