“…Gardening is a hobby for all ages, for all the senses, and for all seasons. Like any hobby, it has its own language that experienced dirt-diggers take for granted. Pinch, prune, thin, force, compost, and deadhead are just a few of the barbaric terms veteran gardeners use and novice gardeners may not find familiar. Do annuals or perennials come back every year and what is a biennial? Then there are those lengthy botanical names that some gardeners roll off their tongues just to show off. If you are going to pursue this rewarding pastime, becoming familiar with some of its common terminology may prove helpful.
As a novice gardener many years ago, differentiating the terms annual, perennial, and biennial were challenging for me. Botanically speaking, an annual plant completes its life cycle in a single season, germinating from a seed in spring, producing flowers throughout the summer, and expiring when hard frosts ensue, but for gardeners in the northeast, many plants encompass our definition of annuals including summer bulbs, tender perennials, and tropical plants. Since the majority of annuals prefer warm soil and air temperatures, transplants should not be set outside until all danger of frost has passed during the latter half of May. It should be noted that some annuals, such as cleome and cosmos, scatter seeds which sprout when warm weather returns, creating the illusion that the plants survived the winter.
Biennials take two years to complete their life cycles, displaying only foliage the first season and flowering, seeding, and often dying during the second year. Growing conditions and winter weather influence the longevity of these plants and some biennials, like foxgloves and forget-me-nots, may return multiple years, although it is often their offspring we are actually seeing. To ensure biennial blooms from year to year, seed-heads must be allowed to mature and disperse; collecting and dispersing seeds in designated areas will help prevent random seedlings throughout the borders….”
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