Creating a beautiful garden involves more than selecting pretty flowers and planting them in beds. The most memorable, lovely gardens add interest with long seasons of blooms, lush layers, and carefully selected plants perfect for their environment. As you design your garden space, color and size are important considerations, but texture also plays an integral role in the feel of your garden.
What Is Garden Texture?
“Texture” in a garden refers to the overall look of the surface elements of the garden, as well as individual plant’s attributes. The garden’s big picture combines plants—trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals—with hardscape—pathways, art, containers, fences, and walls–taking into account how their individual traits play together to create cohesion and ambiance in the space. Bold, hard stones may be softened with feathery grasses, for instance, or the peeling bark of a river birch can add a layer of interest next to crisp evergreen arborvitae.
Combining garden elements in both complementary and contrasting manners creates an interesting space rich in texture. A curving brick path surrounded by airy flowers or grasses creates a different garden aesthetic than a straight, cement walkway bordered by symmetric rows of rounded boxwoods. When designing your garden, consider your overall goals: do you prefer a formal landscape or informal, relaxed space? Textural elements help achieve your design ideas.
Selecting Plants for Texture
For individual plants, texture typically falls into three categories: bold, fine, or medium.
Bold texture refers to plants with wide, strong leaves or flowers that create an impressive focal point in a garden. Many bold plants, like perennial hibiscus ‘Peppermint Schnapps’, produce a tropical vibe in the garden with interesting, umbrella-like foliage or large, vibrant blooms. Bold textured plants create drama in landscapes, drawing the eye and adding excitement to the garden. Plants with large blooms or leaves can stand on their own as specimens. They also work well in groups, providing large splashes of color or generating green screens for privacy. Too many bold plants may overwhelm a small space garden, however, so select only a few for a powerful, yet balanced, effect.
Fine textured plants include those with delicate, wispy flowers or foliage. Plants with fine texture often look best in masses rather than grown singularly. These plants add a natural, casual atmosphere to the garden. Airy flowers rising above pretty foliage provide lightness and movement in the landscape, swaying with the wind and bringing the garden to life with texture.
Consider grouping finely textured plants in clusters of three, five, or seven for the best effect. Place plants with delicate foliage or blooms in areas where they can soften sharp edges or add soft contrast to bold leaves.
Medium texture plants fill in beds and borders, working well as groundcovers or backdrops. Most plants fall into this category, and they serve as beautiful garden workhorses, adding form, color, and texture throughout the garden. Mixing different shapes and sizes of leaves creates a garden rich in texture. Varying forms of flowers also add interest. Consider selecting harmonious colors of blooms in an array of sizes and structures to create a garden rich in texture without it feeling chaotic.
Not only do plants and hardscapes add texture to the garden, but light also plays with texture in the landscape, throwing shadows on blooms or highlighting variegation in foliage. Watch how sunlight moves across your garden space when you plan your design and incorporate plants effectively to take advantage of the play of light in the garden.
Plants with Great Texture
To design a garden filled with texture, select a mix of bold, fine, and medium textured plants, such as:
Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) ‘Persian Slipper’
With showy spikes of purple flowers rising over gorgeous, palm-like foliage, ‘Persian Slipper’ adds a dramatic burst of color and height to the garden. The texture of each flower spire, combined with interesting foliage, makes this a terrific bold planting for the garden.
Pampas Grass (Cortedaria selloana) ‘Pink Phantom’
An impressive ornamental grass that adds color and texture to the garden all year! Dense clumps of narrow, light-green leaves with sharp yellow edges brighten the landscape, with pink, feathery plumes rising in autumn. A breeze rustling through grass creates movement and interest in the garden.
Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) ‘Elvira’
A perfect blend of bold and fine textures! The bold blooms of ‘Elvira’ add stunning impact to garden beds, while the evergreen, narrow, strap-shaped foliage adds interest all year.
Yarrow (Achillea) ‘Apricot Delight’
The fern-like, delicate foliage of yarrow blends beautifully with the lacy, multi-colored blooms that continuously change throughout the season. A terrific compact yarrow with no need to stake.
Tickseed (Coreopsis) ‘Creme Brulee’
Stunning deep-yellow flowers with attractive serrated petals bloom above wispy, lacy leaves. Not only does ‘Creme Brulee’ add terrific texture, pollinators adore the flowers.
Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) ‘Spring Gold’
The adorable, heart-shaped, deep pink flowers play second fiddle to the real star of this plant: the gorgeous chartreuse, fern-like foliage that adds fantastic texture to garden beds.
Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) ‘Little Jack’
Pretty light blue, slightly fragrant flowers appear above mid-green foliage with pronounced silver markings in early spring. The compact plant sports heart-shaped leaves, adding lovely texture to the garden.
Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis) ‘Pretty Lady Susan’
With beautiful single, pink, two-inch blooms swaying in the breeze over fabulous foliage on compact plants, ’Pretty Lady Susan’ adds gorgeous color, movement, and texture to the landscape.
Pigsqueak (Bergenia) ‘Bressingham Ruby’
A perfect, richly textured spring-blooming perennial with deep rosy-red flowers rising above glossy green foliage. The leaves turn ruby red in autumn, adding fabulous fall color to the garden. Ideal as a lush ground cover for garden beds that adds interesting texture to the garden.
By playing with texture when designing your garden, you’ll create multi-season interest that goes beyond beautiful blooms—you’ll enjoy a lush garden with rich foliage and flowers that inspires joy.
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