When designing gardens, considering the plant form and color of plants are good first steps. Also consider the plant texture. Plant texture is the feel of the leaves of a plant. The “feel” can be by touch, as well as by sight. The size, shape, and leaf surface makes up a plant’s visual texture.
The size of the leaves places a plant in one of the three plant texture categories:
- Course Texture: Plants with large leaves have a course plant texture. Because their leaves are very visible and tend to catch the eye, plants with a course texture provide a good focal point in the garden. Note that too many planted in a small garden can overpower and make the area seem smaller. Larger gardens can have bolder, course-textured plants.
- Medium Texture: Plants with medium leaves have a medium plant texture. They provide a nice transition between course and fine-textures plants.
- Fine Texture: Plants with small, or fine, leaves have a fine plant texture. Hilary Thomas writes that fine-textured plants are ideal for smaller gardens because they don’t demand our attention, and they can give the impression of being at a greater distance.
The shape of the leaves also influences a plant’s overall texture. Some common leaf shapes are
Furthermore, the edges of the leaves vary. They can be
Tip: For small flower gardens, clipped Yew provides a nice background, and clipped Boxwood provides a nice compliment among flowers within flower gardens.
The leaf surface is the next element that gives a plant an overall texture. Some leaves are matt while others are glossy.
A plant’s overall texture gives a garden a certain look and feel. In The Complete Planting Design Course, Hilary Thomas writes that strong plant forms (such as columnar and spiky) and course plant textures (such as large leaves or little leaves that grow closely together) are dramatic and stimulating while relaxed plant forms (such as domes) and fine plant textures are unimposing and restful. Too many “stimulating” plants can be chaotic while too many “relaxed” plants can be dull.
Understanding plant texture can help you when designing gardens. Plant texture can affect a person’s perception of space (large or small) and can enhance a person’s mood (energized or calm). Using the right textures together can make a cohesive “composition” of a garden. A wonderful thing about garden design is that we can “redecorate” if something doesn’t work out—and that Nature is the final editor.