Texture in the Garden

Colocasia esculenta (see below for description) image: wikimedia Wildfeuer
Colocasia esculenta (description below)
image: wikimedia Wildfeuer

One of the best attributes of a well-designed garden is the use of texture in the selection of plant materials and hardscape materials. A well textured garden should photograph just as good in black and white as it does in color. In this post, we would like to highlight some plant materials that provide both punch and softness – all adding deep textural interest to make the landscape “reach out” to the visitor.

Big and Bold

One tree that has some significant foliage impact is Magnolia tripetala, the Cucumber Magnolia. It’s long tapered and creamy colored flower petals are not as showy as the blooms of some of its cousins in the Magnolia family, but its rugged growth habit, large size, and lush foliage is a real attention getter. The Cucumber Magnolia also adds a much sought after tropical feel to a northern garden.

Magnolia acuminata     image: wikimedia JohnOyston
Magnolia acuminata
image: wikimedia JohnOyston

Bottlebrush Buckeye, Aesculus parviflora, is a tremendous large shrub that features large scale leaves and tall white blooms in mid-summer. It is a very tough and underused shrub that takes full sun to partial shade and can colonize into a substantially wide plant.

Aesculus parviflora   image: wikimedia Magnus Manske
Aesculus parviflora
image: wikimedia Magnus Manske

For an annual flower with presence, the true species form of flowering tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris, is a great choice. Its showy white summer blooms look like fireworks and have a nice fragrance. The blooms are held high on sturdy stalks that can reach four feet tall, and create a nice contrast in deep flower beds when mixed with perennials. Nicotiana sylvestris is typically known as an old school plant, but it has been honored through the years by many horticultural societies.

Nicotiana sylvestris image: wikimedia Hedwig Storch
Nicotiana sylvestris
image: wikimedia Hedwig Storch

For seasonal color interest, or a large container specimen, consider the Colocasia family. Commonly called Elephant Ears, this popular and large group of foliage plants offer a large selection of colors, textures, and sizes – with some leaves reaching 3 feet in length! (See header image)

Fine textured plants

The Dwarf Calamint, Calamintha nepeta ‘Montrose White’, is a versatile and graceful perennial that is prized for its soft texture and neutral colors. The neutral tones are a great transition plant in a perennial border. Locating this plant along pavements is a great use as it billows over sharp edges and provides a pleasing effect, especially for a cottage garden. The Dwarf Calamint is a very reliable performer that is happy when left on its own.

Calamintha nepeta ‘Montrose White’ image: wikimedia  KENPEI
Calamintha nepeta ‘Montrose White’
image: wikimedia KENPEI

For softness in the tree group, consider a larch (or tamarack) tree. Their fabulous golden fall foliage colors are especially beautiful when reflected in a nearby water feature. Larix laricina is the native American species and is extremely tolerant of wet lowland soils. The tamarack is fast growing, with picturesque branching and small cones adding great winter interest after the golden needles have fallen at season’s end. Larix decidua is the European Larch and thrives in a wide variety of soils, but prefers a more upland setting. Both species are excellent when planted in groves, or as an individual specimen in an Asian inspired garden.

Larix laricina image: wikimedia Jason Sturner
Larix laricina
image: wikimedia Jason Sturner

The Spirea ‘Grefsheim,’ Spiraea x cinerea ‘Grefsheim,’ is an attractive midsized flowering shrub with fine textured foliage and attractive white blooms in mid-late May. It provides many of the aesthetic characteristics of other larger traditional white spireas at a much smaller size. This cultivar is typically 4-5 ft. tall and wide, tolerant of most site conditions, super hardy, and pest free!

Spiraea cinerea ‘Grefsheim’ image: wikimedia Wouterhagens
Spiraea cinerea ‘Grefsheim’
image: wikimedia Wouterhagens

by Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA, and Tim Garland, PLA, ASLA, Design-Build PPN Co-Chairs

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