Garden Design Essentials: Texture

At least 2 of those senses come into play when you bring texture to the landscape: touchand sight.

Marjorie Elliott Bevlin composed in Design Through Discovery: The Elements and Principles, “Textures are so much part of our environment we generally take them for granted.”

Nothing can be truer in the outdoor world. Everything from sleek, polished river rocks to thorny agave plants comes with an inherent texture. But texture can be viewed. Visual texture is an important design component for capturing the drama of light or shadow against surfaces or lending depth, measurement and definition in comparison.

Touch: Give your backyard a tactile quality with the addition of masses of soft, fuzzy, or feathery plants to the places where your ankles or hands will brush against them. Touching the velvety leaves of lamb’s ears can trigger any number of emotions — most likely pleasurable ones.

Sight: The most elementary rule I follow in creating minutes of visual texture is to pair bold foliage with nice foliage. Another way to express this is with plant forms and amorphous ones. Each reads more uniquely when placed in juxtaposition to the other.

This suggestion works equally well with the surfaces of distinct outdoor fabrics, together with plants in a container garden, or in a dramatic boundary, seen from a distance.

And remember, texture doesn’t have to be messy or busy. Give yourself the challenge of blending two key plants as a signature duo then replicate that pairing across the landscape to get a sublime and sophisticated appearance.

More in this series: Utilizing Lines in Garden Design | Using Rhythm in Garden Design

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

As powerful as a black and white photograph, texture can be dramatic when the colors remain the same. Here, a sleek cast-stone paver rests in a bed of pebbles, too in the exact same concrete colour. The eye will immediately read this pairing as a pleasing texture contrast. The soft feather grass lends a surprising accent.

Debora carl landscape layout

This low-water layout is anything but dreary. It is a fabulous example of using contrasting textures such as effect, especially in a small space. The needle-fine blue fescue grasses appear soothing as a carpet beneath bold-shaped, red-tinged Kalanchoe, also known as throw plant. I’m unsure which cultivar the designer used, but one that is similar is that the aptly called Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Bronze Sculpture’.

Debora carl landscape layout

Here’s a textural burst in a container garden, based around the dramatic variegated Aeonium, a succulent which has a different, flowerlike arrangement.

One of the popular variegated forms is called Aeonium decorum ‘Sunburst’. Notice how this magnificent plant commands our attention, but also how it’s complemented by narrow, small-leafed and trailing succulent forms. They look happy to allow the sunny Aeonium take center stage.

Studio H Landscape Architecture

Most textures, 1 colour. An all-green planting scheme does a good job of demonstrating our attention reads textures in a single palette. The row of feathery papyrus stalks is silhouetted in front of a retaining wall, whereas the curved clipped-box contours on the hillside above have a heavier quantity. Collectively, these distinct green textures produce a pleasing visual tension — and balance.

Philpotts Interiors

Texture is an important layout component when you are selecting outdoor fabrics and furniture. Here, the picture all-weather upholstery plays well with the huge bird of heaven foliage seen past the lanai.

Those two fearless impressions are balanced with the finely woven wicker seats along with the polished wood side table. This setting has been an invitation to relax, feel the breezes and revel in the moment.

Molly Wood Garden Design

All the foliage is lush, green and textural, although the hardscape, pergola/awning and furniture upholstery is glossy and white. What a relaxing garden room.

I like the only suggestion of colour comes from the trees and trees as well as the turquoise accent cushions. The texture story continues where the concrete walkway appears to float over a gravel bed.

Huettl Landscape Architecture

Various textures and colours combine here to get a stunning vignette. Even if this layout had no colour, your eye would still read the a variety of textures, from the long, slender wands of lavender to the threaded blue grass at the base of the Japanese maple tree, with its burgundy, palm-shape leaves. Threadlike golden conifer textures occupy the front of this bed.

Don Ziebell

Here is a favorite quote from Design Through Discovery (Bevlin) on texture, which this open-air living room illustrates: “Tough textures … have a warmth about them which makes most men and women feel at ease — the sorts of textures seen in brick and stone, jagged wall surfaces, and in thick carpets and nubby draperies.”

Tough textures abound here: rustic wood for the fireplace mantel and exposed beams; woven wicker furniture, irregular brick pavers and mortared rock for the fireplace and walls. Every one these surfaces are organic and comforting.

Tracy Stone AIA

The surface textures within this spalike outdoor shower space make it so very special. According to the designer : “The shower now offers a deck of ironwood, smooth-trowel plaster walls and an enclosure made of recycled resin panels with embedded reeds.” The privacy panel using an embedded reeds echoes the nearby planting of reedlike horsetail (Equisetum hyemale) — a pleasant, textural touch.

Utilizing Lines in Garden Design

Utilizing Rhythm in Garden Design

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