The lone voice of horticultural reason

“Don’t call shrubs ‘bushes.’”

The gyrating vernacular within gardening seems daunting to new gardeners, what with all the scientific terms one encounters in books and university papers (mycorrhizal, genera), not to mention the Botanical Latin names of plants that snobs such as I insist all gardeners learn and use. So this mild correction is relatively easy. New and non-gardeners often refer to those woody, mid-sized things growing, precariously, on their properties as “bushes.” They are, of course, shrubs.

Calling them bushes is similar to calling a quilt a blanket, or a Navy ship a boat. Yes, you will hear an astute gardener use the terms “rose bush” and “tomato bush,” but those have been grandfathered in. “Boat” may be used by a person in the Navy as a slang term for ship, allowable only because the person is in the know.

So, understanding that everything you grow that is not a tree, an annual, or a perennial, is a shrub, you may call a shrub a bush as a derogatory slight. For instance, purchasing a new home with a property edged in front with fifty-year-old Cotoneasters, it is perfectly permissible to mutter, “First thing I’m doing is tearing out all those miserable bushes.“

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener