Texture in garden design refers to the visual roughness or smoothness of a plant and can create visual interest. Textural qualities of plants are most important in smaller gardens since a plant’s texture is most noticeable at close range. Texture is generally read as the mass and void of foliage, bark, or flowers and changes with the light during the day as well as with the seasons. Up close, the size and shape of the leaves and twigs become the predominant textural elements of a plant. From a distance, it is the quality of light and shadow on the entire form, the patterns of light and dark that translates as texture.
Fine textured plants appear delicate and recede from view so plants such as birch, boxwood and inkberry can make the space appear larger. The opposite is true for coarse-textured plants such as Rhododendron and viburnum, which create a more intimate feeling in the garden.
In fall, after the leaves fall, some trees and shrubs stand out in the garden with their unique textural bark. An often overlooked feature in the garden, a plant’s bark is most important in the winter.
The Heritage Birch Tree (Betula nigra 'Heritage') is a great tree for any garden and can grow to 60' tall and 40-60' wide. The texture of its grey and tan bark is striking with the outer bark peeling back in large patches. The Shag Bark Hickory (Carya ovata), as the name suggests, also has bark which peels away from the trunk giving the tree a shaggy look. The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is a large shade tree growing 60-75' tall and 50-60' wide. Its bark, a dark gray-brown, contrasts nicely with the snow and adds texture with its long, deep ridges.