Glossary of Landscaping Terms

- A -

Aeration - Changing soil to allow more oxygen to enter while carbon dioxide releases.

Aerator - (lawn) A machine that pulls plugs/cores or pokes holes in the soil of compacted lawns to allow more oxygen into the soil.

Aerator - (water) Introducing oxygen into the water through a bubbler, fountain, or another means of surface agitation, while releasing noxious gases (carbon dioxide or methane).

Aggregate - Gravel or crushed stone used as sub-base, backfill materials, or for mixing with concrete or mortar.

Annual - A plant that germinates, flowers and dies in one season.

Arbour - A garden structure or archway used to support climbing plants or vines.


- B -

Backfill - Material used to fill in behind a retaining wall. Usually washed gravel, rubble rock or dirt.

Balled and burlapped - A tree that is taken from the ground (usually at a nursery), where the root ball is wrapped in burlap, bound with twine or wire.

Bare-root - Trees or shrubs with no attached root ball/soil.

Base stones - The first tier of stones in a wall. Usually larger stones, if you are working with natural stone.

Batter box - A simple frame using wood and string, to keep a consistent line and angle towards the bank (batter), when building a wall.

Beer - A fermented alcoholic beverage brewed from malt and flavoured with hops used for bribing friends and neighbours into helping you with your difficult outdoor projects.

Bog - A wet or swampy area usually with a high level of acidity. (Oxygen is low, and plants usually do not flourish here.)

Bubble diagrams - The simplest form of drawing ideas on paper when planning a yard.

Bubblers - Large stones with holes drilled through them. This allows water to be pumped out the top like a drinking fountain.

Buffers - Materials used to join projects together in a yard. Eg. Grass, decorative rock, or garden beds can be used as buffers between a patio and a house.

Builder's sand - Mostly an ungraded product. Used for a wide variety of purposes, especially in construction (eg., for drainage when laid under brick paving, or mixing with cement to make mortar). Builder's sand may also be mixed/tilled with heavy soils or clay in the garden to improve drainage.


- C -

Canopy - The shaded area under a tree from the overhanging branches and leaves.

Capstones - The very top stones in a wall. Similar to base-stones, the largest and heaviest stones in a natural stone wall for stability. Manufactured capstones are specifically made for one purpose only.

Cascade - Where water coming from a catch basin or stream hits a point of vertical drop.

Catch basin - An area where water pools before falling over the next vertical drop.

Chinking- The process of filling in, or tightening up gaps in a natural stone wall using small broken pieces and shim pieces.

Clean fill - Inorganic and organic soils free from sod, large rocks or concrete and pavement.

Containerized stock or plants - Trees, shrubs, or plants grown in containers at a nursery usually from seedlings.

Crown - The base of a tree or shrub where it meets the root system. Also called the trunk/root flare.


Course - A horizontal row or tier of stone, brick or wood in a wall.

Curbing - A border of edging using poured concrete.

Cutting - Digging into a bank, slope, or hill, to remove material to build a retaining wall.


- D -

Decorative rock - Rocks chosen for their colour or texture to be used as a ground cover, or in beds or paths.

Drainage - Controlling the flow of water with grading, slope, berms, swales, pipes, or drain tile.

Drain tile - (Weeping tile) Perforated plastic piping that disperses water to the gravel or soil along it's length through holes or slits.

Drip irrigation - A slow feeding water system to plants, shrubs, trees, perennials.

Drip zone/line - The edge of a trees branch system. It usually matches the root system of the tree underground.

Dry-laid - A patio or walkway built without a mortar base.

Dry-stacked - A wall built without the use of mortar.


- E -

Edging - Any material (brick, plastic, stone etc...) used as a border of containment.


- F -

Facing stones - The technique of chipping away at the stone's front surface, to make it more appealing.

Fieldstone - Stone collected from the surface of a field or pasture.

Filling - The opposite of cutting away at a bank, slope or hill, for a retaining wall. To bring the wall out further.

Final grade - The grade of dirt that contractors will leave around the house when construction is completed. It usually will allow for about 4 inches of topsoil.

Flagstone - Generic word used to describe natural, moderately flat stones of different shapes and colours used in walkways, patios, and walls.

Float valve - A valve that will automatically refill your pond or water feature when the water falls to a certain low level. (Can be attached to in-ground irrigation systems.)

Flow control valve - Usually a ball valve that allows you to control the flow of water coming from your pump to your stream, waterfall or fountain. It is an inline valve installed between the pump and the upper outlet of water.

Frost heave - The results of frozen water exerting a force of thousands of pounds of pressure against the back of a wall or from underneath a patio or other project in your yard.

Frost line - The lower depth at which the soil freezes in the winter.


- G -

Gazebo - A free-standing roofed structure that is usually open on all sides to provide a shaded or sheltered place to rest.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) - A safety device required for power use anywhere moisture or dampness can occur.

Grading - Changing the level of soil by using equipment, shovels, and rakes to allow for better drainage.


- H -

Hand tamper - A hand tool with a flat, heavy, sturdy base and long handle to pack in dirt or gravel by pounding it down using the weight of the tool.

Hardiness zones - Worldwide divided regions of climate that show a plants ability to survive winter cold.

Hardscaping - All the paths, decks, walls, and other structures that are installed in your yard. They are made from brick, stone, wood etc.

Head - The height difference between the pump and the upper outlet of water that determines the performance of the water pump in gph (gallons per hour).

Inverted marking paint - A spray paint that is used for painting out landscaping ideas, shapes and sizes that will spray even when upside down.


- J -

Jointing - Filling in the cracks of a brick or stone patio.


- L -

Landscape glue/epoxy - A glue that is used to keep capstones from being lifted, bumped, or moved out of place.

Landscape fabric - A barrier of cloth or woven material used to suppress weeds from growing up through and also to deter airborne spores from rooting in unwanted areas.

Laser level - A device that shoots a laser beam onto anything in its line of site. It is used to mark heights on stakes, for building projects, or for grading.

Liner - A water tight rubber material used underneath ponds, streams and waterfall.

Loam/Topsoil - A soil containing a good balance of nutrients, dirt, and other particles used to spread under sod for a healthy thick lawn. Also used in garden beds when amended with other organic nutrients.


- M -

Mechanical bond - The ability of aggregates to hold together because of their sharp angles and broken edges.Round rocks have poor mechanical bond and make poor sub-base materials or pathways.

Microclimate - Variations in temperature and growing conditions based on small changes in elevation, sunlight, or wind. These changes can take place within one's own yard.

Mortar sand - A washed, screened sand that drains water very quickly and can be used under walls and patios for bedding dry-laid or dry-stacked projects.


- O -

Ornamental grasses - Grasses that are not mowed but rather grown to their full height and potential in gardens as perennials.

Oxygenators - Plants that are submerged in a pool/pond that are primarily used for aeration.


- P -

Peat soil - Peat is very spongy and is great in gardens requiring some moisture retention.

Perennial - Any plant that lives for several or many growing seasons.

Perforated drain pipe - A plastic pipe with holes, to carry away excessive amounts of moisture or heavy rains.

Pergola - A long garden structure with pillars and crossbeams (usually open) that allows for climbing plants or vines to provide some shade.

pH levels - A measure of the soil's acidity or alkalinity. 1 is low being acidic. 14 is high being alkaline. 7 is neutral.

Plate/power tamper - A machine that has a vibrating plate for compacting aggregates. Used under patios or projects requiring a sub-base of gravel or rocks.

Potted stock - Stock that has been purchased bare- root and replanted in a container.


- R -

Road crush - A mixed material of sand and gravel (usually ¾ inch gravel) used under the base of roads.

Root ball - The soil attached to tree, shrub or plant when it is dug up from the ground, or removed from a container.

Running joints - Vertical joints in a wall through consecutive courses, or tiers where overlapping is not achieved. (occurs when the 1 over 2 stones, or 2 stones over 1 principle not used.)


- S -

Screeding - Dragging a board across guides to provide a consistent and smooth level of sand, for bedding stones or bricks.

Shim stones - Thin pieces of stone used to tighten up a wall, and fill in small gaps.

Sod cutter - A machine used to cut sod, roots and a thin layer of dirt. The soil can then be rolled up and set aside to be re-used or discarded.

Soil creep - The forces of nature, weight, rain, and gravity that push soil down a hill.

Softscaping - The plants, trees, grass and other living organisms installed into a yard. (Usually done after the hardscaping.)

Stepping a wall - Using steps in the base or the caps to maintain a level wall on sloped ground.

Stock - A term used to describe woody plants. (Trees and shrubs.)

Stringers - Long stones used to stretch across multiple stones and joints in a natural stone wall for added stability.

String level - A level that hooks onto a tightly tied string line between two stakes for checking grade changes.

Sub-base - Packed in material or aggregate used under walls and patios.

Subsoil- The layer of soil beneath the topsoil or loam. Subsoil is usually poor quality soil or clay.

Swale - A low spot between two high spots to collect water and channel it away to another part of a yard, back alley, or street.


- T -

Tie, anch or, bond stones - Stones that are longer and wider than normal stones that are randomly places throughout the wall for added stability.

Tiers - (Courses) Horizontal rows of stone, brick or wood in a wall.

Transition zones - Points that attach different features in your yard by using buffer materials. (Garden beds, gravel beds, grassy areas.)

Trunk/root flare - The point at which the truck of a tree or shrub meets the root system. (Also called the crown.)

Topdressing - Adding rich loams, mulch, or compost to your lawn in thin layers to achieve a flat well manicured lawn or to fill in depressions fin the lawn caused by sinking.

- W -

Washed rocks - Any aggregate that is washed clean, free from dirt, weeds, seeds or any other contaminants.

Water table- The uppermost layer of underground soil saturation. Changes according to many things from rainfall amounts to atmospheric pressures.

Winter kill - Dead grass in the spring usually resulting from heavy snow/ice or salt used on driveways and walkways.

Woody plants- Trees or shrubs with a wooden stem or trunk.


- X-

Xeriscaping - A way of landscaping using very little, or no water with drought-tolerant plants and more hardscaping.


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