What Texture Means in Terms of Plants and Garden Design

nassella tenuissima mexican feather grassThe term “texture” in regards to garden design does not refer to how a plant feels but rather the overall visual texture of the plant—the size and shape of the plant and its foliage. Common words to describe the texture of a plant include bold, soft (or fine) and coarse.

Keeping texture in mind when designing a garden is essential in order to add striking and enticing contrast. The overall picture will be influenced by the textures you include.

Also, using the right texture can even make gardens appear to be smaller or larger. For example, if you have a relatively small garden and you want it to appear larger, try using finely textured options —plants with small or slender, feathery leaves and stems—to create the illusion of more space. Examples of fine-textured plants include ferns, cosmos, junipers, asters and ornamental grasses, such as the Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) shown.

If you have a larger garden and you want it to seem smaller, use bold and coarsely textured options—plants with large leaves and flowers that often appear tropical. Examples of coarse textured plants include hostas, rhododendrons, viburnums and elephant ears (Colocasia and Alocasia spp.)

Image: Stan Shebs
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Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture and Form breaks down the principles of good garden design in a way that is not only easy to understand but also easy to carry out.

Noted garden designers Susan Cohan and Rebecca Sweet will help inspire you to improve your overall landscape in the easy-to-use download Design Perspectives.

Download the Smart Gardening Series: Landscaping Ideas for great do-it-yourself landscape design ideas that will not only improve the overall look but also the usability of your yard.

In the Garden How-To University: Proper Plant Selection & Maintenance you will learn everything you need to know for choosing the perfect plants for the right spots in your yard.

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