Landscape Design Terms and Definitions


The process of changing soil so more oxygen can enter, usually by using an aerator, which is a machine that pulls cores from the ground.

Fractured or rounded stone used as a footing, sub-base, or decorative surface.

A plant that flowers and dies in one season (think pansies). You would normally purchase an annual just as it begins to flower and then remove it once it is done, or perhaps as seeds.

A garden structure generally used to support climbing plants or vines. They can be part of a fence, gate, or free standing.

Basically a tree doctor who is trained in the care and maintenance of trees.

A way to approach an area or garden feature. The concept of "access" can be practical: providing access for maintenance, or it can be a matter of aesthetics: making access welcoming so you are drawn toward a garden destination.

Very subjective, this is the perception of beauty or attractiveness of a garden space or design. No matter how practical a garden needs to be it also needs to meet a certain threshold of aesthetics. "Aesthetic" may also be used to describe a chosen style or look for the landscape.

A walkway bordered with trees, bamboo, or hedges. Generally a formal feature meant to emphasize the approach to a main entrance feature.

Adding beneficial organic material to your garden's native soil to improve it for plants. Usually this is done by mixing in some compost as we install plants.


Gravel or dirt used to fill behind a retaining wall or other landscape feature.

A design concept, where elements in the landscape are in "balance" with one another. The size, orientation, and perceived mass of elements all play a role. This is highly subjective.

Field dug tree with the root ball wrapped in burlap. Often abbreviated to "B&B" in the trade.

A dark gray to black dense to fine-grained igneous rock that consists of basic plagioclase, augite, and usually magnetite. In Manitoba, basalt is found on the Canadian Shield in areas called greenstone belts. Greenstone belts are large areas of rock that formed around ancient volcanic islands. These belts occur in the areas of Oxford-Knee Lake, Gods River, Cross Lake, Island Lake and many others.

An enclosed area of water. When discussing water features the basin may be the water receptacle below ground or the pot or vessel from which water spills out

A style of water feature with a large drilled stone usually serving as the centerpiece.

Large stone. In general a stone over 56 kilos (125 lbs) would qualify as a boulder.


Where water in a stream or vessel hits a point of vertical drop. The height and width of a cascade are major factors in the amount of noise generated by a water feature.

A below grade vessel for collecting surface water and then directing it into a drain line or dry well. Also, an area where water pools before falling over the next cascade.

Group of trees, shrubs, bamboo, or ornamental grass planted together to form a grouping.

Decomposed garden or food material, used in planting beds to amend from above and hold moisture where it is needed.

During the landscape design process, this is a basic drawing or plan containing the key details of the garden plan, without adding excessive details or full plantings so the basic footprint of key elements can be understood.

Tree that bears cones and needle-like or scale-like leaves that are typically evergreen. The dominant coniferous species in Manitoba are black spruce, Jack pine, white spruce, tamarack and balsam fir.

Purposeful change in ground elevations or grade. These may take the form of a mound, swale, or combination of the two.

Differences in tone, texture, mass, or color between landscape design elements. Plant combinations or pairings often highlight these differences so that each plant can shine.

A horizontal row or tier of stone, paver, or wood in a wall, patio, or landscape screen.

A garden mostly or completely surrounded by walls or buildings, perhaps at the entry to a building or meant to viewed from key windows.

A border or edging using poured concrete or natural stone.


A tree or bush (shrub) that loses its leaves in winter. Trembling aspen, white birch and balsam poplar are the most common deciduous species in Manitoba.

A flat gathering space, made of wood or composite material (made to look like wood), typically adjacent or attached to a structure. A deck usually sits above grade, a patio would generally be at grade.

Materials the surface of a deck is made out of.

Rocks chosen for their color or texture and used as a ground cover, walking surface, or focal point.

Granite that is weathered to the point that it is a very fine aggregate. This is a natural process, and the result can be used for paths and patios. Decomposed granite is often referred to as DG. It is especially useful in modern landscapes.

Key landscape features being proposed in a landscape design plan. Water features, paths, patios, decks, boulders, plantings, screens, fences, and contouring are just some of the common design elements.

Goals you have as you design your landscape. These goals guide the design process, not the designer's style or preferences. For example, your design objectives in Manitoba might include drought tolerant or deer resistant plants.

Process for removing or thinning the dead lower level of a mature lawn. Thatch is grass that has died and collected below the green blades. Some thatch is normal and healthy. However, over time this layer can get very thick and make it difficult for water, sun, and nutrients to get to portions of the turf.

The process of collecting and controlling the flow of water on a property. This can be done with grading, French drains, dry wells, permeable surfaces, sump pump, rain gardens, and more.

A slow feeding irrigation system that utilizes flexible tubing and emitters to send a precise amount of water to each plant. This is the most efficient method of irrigating plants.

The ability of a plant to survive without much summer water. There are many plants that are "drought tolerant" but most will be happier with at least some summer water, and all will need some water the first couple of summers.

A garden feature where water is represented by an aggregate stone product, usually a gravel or granite. These are most commonly found in modern and Japanese garden design.

A stone or flagstone patio, path, or walkway built without a concrete base. The base would be compacted gravel and the joints would be an aggregate or walkable ground cover. Dry laid stonework is more rustic and will become somewhat uneven over time.

A stone retaining or free standing wall built without the use of mortar. A highly skilled mason is required for a dry stack stone wall.

An underground structure that collect water and allows it to slow percolate into the soil around it.


Landscape design that is compatible with a sites' environment in both appearance and sustainability without negative impacts to the environment.

Edging in the landscape is a line of demarcation that creates visual interest in the garden by separating one segment from another segment. This can be aesthetic or functional, keeping one element such as pea gravel) from getting mixed into another (eg. bark dust).

In a landscape design, to fence or wall an area in. Areas can also have a feeling of "enclosure" provided by trees, other plantings, fences, or screens.

The landscape near the entry to a building.

A tree, shrub or vine, trained to grow on a wall or fence into a specific pattern. Especially useful for fruit trees, making it easy to harvest the fruit and containing mess.

A plant whose leaves or needles are green year-round.

A plant that is not native to the location where it will be planted. Not all "exotics" are invasive or harmful, and many can be well behaved or drought tolerant.


A mass planting of ferns.

Thicker bladed turf grass that spread via rhizomes.

The level of soil on your property before bark dust or compost is spread.

The lighting elements of a landscape lighting system. Primary fixtures types are spot lights, path lights, well lights, and underwater lights.

Generic term used to describe natural flat stones of different shapes and colors used to create walkways, patios, and walls. Flagstone is usually larger than stepping stones.

A valve that will automatically refill your water feature when the water falls below a certain level. These are usually connected to your irrigation system.

Usually a ball or gate valve that gives you control over the flow of water coming from your pump to your water feature.

The element in a landscape design or area in a landscape that is meant to be most prominent. The focal point can be a plant, boulder, statuary, gathering space, or other landscape feature.

A style of gardens or garden elements that stress straight lines, right angles and circles.

Bushes or shrubs located in beds near the foundation of a home or other structure.

A trench filled with 5 centimetres (2") round rock containing a perforated pipe that collects and redirects surface water and groundwater away from an area, many times to a dry well.

The purpose, reason, or action that an area is be landscaped for. Stairs function, for example, to allow foot traffic up and down a slope.


Space for growing plants for viewing, eating, or physical activity.

A roofed building used over an outdoor gathering space.

The sprouting of a seed, perhaps referring to a lawn that is being grown from seed.

Changing the level of soil for better drainage or to create interest or function.

Rock product, either rounded or fractured, that is relatively small - usually 2.54 centimetres (1") or less.

Low plants that are allowed or encouraged to spread over an area.


Can refer to any "hard" garden elements including statues or boulders but most commonly is used to refer to paths, patios, and walls.

Dense shrubs or trees that form a fence, screen, or boundary.

Plants with non-woody stems.

A chemical used to control weeds.

Fence boards that run horizontally, often used in modern or Japanese-inspired landscape designs.


Lines that define spaces within a landscape concept. These often extend from corners or key features of an existing structure. Proper use of imaginary lines can help the landscape feel connected to the home and other elements.

The opposite of formal in the landscape. A more relaxed garden dominated by curved rather than straight bed lines and a less rigid structure.

A plant that spreads more than desired, or into habitats where it does damage. A list of invasive plants can be found here.

Watering plants and lawn, usually with an irrigation or sprinkler system.

2-D rendering of the proposed irrigation system. Can include head placements and coverage, pipe sizing, GPM specs, and materials needed to install this system.


Licensed professional who designs landscapes, schooled in engineering and architecture as well as in horticulture.

The art or practice of planning (designing) changes to landscaped areas, either for aesthetic or practical purposes.

The professional who plans and develops landscape projects, usually at a residential or small commercial level with the major design impetus on plantings. Landscape designers typically have less schooling than Landscape Architects and are not licensed.

A completed landscape design, detailing all elements for the new landscape. This usually takes the form of a drawing on paper.

Textile used to suppress weeds, keep aggregate from sinking into mud, and to protect French drains from silt.

Calcium material used to raise the pH in soil, which will make it less hospitable to moss.

A water-tight HDPE material used underneath ponds, streams and waterfalls in water features.


Using many plantings of the same variety to fill in an area in the landscape. This can lower maintenance and water use in the garden.

Compiled list of all materials needed to install the landscape design.

Variations in temperature and growing conditions based on in elevation, sunlight, drainage, or wind as seen in your own yard.

Using the smallest number of plants, plant varieties, hardscape materials and other elements needed to accomplish the goal for the landscape design. This aesthetic is usually associated with modern and low maintenance landscape design. Using the smallest number of plants, plant varieties, hardscape materials and other elements needed to accomplish the goal for the landscape design. This aesthetic is usually associated with modern and low maintenance landscape design.

A flowerbed with a mix of different plants such as flowering perennials and shrubs.

Modern landscape design is characterized by clean lines, clear borders between elements, mass plantings, and minimalism.

This is a circular aperture in a wall or fence, most often seen in Chinese or Japanese gardens.

A mix of cement, sand, and water that is used in stone masonry for setting stones and joints.

A layer of compost or bark dust applied at the base of a plant.

A mass planting of moss.


A plant that was present in a geographic location before people started changing the landscape.


A place for growing fruit trees, can be within a larger landscape.

How the garden or a garden element is arranged in relationship to an existing or new feature or to a direction.

Maintaining a lawn without the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers.

Grasses that are not mowed but grown in landscapes as perennials.


This is a partially open sided relaxation or recreation area that adjoins a dwelling, used for entertaining, outdoor dining and simply enjoying the outdoor environment.

Precast concrete pieces that are used to create patios and walkways.

Small round gravel.

Plants that provide seasonal interest and then die back in the winter. Annuals do not come back the following season, but perennials do.

An open roofed structure over a patio or other landscape feature.

A chemical used to control insects.

An ornamental container for growing plants.

A water feature with no true pond; the water basin is below grade and often hidden by round rock.

Fences, trellises, or shrubs used to block the view of a certain area or view.

Cutting parts of a plant off to control size, health and appearance.

Kind of pipe used in most irrigation systems.


Basalt aggregate ranging in size from ½ centimetre (1/4") down to dust.


Area of the landscape designed to handle rain water until it can soak into the ground.

A chain that controls water as it travels from a roof gutter to the ground.

Garden structure that creates a planting area that is contained and higher than the surrounding grade.

A three-dimensional perspective of a landscape design.

Structure made of wood, concrete, paving stones, bricks or other materials for stabilizing slopes and preventing excessive erosion.

Narrow watercourse.

Creating a garden feature consisting primarily of stones with plantings that complement and can thrive in the rocky environment.

Sprinkler head style that rotates a stream of water across an area.

A nozzle that goes on a head and creates streams of water that rotate across an area.


On a landscape design the scale indicates how space on the plan relates to space in the actual garden. Also refers to the relationship between sizes of specific elements in the landscape.

Trees or shrubs used to provide privacy, block a view, or as a natural boundary or barrier.

Space around your home or along property lines where there are restrictions on what can be installed or built.

Damage sometimes manifest after a plant is transplanted.

Low woody plants, usually with multiple shoots or stems emanating from their bases.

The space of ground to receive landscaped improvements.

The act of ascertaining features inherent to a site that must be accounted for in the landscape design.

A rough drawing showing key elements of a landscape plan.

Strips of grass that have been cut out of field and rolled up. They can then be unrolled and installed as a lawn.

A machine used to cut out grass.

This plant is grown by itself in a lawn or garden for its ornamental effect, rather than massed with other bedding or edging plants. Will usually be a focal point.

Underground network of controllers, valves, pipes, and heads that combine to water the landscape.

Flat stones or concrete pavers set with large gaps to accommodate a natural stride, creating a rustic path.


Controller for a sprinkler system.

Converts 120V to 12V for powering a landscape lighting system.

Moving a plant from one location to another.

Small water feature derived from the concept of a Japanese hand washing station.


A pattern of leaves that contains either white or yellow markings.


Landscape element that features circulating water.

Any plant that is unwanted or considered to be a nuisance.


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