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                               World Garden Vocabulary
These definitions are gathered from a host of garden books and online documents. There is an
excellent vocabulary list in the textbook: The Garden Visions of Paradise. One of the most
comprehensive vocabulary lists may be found at

Academy – The Academy was the olive grove outside Athens in which Plato set up his school of
philosophy. It continued in operation for 900 years. Renaissance Italy saw the foundation of a
new Platonic Academy in Florence, which re-established the ink between philosophy and

Adonis Garden – Adonis was the nourisher of seeds in Greek mythology. Small gardens in
terracotta pots were placed outside Adonis temples during festivals.

Allée – This French term normally refers to avenues planted in parks and landscape gardens.
Allées are bordered on either side with plants, usually trees or hedges.

Arboretum – A collection of trees. It differs from a wood and a forest in that the prime aim is to
collect and display a wide range of tree species.

Arboriculture – The selection, planting, care, and removal of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and
other perennial woody plants, and the study of how they grow and respond to cultural practices
and the environment.

Arborsculpture – A branch of arboriculture specifically involved with the shaping of roots, tree
trunks and branches into structures with ornamental or functional utility. Basic techniques
involve pruning, grafting and bending single or multiple trees into shapes that grow thicker and
stronger as they add annual rings.

Arcade – A set of arches supported by columns.

Arcadia – An idealized rural scene of simple pleasure and peace, reminiscent of a pastoral
region of ancient Greece.

Avenue – A straight road with a line of trees or large shrubs running along each side.

Arbor (or arbour) – A framework that supports climbing plants.

Automata – An Italian renaissance term for a mechanical device, usually powered by water,
wind power, or clockwork.

Back Garden – Unlike a front garden or yard, a back garden is normally used as a social space
for family and friends. If the family members are keen gardeners it will be used for ornamental
horticulture. Other typical uses include swimming pools, barbecues, vegetable growing, garden
games and hobbies.

Bagh – The Persian and Indian term for ―garden.‖

Baldachino – A structure in the form of a canopy, borne on ornate columns.
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Baroque (1600s) – This refers to both a period following the Renaissance and the style that
dominated it, emphasizing power and authority. The Baroque style used exaggerated motion
and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in
sculpture, painting, literature, and music. The style started around 1600 in Rome, Italy and
spread to most of Europe. It is the style of the French formal garden.

Bassin or basin – a small formal pool, usually made of stone.

Belvedere (occasionally Belvidere) – An architectural term adopted from Italian (literally ―fair
view‖). It refers to any architectural structure or ornamental building sited to take advantage of
an extensive view.

Berceau – A tunnel, arch or shaded arbor that supports climbing or trained plants.

Border – a long flower bed, usually beside a path, a wall, or a hedge.

Bosco (or boschetto) – Italian term for a wooded area in a garden.

Bosquet – A formal grove, often with a decorative glade, in which statues or other ornaments
may be placed.

Botanical Garden – An ancient form of garden, combined with zoological gardens in the
Baroque, and scientific institutions today. Chinese emperors, Egyptian pharaohs and
Babylonian kings all formed plant collections in protected enclosures.

Bower – A shaded, leafy recess; an arbor; a garden seat protected by foliage.

Broderie – Ornate parterre with designs that imitate embroidery patterns.

Buffet d’eau – A type of fountain, popular in 17th century France, in the form of steps over which
the water falls.

Cascade – A waterfall.

Casino – An ornamental house within a garden.

Chiaroscuro (also called claire-obscure) – in the Renaissance, the technique of using light and
shade in art forms, including alternating shade and sunlight in gardens as well as paintings.

Chinese Pavilion – Chinoiserie refers to a European artistic style which reflects Chinese
influence and is characterized through the use of fanciful imagery of an imaginary China,
asymmetry and whimsical contrasts of scale, the use of lacquerlike materials and decoration.

Chinoiserie – a Chinese fashion in the decorative arts, especially popular in England and
Germany in the 19th century, fostered by trading contacts with the Far Est.

City Park – A public space in a town owned by the public and used for recreation and amenity
horticulture, such as Central Park in New York.
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Claire-voyee – An opening in a hedge or wall allowing a view of what lies beyond. Often framed
with ornamental supports or light railings.

Cloister Garth – The word ―cloister‖ means closed and was originally used for the part of a
monastery which was closed to public access. When its main feature became a grass square
surrounded by an arcade or peristyle, people began to use the word ―cloister‖ to refer to the
enclosing element. Some enclosed squares contain a fruit tree and perhaps a few herbs and
flowers as their main feature. Monks and nuns of the 9th and 10th centuries used the interior
space to grow vegetables, medicinal herbs, and flowers (usually lilies or roses) for the altar.

Cultural movement – A change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work.
This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies, including garden and landscape

Deciduous – Plants that shed their leaves in the fall.

Deck – A flat surface capable of supporting weight, similar to a floor but typically constructed
outdoors and usually connected to a building.

Domestic Garden – The word ―domestic‖ derives from the Sanskrit damah, the Avestan
demana, and the Greek domos, all meaning ―house.‖ A domestic garden is therefore a garden
attached to a house.

Espalier – A fruit tree or plant with the branches trained flat against a wall. The technique was
popular in the Middle Ages in Europe to decorate solid walls by such trees planted near them.
There are several types of espalier, including horizontal (branches grow horizontally out of one
central trunk), palmette (branches grow in a fan shaped pattern), and cordon (the tree
resembles a menorah).

Exedra – An ornamental, open garden building that is often curved with a bench inside.

Ferme ornee (or cottage ornee) – Literally, ―ornamental farm‖ in French. A small rustic building,
often thatched, which is used as a picturesque feature in a landscape garden.

Fountain – An arrangement where water issues from a source (Latin fons), fills a basin of some
kind, and is drained away.

Flower Garden – In the sense of a garden devoted to growing flowers, the flower garden is an
invention of the nineteenth century. Flowers have been enjoyed in gardens since ancient times
(such as lotuses in Egypt and roses in Persia), but they were not the prime motive for making a
garden. Today, many people believe flowers to be raison d'etre of gardens. In ancient times,
flowers were interspersed with fruit trees; during the Baroque, flowers were planted for show; in
landscape gardens, flowers were used naturalistically.

Flowery Mead – a Medieval term for a lawn rich with wildflowers.

Folly – A garden structure that can be seen as a folly by its owner or by visitors because of its
appearance, cost, or lack of utility (e.g., a sham castle or artificial ruin).

Frame - A structure supporting or containing something.
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French Gardens (17th -18th Centuries) – The French garden makes use of geometric design,
symmetry, repetition of decorative elements, and perspective created by seemingly endless
rows of trees, carefully tended paths, and man-made linear bodies of water, cascades, and
fountains. The French garden is an intellectual conception that culminated with Andre Le Notre
and the sumptuous and vast gardens he created for the Sun King at Versailles.

Front Garden – A front garden, or front yard in America, is usually an ornamental space rather
than a social space. In England, Holland, and North France it is often treated as a flower garden
bounded by a fence.

Garden – A planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and
enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and
man-made materials. Both ―yard‖ and ―garden‖ derive from the Old English word ―geard,‖
meaning an enclosure.

Garden design – The process of designing the layout and planting of domestic gardens.

Garden Sculpture – The predominant garden types in the ancient world were domestic gardens
and sacred gardens. Sculpture of gods and kings were placed in temple compounds, along with
sacred lakes and sacred groves. Later, these were considered Pagan. During the renaissance
these same statues were excavated and re-placed in gardens. Sculpture then became an
aspect of art and gardens have been a favored location for displaying outdoor works of art.

Gazebo – A pavilion structure commonly found in parks, gardens, and spacious public areas.
Gazebos are freestanding, roofed, and open on all sides.

Genius of the Place - The genius of the place (Italian ―genius loci‖) can be defined as ―the spirit
of the place.‖ "The genius of a place" suggests that a locale possesses ecologically and
spiritually unique qualities. In order for humans to live in balance with nature, they must access
this genius and allow it to infuse decisions they make when altering a site.

Giardino Segreto – The Italian word for ―secret garden.‖ During the Renaissance this described
a secret enclosure within a garden.

Glorietta – Ornamental pavilion, usually in the middle of a walled garden.

Grotto (Italian grotta) – Any type of natural or artificial cave that is associated with modern,
historic or prehistoric use by humans.

Grove – in ancient Egypt, sacred groves were placed within temple compounds. In Homeric
Greece, they were places of resort, outside citadels, often dedicated to specific gods and
associated with a fresh spring or grotto. In Classical Greece, sacred groves were used for
physical and intellectual exercise. They became academies, lyceums and gymnasia. Sacred
groves persisted in Germany, the Baltic States, and Scandinavia until the recent past.

Ha-Ha – a sunken wall with a ditch outside used so that the garden boundary is not visible from
within. In English landscaping, this enabled the landscape designer to ―borrow‖ distant scenery
without intrusion by fences or walls.

Hardscape – In the practice of landscaping, refers to the paved areas like streets & sidewalks
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Hedge – A row of woody plants, generally of one species, used to demarcate spaces.

Herbaceous Plants – Plants that continue to live and increase in the open for several years.
Herbaceous plants lack a permanent woody stem. Stems die down each season and grow up
again from the crowns each spring. They are classified as annuals (completes its life cycle in
one growing season), biennials (plants that have a two year life cycle) and perennials (plants
that live from year to year).

Herb Garden – A garden specifically designed and used for the cultivation of cooking and/or
medicinal herbs. In ancient gardens, medicinal and culinary uses were primary. In modern
gardens, culinary and decorative uses are primary.

Herm – Head or bust on a stone pillar or pedestal.

Hofgarten – In German a Hof is a courtyard and thus a Hofgarten is a ―court garden‖.

Horticulture – The culture or growing of garden plants, including floriculture (propagation of floral
plants) and landscape horticulture (propagation and maintenance of landscape plants).

Hortus Conclusus – An enclosed Medieval garden. Hortus is Latin for ―garden.‖

Hunting Park – When significant areas of land became used for agriculture and settlement,
people began to yearn for the pleasures of hunting and it became necessary to fence large
tracts of land as hunting parks. This was done in Ancient Mesopotamia and also in Ancient
China. The practice of making hunting parks spread to North Europe during the Middle Ages
and many of the old hunting parks continue in use as deer parks. In Italy, a walled hunting park
was called a barco.

Isolotto – A small decorative island within a garden.

Italian Garden (15th-16th Centuries) – Italian Renaissance gardens include flights of steps,
statuary, fountains, and terraces integrated round a central axis. The emphasis has always
been upon greenery, shade and water, diversified by stonework and marble. A feature of Italian
gardens is the lack of flowers and the dominant ―chiaroscuro‖ effects created by sculpted trees
and shrubbery. Most were associated with private villas.

Japanese Gardens – From ancient times the Japanese had a design tradition which involved
composition with stones and water. In the 1300s through 1500s the tea ceremony was
developed by Zen monks. This led to the making of a tea garden as a path, often with stepping
stones and stone lanterns, to a tea ceremony room which could be used after dark. They were a
peaceful contrast with the strife of sixteenth century Japan. The Tenshin-En Garden at the
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (―Garden of the Heart of Heaven‖) includes more than 70
species of woody and herbaceous plants, and a ―dry waterfall‖ of rounded black stones running
down the face of a hill that represents Mount Sumeru, a mythic mountain that was thought to be
the center of the universe.

Kiosk – A small, separated garden pavilion open on some or all sides. Kiosks were common in
Persia, India, and in the Ottoman Empire from the 13th century onward. From the kiosk evolved
also the so called conservatories, glass rooms erected in gardens of most of European houses.
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Knot garden – A very formal design of garden in a square frame and grown with a variety or
aromatic plants and culinary herbs.

Labyrinth – a maze of paths designed as a puzzle to entertain visitors, especially popular in the
Renaissance and Baroque. It evokes the Greek myth where Theseus had to escape from the

Landform – A geomorphological unit categorized by characteristics such as elevation, slope,
orientation, stratification, rock exposure, and soil type. Landforms by name include berms,
mounds, hills, cliffs, valleys, and so forth.

Landscape Architecture – The art, planning, design, management, preservation and
rehabilitation of the land and the design of human-made constructs.

Landscape Garden – Often used to describe the English garden design style characteristic of
the eighteenth century. In the twentieth century, the term ―landscape gardener‖ began to be
used by garden contractors.

Limonaia – A glass house that protects potted citrus trees in cold weather.

Loggia – A roofed open-sided arcade or gallery behind a colonnade, often attached to a house.

Macchia – Mediterranean bush or scrub.

Mannerism (1500s-1600s) – A fusion of various highly individual styles that poses as an
alternative to the neoclassical regularity achieved in the Roman art and architecture of the High
Renaissance. It was an anti-classicist movement in Italy that sought to emphasize the feeling of
the artist himself, aiming for greater impact and brilliance than Renaissance style.

Moorish – The adjective ―Moorish‖ is used for the design style characteristic of the inhabitants of
North West Africa and Southern Spain of mixed Arab and Berber descent.

Mosaiculture – A method of planting that dates from 17th century France, which mixes carpet
bedding with annuals in a tightly ordered pattern.

Neoclassicism (1700s-1900s) – A severe, unemotional movement recalling Roman and Greek
―classical‖ style, reacting against the overbred Rococo style and the emotional Baroque style.

Neoplatonism – A school of philosophy that developed in the 3rd Century AD. Plotinus and Saint
Augustine took the Theory of Forms, embedded in many of Plato’s books, and transformed it
into a more specific theory, which then influenced religious thinking and led to the Ideal Theory
of Art.

Niche – A shallow recess in a wall or hedge for placing a sculpture or other decorative effect.

Nymphaeum – A grotto with fountains dedicated to nymphs.

Pagoda – A tiered tower with multiple eaves common in China, Japan, Korea, Nepal and other
parts of Asia.

Palazzina – A small villa.
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Palladian – A style of architecture, popular in Britain in the 18th century, based on Greek and
Roman principles as re-interpreted by Andrea Palladio, a 16th century Italian architect. A
Palladian bridge is a roofed bridge in the style of Palladio.

Paradise – The English word ―paradise‖ has always been connected with gardens, especially
the Garden of Eden. The old Iranian language (Avestan) had a noun pairida za-, ―a wall
enclosing a garden or orchard,‖ which is composed of pairi-, ―around,‖ and da za- ―wall.‖ The
adverb and preposition pairi is related to the equivalent Greek form peri, as in perimeter. Da za-
comes from the Indo-European root *dheigh-, ―to mold, form, shape.‖

Parterre – Regular ornamental beds with low-cut hedges of either flowers or turf, often
incorporating decorative devices such as urns or topiary. Parterres are usually rectangular,
level, and laid out in a decorative pattern using plants and gravel.

Patio – An outdoor courtyard, usually surrounded by buildings, largely paved and partly planted.
The word ―patio‖ is of Spanish origin and is thought tome from the older word pati (or patu)
meaning pasture - the land at the back of a house. Patios were used to keep animals safe at
night and, as modern society developed, came to be used as an outdoor living room.

Pavilion – A free-standing structure sited a short distance from a main residence, whose
architecture makes it an object of pleasure. Large or small, there is usually a connection with
relaxation and pleasure in its intended use. A pavilion built to take advantage of a view is
referred to as a gazebo.

Peristyle - A series of columns surrounding a building or enclosing a court.

Pergola – An arbor or a passageway of columns supporting a roof of trelliswork on which
climbing plants (often roses) are trained to grow.

Piazza, Plaza, Place, Platz – Derived from the Italian, these words describe a public open space
surrounded by buildings.

Picturesque – In the 18th Century this term, which originally meant ―suitable for making into a
picture,‖ was given a specific use as an intermediate quality between Beautiful and Sublime.

Planting Design – Includes two major systems: formal planting design and naturalistic planting

Planting Strategy – A long term strategy for the design, establishment and management of
different types of vegetation in a landscape or garden.

Plate-band – A border to a parterre in the form of a narrow flowering bed.

Pleached – A pleached hedge is one in which branches have been bent down or interwoven to
form a living wall. Apple, linden, pear, and hawthorne trees work especially well.

Portico – A colonnaded entrance space or doorway.

Potager – The French word for a kitchen garden, usually formal or decorative.
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Promenade – The French word for a public walk.

Putto – A Cupid or cherub.

Rain Garden – A planted depression that is designed to take all, or as much as possible, of the
excess rainwater run-off from a house or other building and its associated landscape. The
plants—a selection of wetland edge vegetation, such as sedges, rushes, ferns, shrubs and
trees—absorb the excess water, and through the process of transpiration return water vapor
into the atmosphere.

Renaissance (Rinascimento in Italian; early 1500s) – Literally means ―rebirth‖, and the era is
best known for the renewed interest in the culture of classical antiquity after the period that
Renaissance humanists labeled the Dark Ages.

Residential Garden (or Domestic Garden) – The most common form of garden and is found
adjacent to, around or near to a residence. It may also be located in less traditional locations
such as on a roof, in an atrium, on a balcony, in window boxes, or on a patio.

Riparian – Referring to plants or plant communities that grow on the edges or banks of rivers or

Rococo – A style of art that emerged in France in the early 18th century as a continuation of the
Baroque style. In contrast to the heavier themes and darker colors of the Baroque, the Rococo
style was characterized by an opulence, grace, playfulness, and lightness using more curves
and lighter patterns.

Romanticism – This early 19th century movement reflected nostalgia for the primitive past in
preference to the scientifically minded present. It did not really replace the Neoclassical
movement so much as it provided a counterbalance; many artists sought to join both styles in
their works.

Rond-Point – A circular clearing in woods or park where a number of allées meet.

Rosarium – A rose garden, often circular.

Schlosspark – in Germany, a formal garden extending from a palace.

Sculpture Garden – In Egypt sculptures were placed outdoors, while in Greece, and Rome, they
were protected by temples or grottos. In the Middle Ages, sculptures were regarded as
idolatrous, while in the Renaissance, sculpture was used in gardens following the Roman
manner. Currently, sculpture is being re-integrated into gardens, as in the Longmont sculpture

Shakespearean Garden – A garden composed of herbs and flowers mentioned in the works of
William Shakespeare.

Temple Gardens – When temples became large and important structures it began to look as
though the surrounding space was a garden, attached to a temple as domestic garden is
attached to a house. This was especially so when temples were closed to public access and the
space within the protective wall became a compound for priests.
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Terrace – a flat area of earth, often supported by a retaining wall.

Topiary – Characterized by the clipping or trimming of live shrubs or trees into decorative
shapes, as of animals.

Trompe l’oeil – an illusion that deceives the eye, such as a wall painting that resembles a real
garden feature.

Tufa – A type of rock with sharp edges and a porous composition, used to stabilize acidic soils.
Frequently used in the design of pools, ponds, and grottos.

Woody Plants – Plants that have woody stems that generally live for several years, adding new
growth each year, such as trees and shrubs.

Xeric Plants – Plants that tolerate conditions of low water, bright light, and warm temperatures
due to a variety of adaptations such as thick waxy or fleshy leaves, hairy leaves, small narrow
leaves, taproots, and succulent stems.

Xeriscape Landscaping – Landscaping designed specifically for areas that are susceptible to
drought or for properties where water conservation is practiced. Derived from the Greek xeros
meaning ―dry,‖ the term, Xeriscape means literally ―dry landscape.‖ It involves seven basic
principles: Planning and design, Soil analysis and amendment, Practical turf areas (limitation of
grassy areas), Appropriate plant selection (drought-tolerant, native plants – not just cacti),
Efficient irrigation (grouping plants with similar water needs), Use of mulches, and Appropriate

Ziggurat – A pyramid shaped tower.

Zoological Gardens – The origin of zoos is similar to that of botanical gardens. They began as
areas of enclosed parkland in which kings and emperors made collections of exotic beasts.

This is a landscape designed
by Sir Humphry Repton.