Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Garden Dictionary

I am a nerd.  That doesn't mean I think I'm a genius like those guys on The Big Bang Theory, but I like nerdy things.  I know, I know, those of you who read this blog and who know me in person will beg to differ.  I can hear you all saying, "But Chad, you're so cool and everything you say or write is so urbane and witty.  You aren't a nerd." 

Thank you for that, by the way, but I really am.  Allow me to convince you with this confession: I subscribe to and read's Word of the Day e-mails.  If that isn't sufficiently nerdy for you, how about this?  I keep those e-mails and I organize them within my Outlook folder based on subject matter, i.e. great German words (of which there are many), words related to drinking alcohol, words that could describe my friends, and words I'll never have the cojones to use in conversation. 

How is any of this relevant to a gardening blog?  It isn't.  Except, in this case, the content of the Word of the Days has been heavily doused with gardening/nature words lately and I thought I'd share some of them with you to see if we could find some clever ways to work them into our gardening "lexicon" (a former Word of the Day, I'm sure).  Leave me a comment if you know some other great but underused gardening words!

boscage \BOS-kij\, noun:

A mass of trees or shrubs.

In places the park and the site itself were edged right up to its rubble and boscage by the rear of buildings...
-- China Miéville, The City & the City
Plunging along a narrow path thick-set on each side with leafy boscage, Paul caught sight of the two retreating figures a few yards only in front of him.
-- John R. Carling, The Shadow of the Czar

Boscage comes from the Middle French word boscage, from the roots bosk meaning “a small wood or thicket” and -age, a suffix that denotes a general noun, like voyage and courage.

weald \weeld\, noun:

1. Wooded or uncultivated country.
2. A region in SE England, in Kent, Surrey, and Essex counties: once a forest area; now an agricultural region.

I am tempted to give one other case, the well-known one of the denudation of the Weald.
-- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
And your advertisements must refer to the other, which is Great Willingden or Willingden Abbots, and lies seven miles on the other side of Battle. Quite down in the weald.
-- Jane Austen, Sanditon

Related to the word wild, weald comes from the Old English word weald meaning “forest.”

copse \kops\, noun:

A thicket of small trees or bushes; a small wood.

The sun was setting behind a thick forest, and in the glow of sunset the birch trees, dotted about in the aspen copse, stood out clearly with their hanging twigs, and their buds swollen almost to bursting.
-- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Despite the December afternoon sunlight, the interior of the copse looked dark and impenetrable. The fact that none of the trees were covered in snow appeared to him to be improbable but welcome.
-- John Berger, Once in Europa

Copse is derived from the Old French word copeiz meaning “a cut-over forest” which originates in the Latin word colpaticum meaning “having been cut.”

frondescence \fron-DES-uhns\, noun:

1. Leafage; foliage.
2. The process or period of putting forth leaves, as a tree, plant, or the like.

What we found were three hundred pristine, mostly level acres with a forty-five-acre pond, completely undeveloped, covered with exquisite wildflowers and frondescence.
-- Paul Newman, In Pursuit of the Common Good
I now become aware of the sound of rumbling water, emanating from somewhere inside the rain forest next to my tropical rest stop. I approach the wet and abundant frondescence of the forest.
-- Richard Wyatt, Fathers of Myth

Frondescence is from the Latin root frondēre meaning “to have leaves.” It is clearly related to frond meaning “leaves.”

braird \BRAIRD\, verb:

1. To sprout; appear above the ground.
1. The first sprouts or shoots of grass, corn, or other crops; new growth.

Oats require about a fortnight to braird in ordinary weather.
-- Henry Stephens, The book of the farm
And yet, in puny, distorted, phantasmal shapes albeit,/It will braird again; it will force its way up/Through unexpectable fissures.
-- Hugh MacDiarmid, On a Raised Beach

Braird derives from the Old English brerd, "edge, top."

bough \bou\, noun:

A branch of a tree, especially one of the larger or main branches.

In the background, behind the pool and beneath the dramatic sidereal display, there is a little tree with a bird perched in its uppermost bough, exactly as there is on the Star card.
-- Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
He ran up the creeper as easily as though it had been a ladder, walked upright along the broad bough, and brought the pigeon to the ground. He put it limp and warm in Elizabeth's hand.
-- George Orwell, The Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays, and Reportage

Bough can be traced back to the Sanskrit word bāhu, meaning “shoulder.”

willowwacks \WIL-oh-waks\, noun:

A wooded, uninhabited area.

There aren't many airports in Eastern Canada; you look at one like Upper Blackville, out there in the spruce-and-fir willowwacks, and wonder what it's doing there.
-- The AOPA pilot: Voice of General Aviation, Volume 37
Sure there were difficult moments, like an awkward fall below Texas Pass that twisted my previously broken ankle the wrong way, or 30 minutes lost on a wrong turn due to trail that disappeared in a stream, or a willowwacks that just wouldn't end; but overall today was a great day.
-- Mike DiLorenzo, "Yellowstone, 2005."

Willowwacks is of uncertain origin.

amaranthine \am-uh-RAN-thin\, adjective:

1. Unfading; everlasting.
2. Of or like the amaranth flower.
3. Of purplish-red color.

Though she had been made an amaranthine immortal when she was twelve years of age, she'd had to wait for her extraordinary abilities until her body matured to its most perfect state before fully transforming.
-- Kim Lenox, Darker Than Night
It made him jealous to imagine them lost in this amaranthine profundity.
-- Sir Compton Mackenzie, Sinister Street

Amaranthine is a form of the Greek amarantos, "everlasting," ascribed to an imaginary flower that never fades.


  1. Yes, the evidence does seem to be mounting that you are, in fact, a nerd. But you are still cool, and everything you say or write is so urbane and witty (note to self...look up meaning of urbane). My favorite word is "frondescence" !! Love that one!! My goodness, that sure makes leaves sound important and glamorous. I am now so looking forward to spring when the frondescence of my boscage will again braird and display boughs of amaranthine beauty. Okay. Now who is the nerd?!! :-)

  2. I think it's important that we all embrace our inner nerd. As Stuart Smalley once said, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me." Now, doesn't that feel better?

  3. Nerdiness is in the eye of the beholder. You're an English major in training; that's all.

  4. I effing LOVE words.

    I swear a lot. I get annoyed when I hear people say, 'People who swear are not smart enough to engage in more intelligent conversation.'

    Lies. My range of vocabulary is epic. I could teach an English class. I just like the powerful pleasure of throwing out the f-word every few sentences (except on other people's blog comment sections when I'm not quite sure if the author's mothers are reading them).

    Big words literally turn me on. Talk nerdy to me.

  5. OMG! I had no idea that had a word of the day subscription service; I'm headed over there to sign up now. -Jean