Glossary of Garden Terms

This glossary provides short definitions for just a few terms that may not be familiar to all visitors to the London Parks & Gardens Inventory. It is by no means a comprehensive list.

Good sources of further information are found in Michael Symes, ‘A Glossary of Garden History’ (Shire Publications, 2000) or the national Parks & Gardens UK website, which has a Glossary of over 300 items.

Parks & Gardens UK also has summary biographies of people associated with parks and gardens, many of whom are relevant to London and there are numerous articles relating to wider issues in garden history.

Bee boleniche set into a garden wall used for bee keeping, in which to place a bee ‘skep’, an early form of bee-hive
Carpet beddinglow foliage plants of different colours arranged to form a pattern, geometric design or words, especially popular in Victorian parks
Clairevoiegate, opening or grille in a wall that gives a view to the landscape or parkland beyond
Common landland owned by one person over which another person is entitled to exercise rights of common (such as grazing animals or cutting bracken for livestock bedding), and these rights are generally exercisable in common with others (source: Defra)
Conduitartificial channel built for conducting water, as used in construction of the C17th New River
Crinkle-crankle wallserpentine wall with fruit grown in the bays
Demesnea house and its land, an estate
Dovecotebuilding in which doves were kept and reared from early times, often found in or near kitchen or walled gardens
Eyecatchergarden feature erected in such a way as to be visible from a distance, for example at the end of a view
Gothicmedieval style of architecture that was revived in the C18th and popularised by a number of leading architects
Grottoartificial cave-like feature, popular in landscape gardens from the C16th onwards. The interior was often encrusted with shells, stones and other decoration, the grotto often found near a water feature
Ha-hahidden, sunken ditch with retaining brick wall or fence, built to separate the formal garden from parkland, a device popular from the C18th designed to create the illusion that garden and park were seamless
Icehousesmall building packed with crushed ice, an early form of refrigeration to keep food cool in summer and often found on country estates from the C17th  
Island bedflower or shrub bed set into a lawn, appearing like an island of colour, found in numerous Victorian parks and gardens
Kitchen gardengarden, often walled, where fruit, vegetables and herbs were grown to supply food for the residents of a country house or estate
Lych-gatecovered entrance gate at many parish churchyards where the coffin could be rested before proceeding to the church
Mausoleummemorial built to house a number of tombs, often of elaborate design and commemorating an important family; found in many cemeteries
Moatchannel of water dug around a house, castle or garden as a means of defence, used from medieval times to prevent unwanted entrance; more recently a moat might be made for decorative purposes
Orangerybuilding made for the purpose of growing oranges or tender plants from the C16th before the invention of the glasshouse; the orange trees were in tubs so that they could be placed outside in summer but brought into the warmth of the orangery in winter
Parterreflat grass area, or ‘plat’, laid out with flowers and plants to form a pattern, designed to be admired from above
Pergolagarden structure of upright sides connected overhead, on which to train climbing plants, sometimes creating an extensive tunnel
Pleasanceearly term used to denote a garden or park used for recreational purposes, originating in medieval times
Porte-cochèreporch or covered entrance over the roadway through which a carriage could pass, allowing people to alight with protection from the weather; found in grand buildings but also in many cemeteries
Rondpointcircular area that forms the centre where a number of avenues, paths or roads converge
Royal parkpark belonging to the monarch, often originally for use as a hunting ground or deer park
Topiarythe practice of clipping trees or shrubs into particular decorative shapes, sometimes geometric, allegorical or figurative
Wildernessterm used in landscape gardening from the C17th for a designed, ornamental area of trees or woods laid out with paths, sometimes seats and statuary, to provide a place in which to wander, in contrast to the more formal garden