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Design

Best Plants to Add Texture to Your Garden

Who needs flowers when you’ve got texture?

Fine Gardening - Issue 196
The broad, flat leaves of red Abyssinian banana provide contrast behind numerous spiky neighbors. The red foliage also presents a welcome complement to the surrounding shades of green.

Upon visiting my garden for the first time, a designer friend of mine walked around shaking his head, saying, “The texture, oh the texture!” At first, I wasn’t sure this “texture” he was speaking of was a good thing. It turns out he was responding to the fact that I layer different types of foliage.

To test your texture quotient, take several photos of your garden and look at them on your computer in black and white. You’ll quickly see if there’s enough variance in shape and foliage style to make things more than a sea of green sameness. Here are a few of my must-haves for garden texture.  Get design ideas for how to use these plants successfully in A Cohesive Garden Built From Uncommon Plants.

 

red abyssinian banana Japanese emperor oak shredded umbrella plant

Red Abyssinian banana

Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’

Zones: 10–11

Size: 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist soil

Native range: Eastern Africa

Japanese emperor oak

Quercus dentata ‘Pinnatifida’

Zones: 4–8

Size: 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native Range: Japan

Shredded umbrella plant

Syneilesis aconitifolia

Zones: 4–8

Size: 2 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native Range: Eastern Asia and Japan

Curlicue sage Ground cover grevillea James Stirling whipcord hebe

Curlicue sage

Artemisia versicolor ‘Seafoam’

Zones: 4–10

Size: 8 inches tall and 24 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; normal to dry, well-drained soil

Native Range: Western North America

Ground cover grevillea

Grevillea × gaudichaudii

Zones: 8–10

Size: 6 inches tall and 36 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; average to dry soil

Native Range: Australia

‘James Stirling’ whipcord hebe

Hebe ochracea ‘James Stirling’

Zones: 7–10

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; average to dry soil

Native Range: New Zealand

Trifoliate orange Wire netting bush Tropical pitcher plant

Trifoliate orange

Poncirus trifoliata*

Zones: 5–9

Size: 10 to 20 feet tall and 6 to 15 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; average to dry, well-drained soil

Native Range: China

Wire netting bush

Corokia cotoneaster

Zones: 8–10

Size: 6 to 10 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; average to dry soil

Native Range: New Zealand

Tropical pitcher plant

Nepenthes alata

Zones: 10–11

Size: 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Conditions: Partial shade; consistently moist soil

Native Range: Philippines

 


*Invasive alert: Trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata)

This plant is considered invasive in North Carolina.

Please visit invasiveplantatlas.org for more information.


Loree Bohl is the author of Fearless Gardening: Be Bold, Break the Rules, and Grow What You Love. She gardens in Portland, Oregon.

Photos: Claire Takacs Photography

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