Texture refers to the quality or nature of a surface. Any surface. The texture of a marble sculpture might be described as smooth and voluptuous. A china plate has a hard and shiny texture that repels water. A lake might be as smooth as glass one day, and choppy the next. A woven fabric can be nubby and open textured, or silky. This farfugium leaf is a study in contrasting textures. The body of the leaf is smooth to the touch, and strikingly veined and shiny to the eye. The edges of the leaves are markedly ruffled; the leaf edges are sharp. Were I ever to eat farfugium, I imagine its texture would be juicy and crunchy.
Texture engages the senses. You can see a surface. This panic grass is primarily and busily vertical, with an occasional and beautifully draping stem. You can feel the surface. Ornamental grass leaves can cut your hands-the edges of the blades are sharp! Feeling that texture can be irritating. Animals who eat grass-who knows how they would describe the texture. I would guess it is chewy and stringy. Raw carrots are as remarkable for their crunch as much as their taste. Oysters and okra are slick, and slide down easily. Bread can be doughy, or dense. Or light, as in a souffle. Texture can be tasted. It can be seen. It can be felt. Heavy clay soil can be greasy. Sandy soil is gritty. Soil loaded with compost has such texture that air has an easy time finding a home in it. I cannot imagine how many adjectives exist to describe various surfaces-it would be a daunting task to make a list.
Suffice it to say that there are a multitude of utterly unique and enchanting textures in plants. Salvia argentea is notable for its felted leaves. It is the devil to grow, but its surface, its texture, is utterly unique. I have no luck with this plant in the ground, and only sporadic luck with it in containers, but I keep trying. The texture of the leaves reminds me of fur and felt both.
This pepperomia is noted for its markedly fissured leaves. The leaf is rough to the touch. It is interesting to the eye. Designing a container, or a garden, or a landscape, asks for all kinds of attention beyond the horticulture. The design details can endow a planting with a special beauty. There is color to contend with. There is volume and mass. There is line, and form. And there is texture.
I do not grow vegetables to eat. But I do grow them to look at. This ruffly leaf lettuce satisfies my eye’s demand for interesting texture, just as much as I admire the color.
Selaginella, or club moss, has dimuitive leaves. I would say it is very textural-the surface is lively. But given that it is a very small plant that hugs the surface of the soil, I would describe its texture as densely uniform. The idea here? Small leaves have an entirely different texture than big ones. The relationship of one texture to another adds another layer of interest to any planting.
On a stormy night, my boxwood read as a mass-the individual texture of all of those individual leaves is not so apparent. The roses are a lot of fluff, a lot of stalky canes-the blooms are soft to the touch. The roof is smooth from this distance; the clouds have a lot of color, a little bit of volume, and a weighless appearance. Many textures are apparent here. The relationship of one textural element to another is what makes for a design party.
A lanmdscape is comprised of many different elements-each of these elements have a surface and texture all their own. The relationship between distinctive and individual surfaces is what insures an enduring visual interest in a landscape.
Every surface here is hard-as in impermeable, or shiny. The textures are smooth and uniform. My client is asking-what would you do here? Perhaps, a contrasting texture!
This essay was written in conjunction with all of the other members of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable-be sure to check out all of their postings!