Gardening for Beginners

Do you have grey fingers? Can’t tell your aster from a hole in the ground? Reflecting the current attitude that gardening is the new rock and roll, this tells you all you need to know.

Gardening Term What It Really Means

Agent Orange

The gardener’s friend. Except it doesn’t work on weeds only on flowers.


Plant equivalent of the disposable lighter. Chuck it away when it’s finished (ie as soon as you get it back from the garden centre.)


Domestic animal that is the only one known to be able to dig in a flowerbed without the use of heavy equipment.

Cat trap

See Ponds.


Evil smelling brown sludge in the bottom of the binbag full of grass cuttings you forgot to take to the tip and left in the garage over winter.

Failure to thrive

Common condition found in flowers  bought from the garden centre, but rare in weeds.

First cut

Early Spring ritual where the lawnmower is used to scarify the lawn.


Something you do want to grow in your garden, but it doesn’t. Also any plant that is attractive to slugs, vine weevils, greenfly. See Weed.


Strip of barren earth resembling the dustbowl conditions in the American Midwest in the 1930s. Except there’s a lot more grass. Turns to mud after minimal rainfall.

Garden centre

Commercial concern where hapless gardeners are taken for every penny they have. All legal, surprisingly.


Strange quadruped born after a foggy night on the plains of Africa.


Any narrowleaf plant of the family Gramineae that will grow profusely in a flowerbed but not on a lawn


Whoever named them had clearly never seen how non-ecofriendly they are. Insect equivalent of Agent Orange.

Grey fingers

The opposite of green fingers. Uncanny ability to kill perfectly healthy flowers simply by being in the same postal district.

Grow bag

All the dead stuff you threw away last year, conveniently repackaged and sold back to you at nearly the cost of the original plants that died on you.


Takes two weeks to die. See Tender.


Also known as a busy lizzie, ideal for shady wet areas, where it forms a dense low growing carpet of rotting vegetation.


Creeping, fast growing, evergreen broadleaf plant your neighbour feels makes his house look rustic, but which is loosening your ridge tiles.


              I.      A area of smooth, baize-like grass used to break up flowerbeds.

           II.      A wafer thin veneer of sickly turf, barely covering the builder’s rubble.

         III.      Ant haven.

Lawn rake

Device for dragging dead leaves and most of the grass out of your lawn. Much like a low tech lawnmower.


Device for digging long parallel grooves in your lawn. Also good for taking the tops off ants’ nests.


Plant that dies back in the autumn and would grow again next year if you hadn’t forgotten it was there and dug it up by accident. See Annual.


Haven for all manner of wildlife, all of which are predators for the 500 quid koi carp you bought last week. Also a haven for all sorts of wild plants, which will choke off your lilies. Also known as a cat trap.


Used to help break up soil in a flowerbed, making the life of the cat easier.

Slug pellets

Gourmet feast for slugs. They will come from miles away simply to gorge themselves before tackling your prized hostas for afters.

Slug traps

Sunken jars full of beer into which slugs fall and drown. Slugs, being the gourmets that they are, can be a bit picky about their booze, and prefer premium lager to the Tesco own label bitter most gardeners use. When full, the contents of a slug trap can be simply disposed of over your neighbour’s wall, though this is an unpleasant task.


Molluscan equivalent of a mugger. Takes everything, then comes back next day to see if you have anything else of worth. Vile. Carry a pair of scissors at all times, and be ruthless. Salt’s good too, though it will poison what little decent soil you have. A blowtorch works, but may not be for the squeamish.


Dies in the car on the way home from the garden centre

Thinning out

Removal of healthy plants so that predators can get at the remaining sickly ones more easily.


Fine, easily draining, fertile soil not found in Essex except up at the Big House.


Strips of grass that are a handy size to be rolled up for ease of removal when they die back.

Vine weevil

Insect larvae that attack the roots of flowers but not those of weeds. They operate an Equal Opportunities policy that allows them to eat anything except vines, eg the violas in my garden.


Something you don’t want to grow in your garden, but it does anyway. Distinguished from a flower by being impossible to uproot, and resistant to all known garden pests. And to all known weedkillers.


Something that doesn’t kill weeds, but inflicts horrible damage on flowers with even the slightest spray drift.

Wilted greens

A cookery term that has been appropriated by gardeners the world over. Used to describe flowers after a prolonged period of drought.

4 thoughts on “Gardening for Beginners”

  1. Very funny, Dunk – can relate to this one. What part of Essex are you from? Charlton fan? x

    • Near Great Dunmow. Not an anybody fan, really, since I don’t like football. If up against a wall with a blindfold, I might clain Oldham Athletic for my own. Oh hang on, you asked about football didn’t you? 😀

  2. Enjoyed this gem. My type of gardening chart 🙂

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