Basic groups of plants

An understanding of the basic plant groups is important for the new gardener. If you have tended little more than a windowbox in your post divorce life then get growing with our simple guide to what's what in garden plants.

Annuals: Grow, flower, set seed and die within one season. Many varieties can be raised easily and cheaply from seeds or can be bought as immature seedlings in plugs or trays. They are great for creating instant effect and adding colour to your garden or planted in containers which you can place around a patio or on a veranda.

Marigolds, poppies, nasturtiums and cornflowers can be sown straight into the soil where they are meant to flower. Growing annuals is a great way of introducing children to gardening and gives you the option of changing the layout and colour scheme of your garden every year

Biennials: Take two years to grow from seed. Biennials such as foxgloves and angelica flower and set seed in the second year before they die.

poppy flowersPerennials: Non woody flowering plants that can live for several years and die down in the winter. They can be propagated in a variety of ways but most can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Many will flower in their first year of growth but others need a couple of years to get established.

Shrubs: Woody plants, smaller than trees, with a short stem and branches near the ground. There are a huge variety of shrubs available and a walk around your local garden centre or nursery will give you some idea of just how many there are. Some shrubs are grown for their flowers, some for their foliage and some, like lavender for their deliciously fragrant leaves and flower spikes.

Trees: The definition of a tree is this; a woody plant that has, usually, a well defined trunk or stem with branches above it. Take great care when you plant a tree in your garden that it is not going to grow thirty foot high and block out the light from you, or your neighbours’ windows or interfere with walls or other structures. Do your homework before you buy, there are lots of varieties suitable for small gardens and if space is not an issue then you really will be spoilt for choice. Fruit trees grown on dwarf root stocks will give you blossom in the spring and something delicious to eat later in the year.

climbing plantClimbers: Plants with soft stems that rely on something else for support – another plant, a wall or a trellis for example. Some climb by means of curling a leaf around something, others by producing aerial roots that support the plant as it grows or that are self clinging using suckering pads. Some of the best loved climbers include the huge variety of clematis, rambling and climbing roses and honeysuckles.

Bulbs: We are all familiar with those staples of the spring garden, narcissi and tulips. A bulb is basically an organ for storage which consists mostly of fleshy scales and swollen modified leaf bases on a much reduced stem. Most bulb plants have a dormant period during which there is no growth visible.

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