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GardenSMART :: Form Over Flowers

Form Over Flowers

By Lisa Bartlett, Garden Manager, Smith Gilbert Gardens
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Bartlett

When planning your garden, it’s important to remember that green is a color, too. While it is great to have a lot of flowers in your garden, texture will carry you through the season long after your flowers have faded.  

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What do I mean by texture? Texture is the overall appearance of the plant. Cannas have large bold foliage, in design we consider this coarse-textured. Bold texture adds drama. Ferns have very delicate foliage. We call that fine-textured. Fine-textured plants can soften and add movement in the landscape.

Here are a couple of tips to make designing with texture easy to remember:

  1. Opposites attract. Plant round foliage plants with spikey. Bold-textured plants with fine-textured.

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  1. Not sure your garden has the proper ratio of bold to fine? Here is a little design trick of the trade – take a black and white photograph using your smart phone. If it appears messy or jumbled perhaps adding a plant with big leaves will help. If you have too many bold plants your photo will look too dramatic. Adding fine texture plants will soften it.
  2. These same tips apply to flowers as well. Too many round looking flowers can be boring but by pairing them with the spikey flowers of snapdragons or foxglove you have tension in the landscape. Tension is much more pleasing to the eye.

Bold texture doesn’t have to come from plant material. A large stone or sculpture could be your bold texture. You can use texture in your pathways; by having larger stones mixed with smaller stones. It creates a much more interesting walk.

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Now that I have shared these tips with you, I hope you will get your phone and go out into your landscape take a photo; see if you need more bold- or more fine-textured plants. Your flowers will still be the show stoppers, but now you’ll have back up “dancers” for support.

Lisa Bartlett is the Garden Manager of Smith Gilbert Gardens. Kennesaw Georgia's premier public garden, is an established garden with over 3,000 species of plants, many rare. This garden stands out as an exceptional blend of art, history and horticulture, all creating a tranquil retreat from the city. 


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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