Maria Zampini has spent a lifetime in the garden industry. She's a fourth-generation nursery person whose family had a destination garden center in Ohio for more than 30 years. She's also the president and owner of UpShoot, a horticultural marketing firm that specializes in bringing new plants to market.
She knows the business. The problem is other people, who don't.
"I remember hiring individuals who had no experience with horticulture, and they'd stumble over some of the common terms we use," she said. "I also had it in the back of my mind we should have a little dictionary as part of our employee manual."
In her work as a writer for consumer magazines, she says, she would catch herself using a term that not everybody knew. "You grew up hearing it, but they didn't."
She has finally solved the problem by writing, with horticulturist Pamela Bennett, Garden-pedia: An A-to-Z Guide to Gardening Terms (St. Lynn's Press), which codifies a lot of the terminology that new and veteran gardeners use. Bennett is the Ohio master gardener volunteer coordinator and director at the Ohio State University Extension in Clark County.
"If someone looks for a term" online, Zampini said, "it's very technical in nature. We said it'd be nice if there was something more conversational in tone, and the average person can understand it."
When she and Bennett started brainstorming, they had 600 words. Those the typical gardener wouldn't use got scrapped. They ended up with about 300 terms, starting with abiotic (a nonliving organism) and ending with zone (a geographic area defined by average winter, or summer, temperature). As with many terms, there's additional commentary and helpful color photos. The zone definition also includes two full-color maps for the U.S. and Canada.
And even the expert learned a thing or two.
"There are terms I didn't know," Zampini says. "There's one, a ha-ha. Pam came up with it."
And as long as we're here: A ha-ha is a sunken fence that creates a barrier for animals, while the other, higher side allows an unobstructed view. Typically, it involves a retaining wall between a sloping ditch on one side and higher ground on the other. "Think of this as a ditch that you can't see in the distance," the authors write, "but only when you come upon it - hence the name."