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Key Terms to Know About Garden Design

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When dreaming up ideas for your backyard garden, you may draw a blank when it comes to the technical terms once the design is on paper. Or, you realize once you dive into a consultation with a landscape designer that you have absolutely no idea what he or she is talking about. Skip the questions by learning key garden design terms.

Alcove: A recess in a wall or hedge that is often curved and used to house a seat, sculpture or fountain

Arbor or Pergola: A shade-providing structure; both are covered with vines, but arbors are smaller, freestanding structures with arches tops and pergolas are larger and more architectural

Bastion: A projecting section in landscape gardening, typically a ditch with one sloping side and a retaining wall on the other; a barrier that doesn’t block views

Bedding plant: Annuals or bi-annuals that are used in colorful gardens

Belt: A strip of trees planted to define a space or view

Berceau: A vaulted trellis used to grow climbing plants like vines

Border: A long flowerbed typically placed besides a path, wall or hedge

Bosquet: A French word used for a block of shrubs and trees with paths in the middle

Bower: A garden seat protected by foliage

Echoes: Repetition of flowers of shrubs throughout a garden that make the space flow; an echo can be made with a specific plant, color, shape, texture, foliage, and elements like art, statues, and containers

Espalier: A series of fruit trees that are trained to form a hedge by using lines and stakes as framework

Exedra: A semicircular area in a garden backed by a hedge or wall

Folly: A garden structure built for looks or to ‘fool’ the eye

Ha-ha: A sunken wall in a garden that has a ditch outside to hide the garden’s boundary lines

Knot Garden: a small rectangular garden plot with intricate designs meant to resemble knot patterns seen in carpets

Parterre: A flowerbed usually geometric in shape, bordered with low clipped hedges like boxwood, which are repeated to form an intricate pattern and are often separated by a gravel path

Pinetum: A collection of coniferous plants in a garden

Planter: A decorative container in which to grow plants

Plat: A flat area or plot, usually a rectangle of grass

Potager: An ornamental vegetable garden

Prospect: A view in a garden; landscape designers use ‘prospect’ and ‘aspect’ when determining where to place a building

Quincunx: A planting pattern with five points, one in the center and four to mark a square shape

Rocaille: Shellwork, rockwork or pebblework in a garden

Terrace: A flat area of earth often supported by a retaining wall

Topiary: A shape made by clipping plants, popular in Roman gardens and Renaissance gardens

Treillage: Trelliswork used to support vines or other plants

Vault: An arch covered in stone, brick or other material

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