Words 4 Wednesday – Texture and Pattern
When we talk texture, we look at it to describe surface quality that can be either felt or seen. In reference to gardens and landscapes, it is usually, but not exclusively, the visual aspect of texture with which designers are most concerned. Textures can range between fine to medium to coarse or bold.
Most plants are of medium texture and increase in interest when combined with fine or bold plants. Medium plants also standout from one another if you select plants of differing shape.
Fine plants recede and are relaxed. Finely textured plants are maidenhair fern, baby’s breath, lavender, and a number of shrubs like boxwood, yews, and barberries. They are fine because their leaves or blooms are small and many, or light and airy.
Coarse plants have larger leaves and flowers generally. You might think hosta, hydrangea, saucer magnolia, or really big, like canna or castor bean. Even plants like hosta and hydrangea have a quilted look, a patterned texture within a bold texture.
Texture is enhanced by light, in the way it mottles a surface with accentuation of pattern or surface texture. Case in point with the hydrangea above. It has such a detailed and crenated edge where it creates wonderful shadowing and light passage through the recesses of the leaf. It visually enhances a surface in the way it reflects light from the surface. Think of the many tiny leaves or needles glistening in the sun and dappling on the ground plane. This adds pattern and changes throughout the day.
But then again it depends on how tightly grouped a number of like specimens are as to whether they appear fine or coarse. The yew is a case in point. Up close, you might describe it as a finely textured plant, but in a group, a solid, they can appear as coarse.
The seasons affect the plants in the landscape as well. Trees that have many slender branches look finer in appearance than does those with fewer and thicker stems. This is most evident in winter when leafless branching provides landscape interest.
Motion also speaks to texture like with the ornamental grasses shown at the beginning of the post. Swaying in the wind, they have a finer texture than when they remain still. They change the pattern of the light too.
Texture may be best appreciated through direct tactile experience. The popularity of moss gardens is an indication of the appreciation of fine textures, especially when in association with natural stone.
A successful garden will site a variety of these tactile surfaces close to walkways and seating areas to maximize the tactile opportunity of the visitor. It is hard not the run your hand across the soft lambs ears or fuzzy Artemisia.
A designer trick is to desaturate an image to better see pattern and texture. It is a good tool to see why a grouping works or does not. The garden below has vertical surface textures also.
The lights, darks and small detail are more evident, and that is an important aspect in textural differentiation. Try that with your photos of your garden. Plants of scale can be seen more clearly without the distraction of color. Can you tell that this is the same garden shown above this B&W image?
The proximity to a plant can affect our view of it. Up close we notice detail, from a distance we perceive a larger scope. Plants come in so many forms that texture is evident in the flower, leaves and the form the plant assumes.
Trees add texture to a landscape.
With the bark and the leaves.
And sometimes a sapsucker woodpecker does too.
A needled tree may look fine from up close, but in a group of many, looks course.
Did you know that material used in the garden like fairly bland gravel, wood, concrete, stone and water are considered neutrals? These visually undemanding natural materials make a good foil for more complicated design.
Other patterns, like the concentric circles in the image above are restful shapes and elicit that feeling in the landscape.
Cues can be gotten from nature just about anywhere. A textural surface provides traction on a potentially slippery slope. The greenery between the paving visually softens the harsher concrete, but does increase the slippage of the surface. It depends on the style of design if a homeowner chooses to let mosses grow. Highly formal designs, like below, treat the surface, or in this case, use polymeric sand to substantially prevent occurrence.
The ground plane is a perfect place to weave pattern and texture. It does not have to be so overt as above either. But don’t dismiss the vertical planes of the garden. It is so trendy now adays to plant a living wall full of texture, color and pattern.
Color and texture come into play when choosing groundcover plants. In this type of planting the plants lose their individuality forming and blending into a mass. The mass can be smooth, fine, course, soft, wiry, but its main purpose is to provide texture and visual contrast to plants deemed more desirable.
Speaking of painting the landscape, it can be accomplished nicely in a rock garden. Texture is a given, but pattern comes into play when you mimic a textile and go for tapestry. This is early Spring and the flowers are not yet in bloom, but even in green you can anticipate the tapestry to come.
This is a very natural looking rock bed, with plants weaving in and out, as is the image below. Notice the scale of the rock below. See how the plants balance the massive rock? A lot of texture in these two hillside gardens.
And take cues from nature too. There is variety in the natural landscape.
Count how many different textures you see below and see how they highly contrast to their neighbors. They make a pleasant sight, no? You can drop the color and still see a big difference. Try that at home.
And make sure to join this week. Everybody has texture in the garden. See all the other gardens displaying texture or see unique takes on the words by clicking Mr. Linky for more posts.
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