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Gardening with Sam: Understanding different plant groups

Round out your understanding of different plants and plant groups by knowing your vocabulary when you go in the garden.

Perennial: Garden mainstays, this huge array of plants – including Japanese iris – fills beds with different shapes, colors, textures and fragrances. They often die down to the ground during winter but live for years.

Bulbs: Hardy bulbs such as tulips stay in the ground year-round. Tender bulbs must be dug in freezing climates. Plant spring-flowering bulbs in fall and summer-flowering bulbs in fall or spring.

Annual: An annual such as viola completes its life cycle in a year. The plant begins life developing from a seed then focuses its energy into flowering and setting seeds.

Tree: Evergreen or deciduous shedding foliage trees bring height, shape and long-lived framework to a yard. Trees add shade, shelter and large-scale seasonal beauty.

Turf grass: North American lawns include cool and warm climate plants that need repeated cutting. Practical and pretty lawns should include a blend of suitable grass types.

Climber or vine: Annual or perennial, these versatile plants climb, sprawl and cling. Whether fast-growing or slow-growing plants, they add verticality to the garden.

Shrub: As an essential part of a garden, shrubs work as accents and hedges. Deciduous or evergreen shrubs offer seasonal appeal and long-term interest.

We all long to receive packages in the mail, but when a plant comes in, I run out to plant it in the yard like it’s Christmas morning. When receiving mail-order plants, here are a few things I have learned over the years it might help you to know:

  • Seedlings or container-grown plants: Keep them in a somewhat shaded place. Water daily if rain doesn’t come; they are tender, and they need to breathe a few days.
  • Bulbs: Store in paper bags or boxes with holes. Keep in a cool and dry until planting time. Do not freeze your bulbs.
  • Bare root shrub or tree: Soak roots overnight in a bucket of water; if possible, plant them when they’re received. Plant in a permanent location as soon as possible.
  • Mail order plants: Unpack plants as soon as they arrive. Remove any broken plant parts, and replace any soil spilled from containers. Water well.

Bare root perennials, trees, roses and other shrubs are lifted from a nursery bed and sold in a dormant – not actively growing – state. If necessary, plant the roots temporarily and keep the soil damp.

Baby plants such as groundcover or turgrasses are sold in flats or small cells. This is an affordable way to purchase young plants for filling in a large area.

I hope this helps. You might have your own tips, but these are the ones I have learned to work with over the years. Most of all, enjoy your garden; you own the garden, it does not own you.

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