At Victoria Gardens we carry trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. And that’s how we think and talk about the plants in our nursery.

But every once in a while we are reminded that as a home gardener, that’s NOT how you talk.

When someone asks, “What’s a shrub?”

And we respond, “It’s a bush.”

And they give us a sidelong glance, like, why didn’t you just say bush, then?

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I think when people start gardening, there’s “green stuff,” “bushes,” and “flowers.” As you learn more about plants, you can’t help but LOVE them more and more. And you begin to see subtle differences, not just between colors, but textures, form, and growth habits.

Below is a decoder ring, for the next time you are speaking to one of us, or if you want to increase the depth of your plant knowledge, or if you are just plain curious.

“What are these plant people talking about?”

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Plant definitions

Nursery speak translated to English

  • Perennial = Flowering plant that returns every year (but only blooms for part of the summer**)
  • Annual = Flowering plant that blooms all summer long (but dies at the end of the season*** – hey, you can’t have it all)
  • Tree = You know this one, don’t be silly
  • Shrub = Bush

But, from a horticultural standpoint, ‘bush’ and ‘shrub’ do not mean the same thing.

In horticulture*, “bush” is used to describe the shape of a plant, as in ‘forms a bush.’

“Shrub,” in horticulture, is defined as, “a plant which retains structure above ground year round, which cannot be split or divided because the growth is coming from one set of roots. (Some shrubs can be considered small trees, but will still be defined as shrubs.)”

Now a shrub can be as tiny as a dwarf ‘Tom Thumb’ cotoneaster, which only gets about 12 inches wide or a shrub can grow 8 to 10 feet tall like a lilac.

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We have other confusing industry terms.

Victoria will be speaking to a client and she will explain that she will bring the plant material on such-and-such a day. The client will ask, “What’s plant material?”

“Plant material is…plants.” And they give her a sidelong glance, like, why didn’t you just say plants, then?

Or she’ll say “I think you need some woody plants in the foundation planting near the house.”

“What are woody plants?”

And she replies, “Trees and shrubs.”****

See beginning of article.

Just kidding!

Come in over Memorial day weekend for 20% off trees and shrubs!

Visit and be inspired!

*As long as we’re defining things…”Horticulture is the science and art of producing, improving, marketing, and using fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants. It differs from botany and other plant sciences in that horticulture incorporates both science and aesthetics.” – American Society for Horticultural Science

**Some perennials have LONG blooming periods–some from May to September–but they are the exception, not the rule.

***Annuals bloom all summer long and complete their lifecycle within one season. Their job is to produce seeds, so they produce a lot of flowers again and again to complete their reproductive mission. Annuals give you a big blooming-bang for your buck, even though they die when the frost comes in fall.

***”Woody plants”–trees and shrubs–usually have bark as a defining feature.

A note about our nursery (if you’ve never visited):

Great garden design is accomplished with a tapestry of different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. Visit our plant nursery in Rosendale, NY this weekend and feast your eyes on flowers, trees, and shrubs that will not only thrive in the Hudson Valley, but will also inspire you to take a fresh look at your outdoor spaces.

We lay the nursery out in areas by what conditions they need: deer resistant shade, deer resistant full sun, wet-tolerant plants, etc. We know this makes for a better shopping experience, because the plants you see together at the nursery can be planted together in the same garden bed once you get them home.

There’s no heartbreak–realizing that the two plants you picked out can’t survive in your shady front garden. (As professional landscapers, we’ve gardened in Ulster county for over 30 years, so believe us, we know what those conditions are!)

Our rock-top nursery is located on Cottekill Road, off of Rt 213 between Rosendale and High Falls. We are up on the hill, and when people step off the back porch into the nursery, they often say, “Wow. I had no idea this was back here.”

We know. It’s so much more than you can see from the road!