Ilex and Lonicera 'Kintzley's Ghost'

Garden Designers Roundtable: Texture

by Andrew Keys on June 26, 2012

Opuntia and Ajania In the world of design elements, color is king, and the rest are courtiers. This is unfortunate, because to my mind texture is a far more sophisticated prospect, and maybe the one I like to play with most. But have you ever just wanted to rip it all out and start over again? I have, and this is in part because I’m a bit of of a texture-mixing junkie. I may have a bit of a problem.

Panicum and Rhododendron Here’s the sitch. I’m a sucker for fine texture, mostly leaves, whether it’s grasses, pines, or Amsonia hubrichtii. Alone, it feels peaceful. It’s restful to my eye. Mixed with others, fine-textured elements like grasses make medium-textured elements pop, when they might otherwise fade into the tableau. With bold textures, the simplicity of contrast can be simply spectacular. I know I’ve posted it before, but I like that rhododendron up there 100% more with grasses.

Pennisetum and Pine I grow a lot of plants in a relatively small space, for a lot of reasons–I’m a collector, sure, but I like to grow plants so I can speak from experience when I talk about them, and I like to find ways to make them look amazing with their bedfellows. I do believe it’s possible to mix a lot of different plants well in small space, especially by grouping similar textures together (see photo of Phlomis and Rudbeckia at bottom). Some days, though, I long for the simplicity, restfulness, and modernity of simple texture groupings like the one above: Pennisetum with pine, from a hotel where we stayed. Serenoa Okay, it’s a terrible photo that doesn’t capture how sublime this simple pairing was, but how about the natural tableau at left, a palmetto swamp in the South. Fine-textured foliage above, bold below. The irony is, the longer I garden on this site, the stronger my desire for this kind of simplicity.

Opuntia and Ajania Here’s the thing: there’s a whole section of my backyard that’s completely untouched. I have LOTS of plants packed into the front, and this backyard space is equal to the size of my existing garden.

Rudbeckia and Phlomis I’ve thought a lot lately about how gardens must evolve to fit the changing needs of our lives, interests, experience, and ability to maintain them. My strategy for evolving my garden as I (and it) grow older is to spread out the plants I have into that space, and simplify the texture scheme with larger blocks of fewer plants.

Simplicity, AND still with lots of different kinds of plants… Will I really be able to have it all?

Only time will tell.

Check out what other GDRTers are saying about texture!

Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Washington, D.C.
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI
David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA
Rochelle Greayer : studio “g” : Boston, MA

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