Texture in the Landscape
Texture is everywhere. Every day, you visually and tactically perceive countless different textures, scattered all around you. While texture is technically felt, you can trick the eye into sensing texture. In design, one of the most powerful tools you can utilize is to harness and mingle textures in a way that appeals to the eyes and the hands.
In its most simple definition, texture is used to showcase contrast and diversity. Texture is the roughness or smoothness of the individual outlines of plant foliage, hardscape, or any other design element you can think of. Beyond physical and into a visual standpoint, different shapes simulate texture. Texture is best integrated with a focus on contrast, balancing smoothness and roughness, grouping one type of texture and bordering it with another grouping of dissimilar texture. As you can see in this picture (made black and white to highlight outlines), the lines and smooth texture of the Santa Barbara stucco walls contrast with the coarser texture of the paver walkway. The shape and texture contrast allows us to distinguish the different groupings of plants, and the stone benches’ flat, smooth shape distinguishes from the bushy texture of the plants.
In terms of plant choices, contrast can be harder to define and therefore is the focus of our illustration above. Try planting several shrub-like plants (i.e. Gardenia) and separating the groupings with contrasting strap-like plants (i.e. Daylilies). Their natural textures complement each other, and bring a sense of volume, definition, and interest to the landscape.
So far we have discussed in earlier articles how we use line, shape, form, voids, and masses to help create focus and direct the eye on a journey. Along with these tools, we use texture to create contrast and to define objects. We purposely used a black & white photograph to help define this concept without the complication of color, which achieves similar objectives and will be the focus of our next article.