This section of the Primer started as a simple glossary, however it seems to be turning into a repository for all the bits I keep picking up.

Terms are usually Latin unless stated to be Japanese (Jp)


ABSCISSION  (from Lat. abscindere). Literally,  Tearing away, or cutting off.

Leaf drop in trees is controlled by a process called Abscission, which is also responsible for the shedding of flowers, and fruit.

Should a tree, or shrub suffer a trauma, such as drying out, Abscission can be triggered as a self-defence mechanism.

As with most processes in plants, abscission is brought about by the release of hormones, Absissic acid, and Ethylene a type of hydrocarbon that can act as a plant hormone. Production of these is usually triggered by the decreasing amount of light, and lowering of temperature, as the year ends. These hormones modify cells at the base of the leaf petiole, creating two layers of cells.

The lower layer, or protective layer, seals the wound, closing over the vascular pathway, preventing infection getting into the tree.

In the upper layer, the cells breakdown, allowing the leaf to separate.

At the base of each leaf you will find a dormant bud, waiting to produce next years shoot.

ACAULIS - Stem less .

ACCENT PLANTS - Small plants or grasses used to enhance a displayed bonsai.

Almost any plant that can give the impression of being larger than it is may be used as an accent plant. For example grasses are often used to 'mimic' a grove of bamboo.

Alpines are a good source of suitable plants , and flowering plants often make the display that much brighter. Flowering plants should not however be used with flowering trees.

Accents should be treated with the same respect you would give your trees, fed and watered as well as the bonsai, bearing the particular species needs in mind.

They will be kept in smaller versions of bonsai pots.


ACER - Shining (La) Maples

ACICULAR - Needle-shaped, slender, and sharp-pointed.

ACIDIC - Applied to soil with a pH of between 1, and 6, 7 being neutral (opp ALKALINE).

ACRE - An area approx 63.624 meters x 63.624 meters.

ACUMINATE - Having a long, tapering point.

ACUTE - Sharp-pointed.

ADELGIDS - Aphid like pests

ADNATE - Growing close to the stem.

ADPRESSED - Pressed into close contact without adhering.

ADVENTITIOUS - Growth emanating from an unusual place; e.g, roots growing from a stem.

AERIUS - Of the air, as with air-roots. Roots growing from the trunk, or a low branch, as opposed to Pnumataphores

AESTIVALIS - Summer flowering 

ALBA, ALBUS - Latin, "white".

ALKALINE - Of a limey nature. Having a pH of between 8, and 14, 7 being neutral (opp ACIDIC).

ALPINE - A plant native to mountains, but generally any small growing plant suitable for a rockery, etc.

ALTERNATE - A term applied to leaves or branches which do not grow out opposite one another.

Alternate and Opposite leaves.

ALTUS - Of high altitude, tall.


AMORPHOUS - Having no definite form.

ANGIOSPERM - Having a seed encased in a fleshy body, or fruit.



ANTHER - The part of the stamen that contains the grains of pollen (see Flower).


Ants, and their pupae
Although ants themselves don't actually harm the trees, indeed the tunnels they make in the soil allow air to the roots, They are 'Farmers' of aphids, milking them for the sugar they excrete after dining on sap. They will collect aphids, and protect them from predators.

They are not really harmed by the insecticides applied to kill aphids. A trip to your Garden store will produce several chemical remedies to get rid of them. I've tried immersing the pot in water for a few days, and all this does is to drive them up into the branches.

Ants are members of the order Hymenoptera the order of insects that also includes the bees, wasps and sawflies


APEX - Top terminating point of a leaf or tree.


Aphids are probably the best-known pests of plants on the planet.

The damage they cause is twofold. Firstly they suck the sap from the plant, inhibiting its flow to, and from the growing shoots, and not allowing leaf development. The leaves it should be remembered produce the sugars the plant needs to grow.

Secondly they wound the tree, allowing fungal attacks.

Many people will baulk at the idea of spraying insecticides because they kill friendly insects as well as harmful ones. This is undoubtedly true, however a bonsai is to a large extent isolated from the environment, so spraying will have a minimal effect.

APOMIXIS - The production of seed that is live, and able to grow without fertilization having taken 

APOPHYSIS - The exposed part of the scale in the cone of a pine.

APICAL DOMINANCE - The tendency for young trees to put on growth at their top, to the detriment of the lower branches.

APPLE - (La) Malus

Most of us are familiar with the apple as a fruit of about 75mm diameter. The modern apple was developed from an ancient stock, the scrab (it's Anglo-Saxon for scrub), or crab as it's now called. If you do not want to eat the fruit, try to get an 'ornamental' apple such as Malus (latin for Apple) 'Golden Hornet' as they carry a fruit of about 25mm.

In common with most fruit trees, Apple species are often grafted onto a more vigorous rootstock.

ARBORESCENS - With a tree like shape.

ARGENTEA - of silvery appearance.

ARIL - A glutinous covering that envelops certain seeds, like the yew berry.

ASCENDING - Directed or rising upwards.

ASEXUAL - Reproduction without sexual contact, as cuttings, layerings, or by division of a plant at root level. Also known as Vegetative reproduction,


ATROPURPUREA - Purple, sometimes dark red. Usually refers to leaf colour.

The leaves of the copper beech

ATROVIRIDIS - Deep, dark-green colour.

AUGUSTUS - Important in size or appearance, imposing.

AUREA, AUREUS - Latin for "golden".

AUXIN - A growth hormone.

Auxins are primarily involved in regulating plant growth and are the main cause behind the elongation of cells in plants, they are also responsible for Leaf drop in trees a process called Abscission, which is also responsible for the shedding of flowers, and fruit.


AWL - A pointed instrument for boring holes. Applied botanically to leaves similarly shaped.

AXIL - The upper angle between a shoot, and a leaf stalk or bract, or between the midrib of a leaf, and the veins branching from it.

AXIS - The main stem around which branchlets, and leaflets grow.


Azaleas, and Rhododendrons belong to the same family of plants as the heather's (Erica, and Calluna), and the southern heather's (daboeca).

They are termed 'calciphobes', meaning they cannot tolerate Lime in their soil. Here in the UK most garden centers stock 'Ericacious' compost, and they should be grown in this. If this is unobtainable where you are then a compost high in natural peat, or leafmold can be used.(see pH)

BACCA (noun). A berry, a succulent seed vessel, filled with pulp, in which the seed is encased.(see Aril)

BACCATUS - Having a pulpy texture.

BANKAN - (Jp) Literally a Trunk with many curves.

BANKS - Sir Joseph

Sir Joseph Banks was one of the eight founders of the Horticultural Society, which later became the Royal Horticultural Society. He was primarily responsible for developing the Royal gardens at Kew into a true botanic garden, and sponsoring plant explorers to travel to the far corners of the world to improve the garden's collections, and discover new economic species.

He was instrumental in recommending, and establishing Australia as a prison colony - which, compared to the conditions in British prisons at the time, was at least a chance for many people to begin life anew.

Banks was one of the prime backers of H.M.S Bounty's voyage to transplant the breadfruit from Polynesia (discovered on Cooks voyages) to the new slave plantations on Jamaica. This was achieved on Captain William Bligh's second voyage.



Bark is formed by the bark cambium. The cells produced, are designed to be impervious to both moisture, and gasses. They soon harden, and die.

The expansion of the living tree beneath the bark stretches, and cracks the dead layers, causing the bark to fissure. This gives the familiar textures to the bark of our trees

BASAL - Growing at the base of anything.

BASAL SHEATH - The covering that encircles the base of pine leaves. Also referred to as fascicle or bundle.

BAST - The inner bark of the stems.


Bees are the most important insect on the planet. Without them

A Bumblebee.


Members 0f the genus fagaceiae (as are Oaks). A family of broad-leaved trees, distributed throughout Europe, and Asia the true beeches are deciduous, but young trees retain the dead leaves over-winter. Closely associated are the Southern beeches (Nothofagus species (some 17 are listed)) most of which are evergreen.

A European Beech shoot


BERRY - A fleshy fruit containing usually several seeds which are not enclosed in a stone-like 
covering see (Droupe).

BIENNIS – Biennial.

BIFID - Split sharply into two points.

BINAE - Used to describe pine trees whose leaves grow in twos in the same basal sheath.

A five needle White pine, and a two needle Scots pine.

BIPINNATE - When both the primary, and secondary divisions of a branchlet or leaflet grow out like a feather. Also referred to as 'Composite'.


Birch are a widespread tree, with examples available throughout the northern hemisphere, the majority of which come from the United States.

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) In the ground will reach a height of 25m, and live for 80 years. The tree is native to most of Europe, and parts of Asia.

Other species are:

Betula papyrifera - The Paper bark, or Canoe Birch. Native to north America. Has the whitest bark of any of the Birches.

Betula pubescens - The Downey Birch.

A naturally dwarf species is Betula Nana - The Arctic Birch, usually found, as it's name suggests in Arctic climes, but often available from garden centers. Betula nana will only reach 50cm tall, and 1m. wide in twenty years or so.

BOLE - The part of a trunk below the first main branch.

BONKEI - (Jp) Natural landscapes in a dish which may include figures, and houses, which a Bonsai. or  Saikei should not.


A bonsai may be developed from any woody plant (tree or shrub), however you should bear in mind that:
  1. A Bonsai is the tree, and the pot.
  2. The trunk is what gives the tree its "stature", poor trunks make poor bonsai. Ideally the trunk should have a good taper, with a good root formation visible at soil level.
  3. Bonsai have larger branches at the bottom of the tree, the branches decrease in size as they get nearer the top of the tree. The distance between the branches decreases the nearer the top of the tree they are.
  4. There should be "negative" (open) areas between the branches, this gives the impression of a tree rather than a shrub.
  5. A bonsai may have areas of dead wood to give an impression of age.

BRACT - A leaf-like structure at the base of a flower cluster.


Brandlings are smaller, and redder than earthworms, and are usually found in compost heaps.

Brandlings, at X2 size

'Witches Broom' - Bunched growths of twigs, often looking like birds' nests, which are a form of gall caused by mites.

Also a shape of tree.

a broom shaped tree.


BUD - Young folded-up branch or flower.

BUDDING - Propagation by uniting a dormant bud of the required plant with a `stock' consisting of 
a growing plant of some kind more easily propagated. Many Roses are grown this way.

BUD SCALES - The covering of winter buds.


An underground organ made up of fleshy leaves surrounding the next year’s flower bud.






BULBILS - Small, bulb like organs found at the base of leaves, or in place of flowers. Also sometimes found on roots.

BUNA - (Jp) Beech.

BUNJING - (Jp) A Bonsai Style. Literati style.

BURR - A large woody swelling on the trunk or main branches of a tree. Much-prized in woodturning to make bowls


A woody plant generally growing with more than one major stem, as opposed to the trees (usually) one.


A Brimstone Butterfly

BUTTERWORT - An insect eating plant

CALCAREUS - In chalk or lime. Having free calcium carbonate.

CALCIPHOBE - A lime-hating plant - one that will not grow in chalky or alkaline soil, Azaleas and Rhododendrons are calciphobes, as are all Heathers. Calciphobes require a soil with a pH of less than 7. (opp CALCIFUGE)

CALCIFUGE - A lime-loving plant - Calcifuges require a soil with a pH of greater than 8.0. (opp CALCIPHOBE)

CALIX, the sepals as a whole, which form the outermost whorl of floral leaves.


The layers of cells between bark and wood, where new wood is formed.

In periods of growth, it is the cambiums which use most of the energy (sugars) contained in the sap, powering the development of the layers on either side of the cambium, of new shoots, roots and the repair of any parts of the tree that become damaged.

Cells produced in the cambium layers move either inward, forming the Xylem, or outwards as the Phloem and the layers on either side of them.

CAMPANULATE - bell-shaped.

CAMPESTRIS - Found in fields

Acer campestris, the Field Maple

CAPSULE - A dry fruit formed of more than one carpel, which releases its seeds by splitting open.

CATERPILLAR - The larval stage of both Butterfly's and moths, the next stage is to pupate, turning into a chrysalis.


An inflorescence consisting of a central stalk on which are borne numerous small 
flowers, all of the same sex.


The Cherry is a member of one of the largest family of plants on the planet, the ‘Rosacea’, yes they are related to Roses (Those horrible plants that flower for two days and then drop petals all over the garden). The Rose family is really diverse, with the Cherry family at one end, apples and pears, then Quinces, Cotoneasters, through the Raspberry/Blackberry group, past Roses themselves and on to Strawberries, the only plant to carry its seeds on the outside of the fruit.

Cherry Blossom in a Japanese Garden

CHESHUNT COMPOUND - A fungicide, may be considered organic, as it contains naturally occurring chemicals. A mixture of 2 parts copper sulphate and 11 parts ammonium carbonate. used to protect seedlings from fungal attack, particularly 'Damping off', where the stalk rots at soil level.


Chlorophyll is the green pigment common to all photosynthetic cells, it absorbs all wavelengths of visible light with the exception of green, which it reflects. This reflected green light is detected by our eyes, giving leaves their colour.

Daylight may be considered to be made up of the three primary colours Red, Green and Blue, although blue is by far the largest component and the best suited to photosynthesis.

The Red/Blue elements of light are absorbed by the leaf, passing into the palisade cells in the leaf and fuelling Photosynthesis in the chloroplasts. The green light is reflected.

Normal (tungsten) household lights emit a lot of red light and little blue, this means that, although to our eyes a room is well lit, the plant is getting little blue light and is unable to photosynthesise.

Chloroplasts are photosynthetic organelles found in the leaf cells of higher plants.

Chloroplasts contain the green pigment chlorophyll along with the enzymes and other products needed for photosynthesis. However the green chlorophyll may be masked by other pigments such as phycoerythrin, or phycocyanin, giving red or blue colours to the leaves.

CHOKKAN - (Jp)A Bonsai Style. Formal Upright

CHRYSANTHUS - Golden flowered


Having marginal hairs, literally "provided with eyelashes", as with young Beech leaves.

A temporary cover for outdoor plants, providing shelter from the worst of the weather. Cloches are used to 'bring on' early crops such as Lettiuce or Strawberries.

CLONE - The entire vegetatively-produced descendants from a single original seedling, i.e. by cuttings, layerings or division, from a single plant. These will have all the qualities of the parent plant, Group plantings should be formed this way.


COELESTIS - Heavenly blue

COIA - Composted Coconut shell and fibre, increasingly used as a substitute for peat as it is a renewable rescource.

COLUMNAR - Shaped like a column. Many conifers are columnar, as is the Lombardy poplar. Often referred it as fastigiate.

COMPOSITE - A single leaf appearing to be made of smaller leaflets, as in Rowan, or Walnut.

A Rowan leaves in Autumn.



CONE - The fruit of conifers.

CONICAL - Shaped like a cone, that is with vertical section triangular and pointed and horizontal section and base circular, or of a form gradually tapering down at one end.

COPPICE - A form of forest management.

Trees cut back to the base, from the stumps (called Stools) of which numerous stout shoots are allowed to develop. These are cut as coppice wood or poles. Some trees, particularly among the conifers, will not produce such shoots. A similar form of forest management to pollarding. Also an area of forest which has been coppiced

A tree ready for harvesting and a cut down set with a weave fence to keep deer off the new shoots.

CORDATE - heart-shaped, usually of leaves, their base being the rounded, notched end.


A method of growing fruit trees. Cordon trees were planted against south facing walls in the kitchen gardens of country houses. Such plantings provided an earlier crop. Other methods of growing in this way are Espalier, and Fan.

Cordon trees are usually planted at a 45Deg angle.

An underground storage organ formed by a swollen stem, lasting only one year and the next year’s arising from the old one.

CORROLLA - The petals as a whole.

CORYMB - An inflorescence consisting of a raceme in which the stalks of the individual flowers 
become shorter towards the top, so that the flowers are all approximately on the same level. 


A group of shrubs  related to the roses

COTYLEDONS - The  temporary first leaves of a plant, present in the seed and usually of a shape different from the normal leaves. On germination they may (i) remain underground within the shell of the seed, (ii) carry the shell of the seed above' ground and then discard it, (iii) leave the shell 
underground and appear themselves. Plants are divided into two groups Monocotyledons having a single seed leaf, as with grasses and Dicotyledons having two.

CRANEFLY - See Leatherjacket

CRENATUS - Serrated

CROCKS - Pieces of broken pot, stones, etc. used to aid drainage in pots.

CROCUS - A genus of spring flowers, growing from corms. Closely related to the Colchicums, the Autumn crocuses.

CULTIVAR - "Cultivated variety", often written as CV, as in Pinus Sylvestris cv Bouvironensis. A variant arising from a wild species, or from a cross between species, which has been selected and grown for its agricultural or horticultural value.

CUPULE - A cup-shaped holder such as that holding an acorn.

CUTTING - A piece of a plant induced to grow roots and become a new plant.

Hardwood, Softwood, or Leaf cuttings may be taken

CYME - An inflorescence, usually obconical in form, whose growing points are terminated by a 
flower; it therefore increases in extent by the production of shoots from new lateral growing points.

The Cypress family contains a large number of species and cultivars of those species. Probably the most famous, or infamous depending on your point of view is the Leyland Cypress.

Damping off, which kills seedlings, is caused by a fungal attack. The shoot forms a dark patch just above the soil level and then collapses and dies.

If you grow plants from seed then you should water the seeds with a fungicide added as per the instructions on the packet.

'Damping off', on a pine seedling

DAFFODIL - The Genus Narcissus


DECIDUOUS - Applied to a tree that sheds its leaves annually through the process of abscission

DECUMBENT - Lying down.

DENDROLOGY - The study of the age of trees by counting their growth rings, either on felled trees, or by boring a plug out of living specimens

To the left we see a section through a twenty-four year old Scots pine, felled for timber in Norfolk, England. Counting the trees growth rings gives its age.

Close inspection of the distances between the rings shows larger gaps in the centre and hence faster growth when the tree was young.

DENSIFOLIUS - With dense leaves.

DENTATE - Toothed, usually referring to leaf edges.


Most people's idea of a desert is that of a vast sand filled area, however the rules that make a desert apply equally to areas such as the poles.

DIGITATE - See Palmate.

DIOECIOUS - Implies that the tree is sexual, that is to say a tree is either male or female, as opposed to MONOECIOUS.

DISC - Applied to the round scar left after pulling leaves off the fir.

DIVARICATE - Applied to branches that diverge.


Many bushes and shrubs can be propagated by division, winter is the ideal time to divide them, either by digging it up and separating it or by breaking part of it (with some roots) off the major bush.

Many indoor plants and herbaceous perennials can be divided. The indoor plants should ideally be divided when in growth. This would normally be during the summer months, when the length of daylight increases. Herbaceous perennials are best split in the spring.

DOMINANT - The chief species in a plant community, e.g. Pines in a pinewood.

DORSAL - The back.

DOWNY - Covered with soft hairs.


A fleshy fruit enclosing one or more `stones,' each `stone' consisting of a seed covered by a hard shell.

The fruit of the Blackberry, Raspberry, Loganberry and Mulberry amongst others are Drupes.

A Raspberry in cross section, a typical drupe. The seeds are carried in the fleshy mounds on the outside of the main body.

The Strawberry carries the seeds outside the skin and is the only plant to do so.

EARWIG - (La)  Forficula auricularia 

Earwigs are omnivorous and feed  on aphids, other small insects and plant material, particularly the petals, buds and flowers of plants.  They hide inside flowers and debris during the day, and feed at night. They have fan-like wings, which are folded under covers in the mid section, but rarely fly. The male has curved pincers at the rear and females have straighter ones.

The female will lay about 80 eggs in a nest underground or in rotting wood, between November and February. These take about 10 days to 3 months to develop depending on the temperature. The nymph goes through 4 changes over a 40 to 50 day period. The mother guards the eggs and the first stage of the nymph. After this the nymphs leave the nest and fend for themselves feeding on small invertabrates like aphids. They resemble the adult but are paler and lack wings.

A femail earwig (x3)

EARTHWORM (see Worms)

EDA-JIN - (Jp) Bleached branches on bonsai

EDA-NUKI - (Jp) Removal of unwanted branches

EDA-UCHI - (Jp) Harmonizing effect of branches

EDA-ZASHI - (Jp) Branch pruning


A wide-ranging family of deciduous trees



ENDOSPERM - Nutritive tissue in a seed, which feeds its early development.

EPICORMIC - Shoots arising directly from mature wood.

Epicormic shoots on a Yew.


The outer layer of the bark is the Epidermis. This forms a waxy, waterproof skin, helping the plant to retain moisture. This skin is also present on the leaves.

The epidermis is peppered with small holes, called stomata. These holes are used, both to breath and vent excess moisture into the atmosphere.

EPIPHYTE - A plant which grows on another. for example a fern growing on a tree. Epiphytes do not gain any nutrient from the host, unlike parasites such as fungi or Mistletoe.

ERECTUS - Upright.


ERICACEOUS - The Family of which Heathers are the largest group, including Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Camellias. All ericaceous plants need to be planted in acidic soil, commonly sold in garden centres. Ericaceous plants require a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0.


A method of growing fruit trees. Espalier trees were planted against south facing walls in the kitchen gardens of country houses. Such plantings provided an earlier crop. Other methods of growing in this way are Fan, and Cordon.

ETIOLATED - The thin pale growth caused by a lack of light. Such growth has a greatly reduced potential for photosynthesis and limits the plants ability to produce food.

Plants kept indoors, in inadequately lit places, will be prone to this (see Light).

A normal and an Etiolated shoot.

EVERGREEN - Not losing its leaves during the winter. Evergreen leaves vary greatly in length of life from one complete year to 2-3 year's in Scots pine, 3-4 in holly, 6-7 in The Norway spruce and up to 15 in the monkey-puzzle pine.


EXOTICUS - Coming from another country.


FAMILY - One of the major groupings of plants, made up of genera whose members have broad similarities.


Growing from a common point like the leaves of a larch.


Having close, erect growth and branches pointing upwards. The Lombardy Poplar is an example of this type of growth.


I should point out that you are not feeding the plant to make it grow, you are replacing the nutrients it has used because it's growing and that feeding a sick plant is a recipe for disaster. Only feed healthy plants!

One of the more contentious issues in the Gardening world is Organic, or Man-made feeds. I could fill screen after screen on this matter and all it would do is to confuse (Me). The only advice I have for you is that organic feeds are less likely to burn the roots if overfed, but ultimately either is better than none.

No matter whether the fertiliser you choose is organic, or chemical, it will contain certain chemical elements, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are the main three.

Inspection of the container the fertiliser comes in will reveal the chemical breakdown of the contents. The major three are expressed as a ratio such as 10:10:10 N:P:K (K being the symbol for Potassium), this would be a balanced fertiliser, with about the same amounts of all three major chemicals. A 15:8:8 would be high nitrogen and better suited to developing trees, an 8:8:15 is a high Potasium feed, fed to more mature, or flowering trees. While the ratios may differ depending on the supplier the concept will remain the same.


Nitrogen promotes the growth of the trees leaves and shoots. An excess of nitrogen is dangerous, causing the plant develop large, dark leaves and delaying the hardening of the wood. overfeeding nitrogen will also delay the production of blossom . Trees are also prone to diseases such as scab or canker if overfed on nitrogen. A shortage of nitrogen is suggested by the pale colour and poor growth of the leaves.


Phosphorus encourages the growth of roots and flowers. Unlike nitrogen a plant will not take up more phosphorus than it needs. A shortage of phosphorus is indicated by a reddish tinge to the leaves, which also point upwards. Superphosphate, applied at the beginning of summer for about two months, in the correct quantities for bonsai, will improve the blossom.


Helps the wood to harden, as well as increasing the roots ability to absorb both nutrients and the water they're dissolved in. The symptoms of a shortage of potassium are brownish flecks and curling edges on the leaves. Unfortunately the leaves will not recover and will have to be removed

Sequestered iron

Not as such a fertiliser, but important if you keep Azaleas. It helps Calciphobe plants absorb nutrients. A couple of doses of Sequestered iron during the growing season will suffice.


FEN - A wet, alkaline, or only slightly acid, peat habitat.

FERTILE - capable of germination.

FERTILIZATION, the fusion of male and female sex cells. 

FILAMENT - The stalk, which carries the anther.

FIR - A genus of Conifers


The New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus,  was first seen in the UK in Belfast (1963) and later in Edinburgh (1965), but is now widely spread  throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland and, parts of northern England 

It is a predator of earthworms, but there is evidence that the (earthworm) populations recover after the initial impact of the flatworm. There is also evidence that certain species of earthworms are less susceptible to the New Zealand Flatworm.

FLORA - All vegatative growth on the planet, both above and below water. Fauna being the term for all animals, birds and insects.

FLORE PLENO - A double flower, usually seen in Cherry and Hawthorn.

A double flowered, or 'Flore Pleno' red flowered hawthorn and the natural flower.

FLORIBUNDUS - With many flowers.


A typical Angiosperm flower consists of the male, pollen-producing stamen. The female pollen receptors, the stigma and the seed-producing ovary.

The petals are really only there to attract pollen eating and of course distributing insects.

The fruit that develops around seeds serves two purposes. Firstly it proves attractive to fruit eating animals and birds, the seeds are generally resistant to the gastric juices of both and will pass out of the diner, pre-packaged in its own little pile of compost.

If the fruit should, perhaps as a windfall, end up on the ground, it is yet again surrounded by its own compost heap.

Gymnosperms, the conifers differ in that flowers are either male, pollen producing, or female, seed producing.

The female flower will develop into the cone, the male will drop off after shedding its pollen.

The pollen of Gymnosperms is usually distributed by wind and anyone who has been in a pine forest at pollen time will be familiar with the clouds of yellow, dust like pollen.

FOETIDUS - Bad-smelling.

FORREST - George (1873 - 1932)

British explorer and plant collector, who introduced into western horticulture hundreds of Chinese and Tibetan plants, including over 300 species of Rhododendron.

He developed a deep respect for China, particularly the region and the people of Yunnan

FORTUNE - Robert (1830 - 1880).

British Plant collector, who while working for the East India Company, smuggled tea plants out to India.

He collected hundreds of new plants amongst which were Forsythia, Japanese Anemone, winter-flowering Jasmine, Weigela and  Rhododendrons/Azaleas.

FRAGRANTISSIMUS - Sweet smelling.

FRUTESCENS – Bush like.

FRUIT - Ripe seeds and the structures surrounding them. (see) Reproduction

FUKINAGASHI - (JP) A Bonsai style, Windswept style, with branches in one direction - as if shaped by the wind.


FUNGICIDE - A chemical used to combat fungus diseases.(Also see Cheshunt compound).

A form of plant life that includes mushrooms and toadstools and also some of the most important microscopic disease producing organisms of plants.

Not all fungi have the typical mushroom fruiting body, many have the round fruit shown here. Nor are all fungi harmful. Mycorrhiza is a beneficial fungus

FURROWED - Description of a surface channelled or fissured longitudinally.


An abnormal growth of plant tissues, which may take many forms, caused by living 
organisms such as fungi, mites, And minute gall wasps.

Here we see Galls caused by the pustule gall Aceria Ulmicola.

Galls on Elm leaves


GENUS - The lowest category of plant classification (plural, Genera) and composed of species.


The Gentians are a genus spread throughout Europe (including the UK and Eire) and Asia. The flowers are generally blue and trumpet shaped. they are often included in the Alpines

Gentiana Verna, the Spring Gentian

GIGANTICUS - Large, gigantic.


Ginkgo Biloba (a.k.a the Maidenhair tree), together with Larch, Swamp Cypress and Dawn Redwood is a conifer that sheds its leaves over winter. The tree is sexual, that is to say a tree is either male or female.

It is the last remaining example of a once large group of trees.

GIRTH, the circumference of the trunk of a tree measured outside the bark and normally at breast 
height (5 feet above ground level).

GLABROUS - Without hairs. The opposite of pubescent or downy.

GLAUCOUS (bloom) - The blue-white waxy bloom that covers the leaves and fruit of some conifers.

GLAUCOUS (colour) - Used to describe blue, blue-grey or grey-green tints.

GLACIALIS - Found by glaciers

GLOBOSE - Spherical in form, globe shaped

GOBO-NE - (Jp) The taproot. Usually removed from a bonsai, allowing it to sit in a shallow pot.

GRACILIS - Latin, "slender".

GRAFTING - Joining a part of one plant on to that of another, so that they unite.

The reason for producing a grafted tree is to impart the growth characteristics of the rootstock onto the scion. Grafting is used almost extensively in the production of fruit trees where the producer may wish to make a tree that only grows to a height of say 10ft, but produces a normal crop of fruit, this could be achieved by grafting the scion onto a dwarfing rootstock.

Here we see a less vigorous white pine grafted onto a vigorous black pine rootstock. It may take a year or so to be sure the graft has taken. The cut has been bound with raffia to hold it closed. The graft will now be enclosed in a clear plastic bag, keeping the air around it moist.


Here we see the product of grafting, on an Apple. The tree is no more the 2M tall and all parts of it can be reached without a ladder.


GRAFT-HYBRID - The merging of the characteristics of two different species following the act of 

GRANDIFOLIUS - With large leaves.

GRASSHOPPER - From the Same family as the Locust.

Unlikely to be found in most gardens, with very little chance of causing damage.

Grasshopper and the ever popular Locust (hoppers)

GYMNOSPERM - meaning "naked seeded". A class of plants in which the seeds are not enclosed in an ovary. Gymnosperms are conifers

Pine seeds in the segment of the cone and a mature one


GYNOECIUM - The female part of the flower (pistil) including the ovaries, styles, and stigmas

HABIT - The general shape or growth form of a plant; eg: trailing, climbing, bushy, etc.

HABITAT - The natural dwelling-place of any plant.

HAHA - A concealed ditch. Often found in stately homes and built to prevent grazing animals from reaching the lawns of those houses, while retaining views without fences.

A Haha with a hawthorn hedge grown in it.

HAN-KENGAI - (Jp) Semi-Cascade style having almost horizontal growth.


HANKAN - (Jp) A Bonsai style. Coiled trunk style.

HARDWOODS - Dicotyledonous (or so-called broad-leaved) trees as opposed to conifers, which 
are called softwoods. The implied comparison is often misleading. (see Angiosperms).

HAWTHORN - (La) Crataegus

The Hawthorn, or May (Crataegus monogyna) can be grown from Seed or cuttings, however the seeds are slow to germinate.

They are not particularly fussy about soil types. but are 'thirsty' trees and in times of drought will soon show in damage to the leaves.

In the ground they will grow to 10 - 15m and live for about 250 year's.

Distribution is lowland Europe.

The Red varieties come from the Midland Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacanthoides)

HEARTWOOD - The hard, close, inactive wood at the centre of a stem, which no longer conducts 
the sap. From it is cut the hard and durable timber. 


HISTORY - The History of Bonsai









HOKIDACHI - (Jp) A Bonsai style, Broom style, like a witches besom broom.

HONBACHI - (Jp)  A Bonsai dish


Plant growth takes place in response to external stimulation, usually the lengthening, or shortening of the photoperiod (length of daylight), although factors such as drought will obviously have an effect on the plants ability to grow. We of course affect the distribution of hormones when we prune the trees. These factors affect the production of hormones such as absisic acid, controlling the withdrawal of sugars from the leaves and their subsequent drop.

Pruning encourages buds left further down the shot to develop, which they might not under normal circumstances. The auxins, which cause growth, are targeted towards the shoot tips, pruning redirects them to the other buds on the shoot. Auxins are the hormones that promote stem and root growth in plants. Auxins influence many aspects of plant growth and development, including the enlargement of cells, they inhibit the development of auxiliary buds, tropisms, and the production of roots.

Man-made auxins are used in rooting powders and gels for cuttings, and some weed killers. The high auxin levels cause such rapid growth that the plants die. The most common naturally occurring auxin is indoleacetic acid, or IAA. It is produced in the shoot tips and transported to other parts of the plant.


The Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) A deciduous tree reaching about 30m tall and living for around 150 year's. The tree is Native to Europe and Asia Minor. The tree is often confused with the Beech, which it resembles, however close inspection of the leaves will show that the edges of the Hornbeam's leaves are serrated (saw like) and the Beech's are smooth, often with fine hairs.


Hoverfly's are considered to be beneficial insects as the adults pollinate plants and the larvae eat greenfly.

The Larvae resemble a maggot, being about a cm long and tapered. They may often be seen alongside aphids.


HUMILIS - Dwarf, low.

HYBRID - A plant arising from the fertilization of one, usually related species by another. Hybrids are often sterile, not producing viable seed so have to be propagated by cuttings, layerings or grafting.

HYDROPONICS - Growing plants in soilless conditions.

HYMENOPTERA - The Order containing Bees, Wasps, Ants, and Sawflies.

IKADA - (Jp) Raft style Trunk buried horizontally in ground with limbs growing as individual trees.

IMBRICATED - Applied to leaves overlapping like tiles on a roof. (Juniper like foliage)

Juniper foliage

INFLORESCENCE - A more or less definable branching unit of a number of flowers, including its 
stems and bracts.

INFRUCTESCENCE - The group of fruits formed on a single inflorescence. 

INSECTIVOROUS (1) - Many animals and insects eat insects.

The Wasp

INSECTIVOROUS (2) - Plants which obtain nutrients by digesting insects.

Several groups of plants which have evolved to live in boggy, nutrient poor conditions, have become insectivorous to suppliment their needs.

The primary types are the pitcher plants, the Sundews, the Venus flytrap and the Butterworts.

The Venus flytrap


INTERNODE - The portion of stem between two leaf nodes.

ISHITSUKI - (Jp)  A Bonsai style.  Root over rock


Japanese gardens vary greatly in their style


JAPONICUS - From Japan.

JIN -(Jp) A dead branch, or treetop, either natural, or created.



Many Junipers produce two types of foliage, the normal adult foliage, which is close and compact and the juvenile or 'oxycedrus' growth. Both types can occur on the same tree, indeed on the same branch. Juvenile foliage is often seen as a result of hard pruning. or heavy feeding and will soon disappear.

KABADUCHI - (Jp) Clump style. Multiple trunks growing from one root.

KANJU - (Jp) Deciduous trees.

KANSUI - (Jp) Watering

KEAKI - (Jp) Zelcova Serrata (see Zelcova)

KENGAI - (Jp) A Bonsai style. Cascade style, this may be considered as group name for a number of sub styles such as HAN-KENGAI, or semi-cascade, each of which describes the level to which the tree cascades.

Cascade and Semi-cascade trees

LACINIATE - Applied to leaves cut into narrow lobes.

A Family of Insect eaters. Both it and it's maggot like larva are voracious aphid eaters.


A large Family of Insect eating beetles.

 Ladybird, or ladybug beetles and their larvae, eat aphids all day. If you must spray the plant remove any you see before doing so

7-Spot Ladybird

(Coccinella 7-punctata )

The Seven-spot Ladybird is a member of the beetle family Coccinellidea, in the Order Coleoptera, and is our most common ladybird. It is one of 25 species found in this country - all have different colour and spot combinations to warn off predators. They are named after the Virgin Mary (Our Lady's Bird). The red colour is said to represent the red cloak, worn by Mary in old paintings, the seven spots are for the seven joys and seven sorrows.
They were thought to have medicinal properties, a cure for measles and colic. Tooth-ache could be treated by mashing up a ladybird and putting the pulp into the cavity.
Most species of ladybird are predatory - eating sap-sucking plant pests, particularly aphids. If attacked they can secrete unpleasant oils from joints in their legs which deters ants and birds from eating them.
Hibernating throughout the winter in dry cracks and crevices, ladybirds wake-up in April and seek partners to mate. They have three stages of development, egg, larva and pupa, before becoming adults. Eggs take about 4 days to hatch depending on temperature. The larvae moult 3 times and after about 3 months, depending on the availability of aphids (more than 300), they pupate. After about a week the pupal skin splits along the back and the adult emerges, feeds for a few weeks and finds a place to hibernate.
So this is a definite garden friend and should never be endangered. If allowed to do their work they will see off most infestations of aphids after a while. They need a supply to sustain them, so if every aphid is eradicated with insecticides, the ladybird will starve. Left to their own devices a natural balance will emerge.

Ladybird Lavae and Adults

LANCEOLATE - Lance-shaped. Applied to leaves, which are considerably longer than broad and taper to each end.


Larch are one of the unusual group of 'deciduous' conifers. There are four species of larch you may come across, they are the European, Japanese, Western and American larches, they are difficult to tell apart, however the Japanese variety has a redder tinge to the buds when opening .

LATERAL - Applied to leaves that grow on the side of the branchlets. Those that grow on the upper and lower sides are called respectively dorsal and facial.

- A method of inducing roots to grow from the trunk, the top of which is then cut off and grown as a new plant.

The technique may be divided into Ground layering and Air layering

Ground layering

Where you fix a low growing branch into the ground (or a container). Anchor the branch to the ground with a steak, or cane to stop the tree moving and mound soil over the area to be rooted.

The tree is usually left alone until the following spring when it may be dug up and potted. If the tree is a conifer the best course of action is to carefully remove the soil around the cut to see if adequate roots have formed, replacing the soil if not. The tree should then be left for another year.

The trunk should be treated with a rooting compound as shown in the following section.

Air layering

This tree is being Air layered, the top part will be grown on to thicken it up, the bottom part will produce shoots, one of which will form a new leader that will eventually give a good tapered trunk.

The layering is wrapped in clear plastic, which will have a layer of black plastic put over it, as roots grow best in the dark. The black plastic can be opened when you wish to inspect progress, or check that the moss is still damp.

With both ground and air layering, the technique below should be followed, noting the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees.

The 'Ringing' method works well with deciduous species, however for conifers an alternative way is best. This involves wrapping a piece of strong wire around the trunk and twisting it until it bites right into the bark. Then cut a number of small nicks in the bark just above the wire and apply hormone compound, then wrap in moss.

Conifers take longer to root by layering and may not show roots until the following year.

LEADER - The leading part of the shoot on the principal stem.

LEAF BUD - A bud producing a stem with leaves only.


Over the past few year's I've noticed an increase in attacks from the Leafcutter bee. This little pest cuts crescents out of leaves, rolls them up and takes them back to build nests for their grubs.

Systemic insecticides should kill the grubs off, as they're carried in the leaf. The adults however are agile in flight and a sod to try and swat. I use a pair of small nets for use in Aquaria and trap the bee between them. I then give it a good telling off !.

LEAFLET - One of the Individual small leaves' making up a compound or composite leaf.


Here we see the damage caused by the grub of the leaf miner moths. They lay individual eggs inside the leaves and when they hatch the grubs 'mine' tunnels. 

There are several types of leaf mining moth, not all produce the track like tunnels shown. The larvae of Lithocolletis coryli, eat patches, which show up as a clear blotch on the leaf.

Systemic insecticides will kill them off.


Leatherjacket grubs

Another root eater is the leatherjacket, the grub of the Crane fly, or 'daddy long legs'. The adult looks like an overblown mosquito and is about 2cm long. The adults are harmless, the grubs are not. A dose of a systemic insecticide will see to them.

The Crane fly, or 'daddy long legs'. The adult looks scary but is totally harmless to us.

The picture to the right shows it at slightly over actual size.


The powerhouse for all this growth had been laid down at the very beginning of plant evolution, with the process of photosynthesis using the energy of the Sun to produce sugars from available minerals. This process is dependent on the green pigment chlorophyll, present in all leaves, even when masked in coloured leaved cultivars of plants.

As with the Bark, the leaves are covered in the Epidermis which is peppered with Stomata, the pores through which the tree breathes.

LENTICLE, A breathing pore in a trunk or branch or on a fruit, often grouped in distinctive patterns 
(see Stomata).

A genus of plants from America. Much hybredised and rear in true forms.

Lewisias are devided int two types, evergreen and deciduous, the latter loosing all its leaves after flowering. This often gives the impresion of death and may cause the unknowing gardener to throw it away. Lewisias hate being wet around the crown and some species are only suitable for the alpine house, or a frame.

LICHEN -A primitive plant formed by the symbiosis of an algae and a fungus.


Daylight may be considered to be made up of the three primary colours Red, Green, and Blue, although blue is by far the largest component.

Most of the colours we see are those reflected from a surface, or in the case of the monitor you're reading this with projected towards us. leaves reflect green light and its this reflected light that gives them their colour. The Red and Blue light are absorbed. White paper reflects RGB in roughly similar amounts and so we see white.

LIMESTONE - Calcium carbonate: soils formed on limestone are alkaline and rich in lime.

LINEAR - Narrow, with the two sides nearly parallel, like the leaf of a yew.


A small flat plant related to mosses. This plant is indicative of poor drainage in potted plants. If you submerge your pot in water, watch out for Liverwort, as the spoors are distributed in water. Liverwort is a small flat plant related to mosses. This plant is indicative of poor drainage.
The plant reproduces in two ways. Firstly it has a small umbrella like flower (?) that produces spoors (Like a mushroom), pick these off as soon as you see them.
Secondly on the flat plates that make up the plant you will see cups, each of which contains gammae, small plantlets that, if splashed out of the cup by rain, or watering, will develop into new plants. Dabbing the liverwort with malt vinegar will kill it and any gammae in the area, however you should bear in mind that vinegar is acidic, so don't overdo it.

They also flower producing Umbrella like structures that contain spoors, rather like mushrooms.

A Liverwort, showing the 'cups and umbrellas


LOOPER - Caterpillars, refers to the way the caterpillars move.

LUTEA, LUTEUS - Latin, Yellow colour.

LUTESCENS - Yellowish.

MACROPHYLLUS - Large-leaved.

MACROCARPUS - With large Fruit.

MAME - (Jp) One of the smallest bonsai sizes MAME - (Jp) One of the smallest bonsai sizes.


This is the last view most insects get of the Mantis. Those of you lucky enough to live where they do should be careful to remove any you come across before spraying either insecticides, or fungicides.

MAPLES - A genus of trees native to the northern temperate zones

Maples have one of the largest distribution ranges of any tree, being present throughout the northern hemisphere, so there is likely to be one or more close to where you live.  Acer Palmatum (Japanese Maple ) has several cultivars some of which have beautiful,(there's no other word which fits the bill) spring foliage.

Apart from the two species mentioned above there are ten or so other maple species, some with several cultivars.

MARITIMUS - By the sea

MEDIUS – Medium.

MERISTEM – Regions of rapidly dividing cells. They are the principle site of growth of either roots, or shoots depending on where the meristem is located. The cambium layers are meristematic regions of the trunk, producing new bark and wood.

MICROCLIMATE - An area whose climate differs from that generally surrounding it. This could be an area sheltered from the wind, or a frost-free pocket. Glasshouses and cold frames also provide a warmer microclimate.

MICROPHYLLA - small-leaved.


Millipedes, are found in most parts of the world. They are generally considered to be harmless but they can attacking the roots of young seedlings.  As with Woodlice, keep the areas around vulnerable plants free of debris

They're not a major problem with uour trees, or in the garden causing some damage to the roots of strawberries and cucumbers. Their thick cuticle makes chemical control difficult. Just crush them and remove debris, where they can hide, from areas where you are growing seedlings.

MI-MOMO - (Jp) Fruiting bonsai

MISHO - (Jp) Raising a bonsai from seed.

MONOECIOUS - With both male and female flowers on the same plant, as opposed to DIOECIOUS

MONTANUS - On mountains

MORAINE - Debris left behind by glaciers.




Butterflys with their makeup off!


An Ermine Moth

MOYOGI - (Jp) A Bonsai style. Informal upright style.

MUCRONATE - Leaf with abruptly tipped with a hard, short, point.


A layer of peat, bark, compost or other organic material spread on top of the soil around a plant, serving as fertilizer, a barrier to retain soil moisture, and a barrier through which annual weeds will not grow.

The illustration shows a ring of mulch around an apple tree.

MUME - (Jp) Apricot.

MURALIS - On walls


Not all fungi are harmful to your Plants. All plants have a symbiotic root fungus called Mycorrhiza which benefits the tree. It can usually be seen as a thin white sheet around the roots on repotting and is particularly noticeable on Pines.

Mycorrhiza becomes an active part of the root system, transferring nutrients into the root system in exchange for sugars from the plant, indeed there is strong evidence that mycorrhiza acts as a pathway for nutrients from adult trees in the forest to seedlings on the forest floor.

The creamy white sheet of mycorrhiza.

NANA - Latin, meaning "dwarf".

NARCISSUS - The Daffodils.

Narcissus Cyclamenoides



NATIVE - Not introduced to a location by man.

NATURALIZATION - The establishment and continued natural reproduction of introduced species 
entirely without the aid of man, other than the original introduction.

NE-AGARI - (Jp) Roots exposed

NEBARI - (Jp) (1) Root flare as the tree leaves the soil. A sign of a mature tree.(2) IN bonsai the process of inducing basal root flare, by creating fibrous roots near to the trunk.

(1) Root flare as the tree leaves the soil. A sign of a mature tree.

(2) IN Bonsai the process of inducing basal root flare, by creating fibrous roots near to the trunk.

NEMATODE - Stem Nematode Ditylenchus dipsaci A plant-parasitic nematodes of temperate regions, including Europe and the Mediterranean. Primarily found on narcissus tulips and to a lesser extent other bulbs.

NEMOROSUS - Found in woods

NE-TSURANARI - (Jp)< A Bonsai style. Roots connected (raft style).


NIGRICANS - Blackish.

NITENS - Shining.

NITROGEN  (N) A chemical found in fertilisers

NIVALIS - Among snow.

NODE - Joint of a branch, or the point of a stem where the bud or leaf is given off.

NUT - A hard, dry fruit.

A term widely used to describe the seeds of plants ranging from the peanut, a seedpod that develops on the roots of its plant, in the same way that a potato does, through Almonds, protected by a hard case borne in a fleshy fruit, to the naked seeds of the pine nuts.

The Fruit and seed of a Walnut

OAK - (La) Quercus

There are at least twenty species of oak, two being native to the UK. they are Quercus Robor, the English Oak and Quercus Petrea, the Sessile Oak.

Inspection of the leaves will  ease  their identification, the Sessile Oak leaves have an obvious petiole, the English Oak leaves do not, appearing to sprout directly from the twig.

The trees themselves differ, in that the English oak is more 'tree' shaped, the Sessile tending towards a 'Lollipop' shape.

Cork is the bark of Quercus Suber which grows in the western Mediterranean, particularly Portugal where there are over 60 square kilometres of cork orchards

English and Sessile Oak leaves

OBLIQUE - Unequal-sided. Deviating irregularly from a direct line.

OBTUSE - Blunt or rounded at the point.

OFFICINALIS - Has medicinal use

OPPOSITE - Applied to leaves and branches placed in pairs on opposite side of stems. As in Maples

Alternate and Opposite leaves.


A usually enclosed (fenced) area where fruit, or other commercial trees are grown. In Iberia there are vast orchards of cork Oak.

An Apple orchard at RHS Wisley


Orchids are amongs the most beautiful plants with a Worldwide (natural) distribution and they are amongst the most popular house plants.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii (shown here) is a UK native species and widespread throughout Europe

OSIER - Any Willow whose shoots are used in basket making. Those willows are usually coppiced to provide the thin shoots needed.

OVARY - that part of the pistil of the flower containing the ovules and formed from one or more units called carpels. (See) flower.

OVATE - Egg-shaped, broader at base.

OVULE - The female part of the flower, which on fertilization becomes the seed.

OXYCEDRUS - Juvenile foliage that appears on an over vigorous Juniper.

Oxycedrus and mature foliage from the same jiniperus media x 'Kaizuka'.

OYAKI - (Jp) The Parent tree from which an air-layering is taken

PALMATE - Hand shaped leaf as most Maples.

PARASITE - An organism that lives on, or in a host, while consuming it. Most Fungi are parasites, as are the larvae of the ichneumon wasps, the eggs of which are injected into the living grub of a moth, or beetle .

PARVIFOLIA - Having small leaves.

PAULESTRIS - In marshes

PEARLITE - A growing medium.

PEAT - Partially decomposed organic matter normally dead mosses or sedges - dug from boggy or fenland areas. Peat would normally be quite acidic, however most peat from Garden centers has been 'neutralised' by the addition of Lime.

PECTINATE - Leaves arranged like the teeth of a comb.

Yew foliage

PERSISTANT - Applied to the length of time leaves and cones of evergreens remain on the tree.(see Evergreen)

PETIOLE - A leaf stalk.

PETRAEUS - Among rocks 


pH is an expression of the relative acidity or alkalinity of a substance, in this case the soil, it provides a guide to its overall chemical balance.

The pH scale is divided into 14 points:

The scale is Logarithmic, so a shift of one point means the level of acidity, or alkalinity has multiplied by 10, two points and the soil is 100 times more acidic, or alkaline.

Trees that have evolved to live in certain types of soil, are often starved of important nutrients or damaged by an excess of unwanted minerals.

Acid loving trees such as Azaleas, growing in an alkaline soil are often starved of important trace elements such as iron and manganese. This can be overcome to an extent by feeding the trees with sequestered iron.

Alkaline loving plants growing in acidic soil often cannot get enough calcium and magnesium or are severely damaged by amounts of dissolved aluminium or manganese.

Garden centers stock test kits that will allow you to test the pH of your soil and a neutral (pH7) reading will be OK for most plants, but Ericaceous plants will require a soil with a lower pH value.

Trees that have evolved to live in certain types of soil, are often starved of important nutrients or damaged by an excess of unwanted minerals.

Acid loving trees such as Azaleas, growing in an alkaline soil are often starved of important trace elements such as iron and manganese. This can be overcome to an extent by feeding the trees with sequestered iron.

Alkaline loving plants growing in acidic soil often cannot get enough calcium and magnesium or are severely damaged by amounts of dissolved aluminium or manganese.

Garden centers stock test kits that will allow you to test the pH of your soil and a neutral (pH7) reading will be OK for most plants, but Ericaceous plants will require a soil with a lower pH value.


The Phloem is the pathway in which the sugar bearing sap is transported around the plant, powering its growth. It is the region responsible for the development that takes place in the two cambium layers that sandwich it.

PHOSPHORUS  (P) A chemical found in fertilisers

PHOTOPERIOD - The length of daylight.

PHOTOSYNTHESIS - The process whereby plants use the energy of light as an aid to making growth.


PINE - (La) Pinus

Pinus Arista The bristle cone pine

PINETUM - Literally, a collection of different kinds of pine-trees,  but generally applied to a 
collection of conifers.


The larvae of the moth Ochrogaster lunifer has the common name ‘processionary caterpillar’ because as it walks it lays down a thread of silk which enables the caterpillar behind it to follow the thread. As each caterpillar follows the silken trail they begin to walk in single file, nose to tail and move along like a miniature freight train.

They nest together in a tent made of silk high in the branches.

Contact with them should be avoided as their hairs are sharp and highly irritant.

PINNATE - Shaped like a feather. Applied to leaves arranged regularly on each side of a common stem. See Composite or Compound



A hedging technique used to re-invigurate an old hedge. Pleaching is achieved by cutting part-way through a stem and laying the stem down. The uncut part allows the sap to flow producing new branches. Pleached hedges are often supported with a weave (as shown) until they can support themselves.

PLICATE - Folded like a fan.

PNUMATAPHORE - An 'air root'. Often seen around trees that grow in swamps, such as Swamp Cypress or Mangroves.

Pnumataphores around the base of a Swamp cypress.

POLITUS - Of shiny and polished appearance.


An ancient method of forest management, where a young tree would be cut down to 6' - 8' and shoots allowed to grow on out of the reach of grazing cattle and deer. This produced more, but thinner timber, requiring less cutting to produce beams, planks, and poles for fencing.

This practice has to a large extent been abandoned, and the trees shown have gone well beyond the stage where the timber would have been harvested, they are Beech trees photographed in Epping forest, just north-east of London.

Coppicing is a similar form of forestry management.

POLLEN - The usually granular, and microscopic spores borne in the anther.

POLLENATION - The transference of pollen from the anthers to the stigma. A process necessary
in, but distinct from fertilization, the actual combination of the pollen, and seed.

Pollenation may be carried out by a number of agents. Insects, particularly bees are the best known pollinators, however birds, wind, and some animals such as fruit eating bats also play their part. The pollen is carried from stamen of one flower to the stigmas of another. To avoid self-fertilisation most plants have the stigma, and stamen mature at different times. On reaching the stigmas, the pollen is transported down the tube they are mounted on, to join with the female seed, fertilising it.

POTASSIUM (K) A chemical found in fertilisers.


All potted plants will become 'pot-bound', as the roots grow, weakening the plant. There are two ways of overcoming this. Firstly you can transfer the root ball to a new, larger pot, filling the space with compost. Secondly you may carry out the type of repotting familiar to Bonsai growers.

PRAECOX - Very early.

PRATENSIS - In meadows

PROCUMBENT - Flat, but loosely on the ground

PROSTRATE - Flat on, and close to the ground

PROPAGATION, vegetative - Propagation by means other than seed, such as by budding, 
cuttings, grafting, division, and layering.

PSEUDO - Prefix signifying false, and not true to type.


PUMILUS - Dwarf, small.

PUNGENS - Having a strong, unpleasant smell.

PYGMAEUS - Pygmy, small.

QUINATE - Applied to pines whose needle-like leaves grow in bundles of five.

A five needled white pine, and a Scots pine

RADIAL - Radiating outwards from the stem.

RADICANS - Rooting from stems 


The descending flower stalk of plants such as the Laburnum, and Wisteria

A Laburnum in flower

RAMIFICATION - The division of branches, and shoots - Producing a fine structure.


Their are three distinct species, two of which hold a record. The Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), holds the record for the tallest tree in the world, at about 112m (360+ feet). The foliage resembles that of the Yew, having flat needles.

The Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), a.k.a the Wellingtonia, after the Duke of Wellington, has more Juniper like foliage, holds the record of being the largest living thing on the planet.

The Third of the redwoods, the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostrobides), also has flat needle like foliage.

The Coast Redwood, and The Wellingtonia

REPAND, REPANDA - Having a slightly wavy edge.


All potted plants will eventually become pot bound as the roots grow, loosing vigour. 

Repotting the plant should be considered no different than pruning the growing tips, and is no more dangerous.

It is carried out to induce the plant to grow fresh new roots close to the trunk, benefiting the plant.

This Bonsai is in need of a repot, as you can see the roots are compacted.

REPRODUCTION - By seed or spoor







A group of small bulbous plant from South Africa with narrow leaves and many beautiful flat flowers on 10cm stems. Colours vary from white, pink to red. In thr UK they flower from early May and lasting through till end of July. The White flowers will often fade pink with age and red flowers to white adding to the spectrum of colour.

As they are Native to Natal in Southern Africa they will prefer a well drained, gritty neutral to acid compost, dry cool winters and warm summers. Can be grown in pots in a cool greenhouse or cold frame or planted in trough, raised bed or rockery in full sun.
If growing outside in wetter regions, position a stone or paver over the planting area, after the bulbs go dormant in late Autumn to deflect & protect from excess winter moisture.
A wonderful, floriferous plant and well worth a little extra effort.

Rhodohypoxis as an accent plant for Bonsai display


A rhizome, such as canna, is a thickened underground stem that grows horizontally, with bud eyes on top and roots below.

RIVALIS - By brooks 


The roots perform two functions in the life of the tree, they are the foundation on which the tree grows, providing stability against winds, and of course they supply the tree with the water, and chemicals it needs to produce sap, and hence feed the tree.

All plants have a major root that grows down into the soil. This is the taproot, and provides the main anchorage to the ground. 



The thickly matted roots, and soil filling the pot of a plant



The root hairs perform two functions.

Firstly they massively increase the roots surface area, increasing its ability to absorb water, and chemicals.

Secondly their travels out into the surrounding soil, make a better anchorage for the root to move forward, and further fix the tree into the ground.

Should the roots be allowed to dry out, either while repotting, or through under watering, the root hairs will die. This will significantly reduce the trees ability to take up water, and hence delay its recovery.

SABA-MIKI - (Jp) A Bonsai style having a  split, or hollow trunk.

SAIKEI - (Jp) A Bonsai style of tray landscapes with rocks, and trees, but not figures

SAMARA - A fruit that does not split open, and whose wall is a flattened wing. As with elms, or Maples

Maple seeds, or Samara

SAPWOOD - The outer wood of a stem, which conducts the sap (water, and dilute mineral salts) 
between the roots, and the leaves. When used as timber it is soft, and not durable (see heartwood).

SASHIHO - (Jp) A cutting

SASHIKI - (Jp) Growing from cuttings

SAXICOLA - Found amongst rocks or stones.


Scab is a disease commonly associated with Fruit trees. It is often seen in trees continually fed with high nitrogen feeds. It's unlikely to be seen in plants fed with a well-balanced fertiliser.

High Nitrogen feeds promote rapid, soft growth, and this if damaged may allow scab to enter, so watch out.

Scab itself is typified by the shrinking, and drying of an area of bark. If you are the victim of such an attack you will find a remedy, usually a spray in your garden center.

The tree to the right shows both Scab (the Diamond shape at the top), and its associate Canker.

SCALE INSECT - superfamily Coccoidea.

This cute little killer not only sucks the sap of your trees, but also creates nice little holes allowing infections in. Although there are lots of chemical remedies to deal with them.

SCALES - Applied botanically to the encrusted covering of leaf buds, and cones.

SCION - See grafting.

SEED - The reproductive unit formed from a fertilized ovule.

SEISHI - (Jp) The training of a Bonsai

SEMPERFLORENS - Always in flower.

SEMPERVIVUM - (1) Everliving.(2) A genus of Alpine plants.
They may be used as accent plantings, or in saikei. Sometimes referred to as 'house leeks', or 'hen's, and chicks'.

SENTEI - (Jp) Tree planting

SEQUESTERED IRON - A chemical addative allowing acid loving trees to absorb manganese, and iron, when growing in neutral soils (see pH)

SERRATE - Having a saw like edge (leaves).

Zelcova Serrata in spring colour.

SESSILE - Growing close to, and indirectly upon, the stem without a stalk, or petiole.

SHARI-MIKI - (Jp) A Dead wood effect.

SHAKAN - (Jp) A Bonsai style, Slanting style.

SHITO - (Jp) The smallest bonsai size. One (of several) interpretations of the word 'Shito' is 'fingertip', hence trees that fit on your fingertip.


A Shito Bonsai, reproduced at actual size

SHOHAKU - (Jp) Coniferous trees (Softwoods)

SHOHIN - (Jp) Bonsai no more than 15cm tall.

SHOKI - (Jp) Bonsai from collected material

SHOKU - (Jp) A display stand on which a Bonsai. or Suiseki may be displayed

SINENSIS - Chinese


Slug pellets are the best way to deal with them, however if you don't want to use pellets, consider using 'beer traps', and no I'm not joking, Slugs, and Snails are attracted to the beer, drink it, get drunk, and drown in it. My advice is to use an American beer (see there had to be a good use for it!).

The way to do it is to get a small container, of about 5cm deep, and half fill it with beer. Place it (them) near your trees, and wait for the little buggers to drown.

Both Slugs, and Snails lay eggs, about 3mm diameter, and like little pearls. How you dispose of them is up to you.

Slugs, and their eggs.

SNOWDROP - Galanthus


SNOWFLAKE - Leucojum.

Leucojum autumnale (Autumn snowflake)

SOFTWOOD - Coniferous trees, and their timber ,as opposed to hardwood (see Gymnosperms).

SOKAN - (Jp) A Bonsai style. Twin trunk style, with two trunks growing from one root.

SOWBUG (see Woodlouse)

SPECIES - The fundamental unit in the classification of plants.


The spidermite, or rather mites, there are several types, are common garden pests. They can cause serious damage to your indoor or outdoor plants. Here in the UK, and in most areas subject to hard winters they tend to attack indoor plants.

These microscopic spider like pests are found on the underside of leaves, and in the crotch of branches. They suck fluids from the leaves, leaving traces of yellowish white spots. Inspection of your plants with a magnifying glass should reveal tiny spider webs on stems, and leaves.

The mites thrive in dry, warm conditions, and in temperatures above 80 degrees, they can reproduce in as little as 5 days, making early detection a necessity.

There are several chemical remedies to deal with these bugs, pyrethrum being one.

As I’ve said above they like dry warm conditions, so indoor plants are particularly prone, however there are a couple of things that can be done to protect them.

Regular inspection of your plants will allow you to deal with an attack early. Providing a moist microclimate around them will help. This can be done in two ways, firstly regular spraying with water will help. This may mean moving your indoor plants outdoors, avoiding damaging your furnishings. Another way is to stand them above a tray of water, allowing it to evaporate past the plant. The latter can be applied to both indoor, and outdoor plants.


The equivalent of a seed in lower plants, such as Ferns, Fungi, or Liverwort.

Here we see a Bracket fungus dispersing a mass of it's red spoors.



A plant that develops an unusual characteristic, such as different leaf or flower colouring. This will usually not be passed on to its offspring, unless vegitateively reproduced as a cutting, or layering.


Two Spruces are commonly grown for timber, and one of them is often available in garden centers, although one of them tends to be seasonal, The Norway Spruce (Picia Abies) better known as the Christmas tree.

The other spruce, the Sitka (Picia sitchensis), was introduced to the UK from Alaska in 1831, and because it grows very fast, is far more widely planted.

STAND - An area of woodland of uniform composition, usually applied to trees grown for timber, or paper production.

A forestry plantation of Scots pine

STANDARD - A tree or shrub grown on a single tall trunk.

STIGMA - The receptive part of the pistil, surmounting the style, to which the pollen grains 
adhere. (see Flower)

STOCK - A young rooted plant used for budding or grafting.


With runners that root, and send up another plant, as with Strawberries.


Minute breathing pores, predominantly on leaves. On conifers, often in lines on the leaf, and whitish or pale blue. Stomata are opened, and closed by the guard cells.

Stomatic bands on the underside of a conifer.

STOOL - The base or stump of a coppiced tree, or of a tree similarly cut back to provide shoots 
for propagation by layering. 


STRATIFICATION - The winter chilling process needed by some seeds to germinate. This may occur naturally. or in the refrigerator (not freezer).

STRICTA - Upright or straight.


STYLE - The usually narrow connection between the ovary, and the stigma.


SUB-ALPINE - Below the tree line in mountainous terrain.

SUCKER - A shoot growing from a bud borne on a root.

SUCCULENTS - A generic name, given to plants as diverse as Cacti, and Houseleeks (Sempervivum).

SUGI - (Jp) Japanese Cedar.

Cryptomeria japonica - The Japanese Cedar or Japanese Redwood, has a much shorter, less needle like foliage than the Cedrus species more pine like foliage.

There are over twenty cultivars of of Cryptomeria japonica, a lot of which because of their slow growth habits or small size, are really suitable for rockery's. The two cultivars listed below will provide growth as near to the 'Wild' tree as you can get.

C. japonica ' Bandai Sugi'- Small compact growth ideal for bonsai.will grows to about 7 ft. high, and 5 ft. wide in 10 or so year's.

C. japonica 'Jindai-sugi' - Has a conical shape in the ground will eventually reach 10 ft. by 6 ft.



SUISEKI - (Jp) Viewing Stones. Often displayed with bonsai in formal settings.



SUIBAN - (Jp) Shallow dish, often divided, part without any drainage holes. Used in Saikei, and Suiseki plantings.

SYLVATICUS - Of the forest.

SYLVESTRIS - That which grows in a forest. As with Pinus Sylvestris the Scot's Pine

SYMBIOTIC - The relationship of two organisms which live in harmony. Mycorrhiza is an example of a plant living in a symbiotic relationship.

SYSTEMIC - An insecticide or fungicide that acts through the plant. It is absorbed by the plant from the soil or through its leaves, and by the disease organism or pest from the plant.

TABULIFORM - Flat-topped or table-like.

TANGEI - (JP) Bonsai material


All plants have a major root that grows down into the soil. This is the taproot, and provides the main anchorage to the ground. 

TEMPERATE - Regions of the Earth having either seasonal, or daily swings in temperature from hot to cold.


TENELLUS - Delicate 

TERMINAL - The bud or shoot at the end or top of a stem.

TERNATE - Growing in threes or whorls of three. Applied to the pines that have three leaves in a bundle.

TESSILATED - Describes petals or leaves that are patterned in contrasting shades or colours, often with a marbled effect.

TOCHO-SHI - (Jp) A branch that has grown too long.

TOKONOMA - (Jp) An alcove used to display Bonsai, or Suiseki.

A Tokonoma, with a bonsai, a suiseki, and a scroll.


Densely covered with short velvety hairs.

A silver Fern



TOPIARY - Training of shrubs, and trees into ornamental shapes



TORIKI - (Jp) Air layering

TORIKI-MOMO - (Jp) A Bonsai obtained by air-layering.


Tropism is the directional growth of a plant. This happens in response to a stimulus such as gravity, light, or contact. The movement is either positive, or negative depending on whether the growth is towards, or away from the stimulus. Geotropism, the response of plants to gravity, causes the root (positively geotropic) to grow downwards, and the stem (negatively geotropic) to grow upwards.

Phototropism causes the plant to grow towards light, and hydrotropism towards water. Thigmotropism, or haptotropism, is the response to physical contact, as with the tendrils of climbing plants when they touch a support, and then wrap around it.

Tropic movement is the result of greater rate of growth on one side of the plant than the other.

TROPICAL - Regions of the Earth with high temperature, and humidity .


The major supporting element of a tree, or shrub. Usually applied to plants that have a woody core.

TSUGI-KI - (Jp) Obtaining bonsai by grafting.

A swelling in the root of a plant which acts both as a store for energy, and a site for a new plant to develop. Potato's, Dahlias, and tuberous begonias are examples of tubers.

UMBEL - An inflorescence in which all the flowers are on stalks arising from the top of the main 
stem; a compound umbel consists of further series of umbels replacing the flowers of a simple 

UNDULATE - Waved on the surface.

URO - (Jp) A hollow created by the removal of a large branch.

VARIEGATED - Leaves that are patterned, blotched or spotted with contrasting colours, generally green with cream, white or silver, but sometimes with other colours.

VARIETY - A distinct form of a species, which has arisen in nature. Abbreviated to var.

Having tubes (veins). All of the more developed plants have veins, the xylem, and phloem, to transport fluids.

Cooksonia an early vascular plant, from about 430 million year's ago. It grew to about 5cm tall.

VEGETATIVE REPRODUCTION - Non sexual creation of a new plant by Cutting, Layering, Grafting, or Root division.

VERMICULITE - A growing medium.


An adult vine weevil. These are not so much a problem as the soil dwelling grubs, who feed on the roots.

The grub of the Vine weevil, with an example at actual size.

These are the most dangerous of all the pests you are likely to come across. In most cases you only know you've got them when your tree dies. Just as caterpillars eat leaves, Vine weevil grubs eat roots. The Adults eat little notches out of the edges of the leaves, so keep an eye out for this.

Over the year's all sorts of chemicals have been tried to eradicate them, however a new one has recently appeared in the garden centers, here in the UK it's sold as 'Provado Vine Weevil Killer'

Those of you who favour a 'natural' remedy, should consider nematodes, small worms that attack, and kill the weevil grubs. Nematodes are available from specialist suppliers, who usually advertise in gardening magazines.

The problem with using Nematodes is that you must apply them to an already infected pot, or they will starve to death rapidly.


VIRIDIS - Green.

VULGARIS - Common, vulgar, ordinary.

WARD - Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw (1791-1868)

Ward first noticed the effects of a hermetically sealed glass container in 1829. He had placed a chrysalis of a Sphinx moth in damp soil at the bottom of a bottle and covered it with a lid. A week later he noticed that a fern and grass seedling had sprouted from the soil. His interest piqued, he saw that evaporated moisture condensed on the walls of the bottle during the day, and ran back down into the soil towards evening, maintaining a constant humidity.

The glass case that he used to rear butterflies and grow plants was used widely during the time for introducing plants into the British colonies. His first experiments with plants inside glass cases started in 1830. In 1833 George Loddiges used Wardian cases for shipping plants from Australia and said that "whereas I used formerly to lose nineteen out of the twenty of the plants I imported during the voyage, nineteen out of the twenty is now the average of those that survive". Loddiges was the Vice-President of The Horticultural Society and Wardian cases became popular

A 'Wardian' Case


Wasps get a bad press that they really do not deserve. It's true that in exceptional circumstances a wasp's sting can kill humans, but on the whole they are friendly creatures, and love to join you for a picnic.

The 'Normal' wasps are ravenous eaters of small caterpillars, and other grubs. 

The Hornet "Vespa cabro" is the largest European wasp; the female measures 25 to 35 mm long, the males, and workers are smaller. In males, the antennae have 13 segments, while females have 12. The male abdomen is composed of 7 visible segments, while that of the female has 6; females are equipped with an ovipositor.




WHORLS - Where there are more than two growths of branchlets, flowers or leaves, borne in a circle from the same node.



Windfall were fruit that were blown of trees prior to harvest. Such fruit was of little value to the owner, and could be collected by anyone.

Many farmers kept pigs in their orchards which took advantage of windfalls.



Commercial timber is classified as two types, Hardwoods, and Softwoods, and this classification parallels the division of Gymnosperms, the conifers, producing softwood, and the Angiosperms, the hardwood trees, the flowering broadleaved trees.

Hardwoods are much stronger than their Softwood cousins. The reason for this increased strength is that the tubes in a hardwood are generally smaller than softwoods, and there is more wood between the tubes.

Hardwood, and softwood cross sections

WOODLOUSE A.k.a Sowbug

Woodlice are in the Order Isopoda with about 35 species native to the British Isles. They are Crustaceans, related to crabs, and lobsters, but unlike their cousins they reproduce by giving birth to live young. 

They feed mainly on plant debris but may damage seedlings. Their ability to break down larger particles of organic material makes them an important part of the rotting process.

They will make their home inside the pots of your plants, and may attack the roots.

The Pillbugs are close cousins to the Woodlouse , And like the Armadillo the Pillbug can curl up into a protective ball.

The Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber

Armadillidium vulgare the Pillbug

As with all Crustaceans the woodlouse sheds its skin, or exoskeleton, as it grows. 


The earthworms feed on decomposing organic matter in, and on the soil. This is broken down further, and after excretion the 'casts' are acted on by the soil bacteria. This makes the earthworm  an important part of the recycling of nutrients in the soil. Additionlly their burrowing aerates the soil, and improves drainage, helping other soil organisms, and plant roots.

The worm casts contain higher levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium than the surrounding soil - the by-products of digested organic matter, and trace elements, which they bring up from deeper levels. Calcium carbonate is also added, and this can make acid or alkaline soils more neutral. This 'fertilizer' is distributed throughout the soil, and research has shown that each worm can produce about 150g per year - much better than a dry or granular fast-acting chemical fertilizer which has no humus, leaches away, and may repel the worms.

Earthworms usually live in the top few centimetres of the soil, and it has been estimated that there are approximately 50,000 per acre of moist soil.

The worm's flesh is 70% protein, and as such they are a vital source of energy to their  many predators . 

The earthworm, both sightless, and ear-less, can feel the vibrations on the surface of the ground driving it back down its hole.

Earthworms were introduced to North America by the early European settlers in the 17th, and 18th centuries, and If they had existed in North America prior to this they were probably wiped out during the last ice age.

XANTHINUS – yellow


The Xylem is the part of the tree that carries the nutrient rich water to the top of the tree.

As the new xylem is created by the cambium, older cells forming the tubes in which the water moves die, forming the wood.

The cells of the xylem contain large amounts of a substance called lignin, and it is that lignin which forms the wood.

YAMADORI – (Jp) Collecting trees from the wild (Bonsai)

YEW – (La) Taxus

The Yews, and their close relatives the Chinese, or Plum Yews (Cephalotaxus) can be treated as the same tree for care purposes. Yews are a little 'suspect' in frosts.

There are over 100 cultivars of the European Yew (Taxus Baccata), some having bright yellow foliage, some growing in a columnar fashion. 

The Japanese yew, or 'onko', Taxus cuspidata, is sometimes seen for sale, having smaller foliage, and redder bark.

By the way all parts of the yew are poisonous, not to the touch, but if swallowed.

The seeds are borne in a fleshy red fruit (poisonous), and although they will, if fertile, germinate,

Many English churchyards contain very old examples of the Yew, which pre-date them. It is likely that the early christians usurped the pagan meeting places to build their churches on.

The traditional English longbow is made from a 6' 6" stave of Yew.



YOSE-UE - (Jp) A Bonsai Style. Literally "Trunks planted together" or a group planting.

ZELCOVA – (La) Zelcova

The Zelcova family are Elms. There are two species Zelcova Serrata, and Zelcova Carpinifolia. The Serrata was the first described, by Karl von Siebold in the 19th century, and imported to the UK in 1861 from Japan.

ZONALIS - Banded


After a 60 year study, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a map showing the average MINIMUM temperatures that could be expected by location.

© Allen. C. Roffey 11:32 03/01/2008