Previously we have looked at what texture is in garden design; it is often referred to as the surface quality of the plant and can range from delicate to coarse. It is a character element that can be used by itself or with other elements to create a feeling of unity. Textures appeal to multiple sensory experiences at once. You can often tell what something is going to feel like just by looking at it, but there may be more surprises in store as you explore. Think of Stoch’s bination, also known as ‘lambs’ ears’, the leaves have that soft woolly texture. Whereas Stipa tenuis Simo (feather grass) makes you want to run your fingers through the leaves. Plant texture can be the visual smoothness or roughness of the leaves and flowers of any plant or tree. Certain forms and surfaces invite touch and the visual and physical effect of a border is heightened when there is great textural contrast because of this ‘invitation to interact with the textural plants.
Examples of plants with coarse texture are Gunnero monicoto, Bergenia, and even Fotsio japonica — where often the leaves themselves become strong and dominant focal points. If you have a small garden, having coarse.
Textured plants can make it feel claustrophobic. Generally to create greater depth coarse-textured plants would be placed in the foreground and finer textures around the boundary. In a small garden, this could be achieved using Fatsia japonica in the foreground and Osmanthus x burkwoodii or Sorcococco confuso (or varieties) around the boundary. Often medium-textured plants are used to link the coarse and finer textured plants to create harmony whilst softening the contrasting textures. The shrub Elaeognus x ebbingei and perennials such as Geraniums or Heucheras both have medium texture foliage that helps link the others together. Finer texture plants have the smallest leaves such as Hebe, Yew, or Stipa tenuissima. These plants do not seem to demand the attention that the coarse plants require and therefore are more calming and much easier to look at. They also have a great quality of receding; therefore planting a small garden with many fine textured plants can make it look larger. Fine-textured plants can often play an important part in the more formal planting schemes because it is often the overall shape of the plant rather than the leaves that become the dominant feature. So, for example, Buxus sempervirens (Box) has very small leaves but can be clipped into many shapes as does Toxus baccoto which provides a good backdrop for different types of planting schemes. A plant’s texture can also set the mood of a garden; if your garden is lacking in texture remember that too many plants with fine textures can create a fuzzy blur, and too many bold or rough plants can make it feel claustrophobic. Think of the ratio 1/3 fine and 2/3 course texture and you usually can’t go too far wrong.