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Entries in fern (2)

Friday
Apr172015

Landscape Design Principles and Elements of Composition: Texture

Feathery plumes of Dwarf Fountain Grass alongside Bluestone Stepping Stones and crushed Long Island gravel.This is the second in a series of articles on Landscape Design Principles and Elements of Composition (click here for the first entry on Color). Today we want to talk about texture in the landscape. There are many ways to achieve different textures with plants, but utilizing natural materials in a garden such as bark and foliage can work well in combination with other elements like gravel, stone, and wood that contribute to a garden’s sensory experience.

Groundcovers, especially between stepping stones, can lend to a variety of ground plane textures. Imagine the feel of soft, cool grass or gatherings of moss under bare feet on a spring morning. Soft, fuzzy perennial Lamb’s Ear in the garden is wonderful to rub between your fingers, as are the leaves of a sage plant. Showy grasses like Hakonechloa or Dwarf Fountain Grass blades are anything but sharp. Get up close and touch the ethereally light, delicate plumes on an ornamental grass when it flowers in the late summer. A mass in the distance is a beautiful visual but there’s nothing like sitting amongst them. Enjoy the grasses from the weathered wood of a favorite garden bench, or planted with a piece of bleached driftwood as a sculptural element to contrast the wispy blades.

Textural contrast of ferns and a Weeping White Pine.We can’t talk about foliage textures without mentioning ferns. There are so many varieties hardy in our area, all of them a textural delight to use in the garden. The fronds of a fern are what we notice first, but get up close and see the curled up fiddleheads (before the frond opens). Even the underside of the fern has something to offer with the clusters of sporangia, usually a contrasting red or brown, especially showy on the evergreen Christmas Fern.

Spiky variegated Agave nestled softly among Scaevola, Lantana and Alyssum.On the opposite side of soft vegetation are the bristly, sharp plants like Agave and Prickly Pear Cactus. Agave is mainly used as an annual or indoor plant here but Yucca is another spiky plant that you can use in the garden and there are many varieties hardy to Long Island.  Prickly Pear Cactus is considered hardy but may take a hit in harsh winters. It is best to plant them in a protected, well-drained area if you want them outside. The needles of many conifers also fall into the sharp category such as Blue Spruce. Not only is the color striking but the coarse surface makes these evergreens stand out from softer White Pine and the many textures of arborvitae.

The coppery, exfoliating trunk of a Paperbark Maple at Planting Fields Arboretum.Exfoliating bark on a Crape Myrtle, Paperbark Maple or River Birch adds almost an architectural texture during all seasons. Though they may look very rough to some, they can all seem quite wispy at times. A Japanese Dogwood, Hinoki Cypress or Alaskan Cedar on the other hand, offers a very firm exfoliating bark - not ones you’d want to touch. They are definitely a stronger visual presence in the garden. Then you have the smooth gray bark of a stately Beech tree that resembles a column holding up a canopy.

A garden needs rough and rigid objects to balance the smooth and soft offerings. The obvious rigidity in a landscape is the paved surfaces, but we will go beyond that. Stone walls are classic in a garden as are brick and stone paving. These materials also last a long time in the garden, weathering over the years. Weathering can add to the character of the stone and brick and lend a softer feeling to the aged hardscape. Cast stone and terra cotta planters are another way to bring solid forms into the landscape. Whether a rounded shape or squared off trough, planters provide a solid visual anchor for specialty plantings like summer annuals or winter displays.

Visually and physically speaking, textures in the garden are one of the greatest ways we experience outdoor space. Another major influence is lighting and its counterpart shadows. With the right lighting scheme, not only can a property be used day or night, it can also enhance the beauty of both man and Mother Nature’s architecture. Stay tuned for our next piece on light and shadow in the garden!

 

Written by Ashley Palko Haugsjaa

Friday
Feb142014

Indoor Greenhouse Oasis

Feels a little tropical, even in the winterOne thing that gets me through these dreary winter months is knowing I will be back outside in my garden soon. Another thing is my indoor plants. No matter how big or how little your living space is, there's always room for a plant.

Not only do indoor plants look attractive but they also have health benefits. Plants increase the air quality in your home by raising oxygen levels, removing toxins from the air and maintaining healthy humidity levels. Low humidity indoors during the winter can do dastardly things to your respiratory system, caused by the heating systems that keep us warm. Plants can make you happy and improve your mental health. Caring for another living thing can give you purpose and be fun, too.

Some plants are super easy to grow indoors, like the Snake Plant. Snake Plant, cacti and succulents make great first time plants for a person just getting started. They need minimal care beyond occasional watering. The only real issue to watch out for is over watering, as that will rot the roots. Other plants are super temperamental like African Violets. They need special soil, fertilizer and much more care than other options. Just make sure when you choose a plant that it has attributes you want; non-toxic if you have small children or pets, if your windows face north and/or east  get a plant that thrives in low light, or a plant that tolerates dry soil if you're not around much.

A ponytail palm adds great texture all year round

In my experience, where you buy a plant from can have a bigger impact on how they grow than how you treat the plant. You can't see inside the soil at the store and you won't know until you have the plant home for a few weeks if there are any issues such as fungus gnats, mold, or root rot. Repotting might save the plant if you catch the problem in time. I usually quarantine a plant for a month in a separate room before I let it join the others. This prevents insects and diseases from spreading to all my plants if I bring home a sick one. You should do the same when bringing plants in from outdoors to over winter them. You don't want the outdoor garden pests coming in!

They sell all kinds of gadgets to help an indoor plant owner; moisture meters, irrigation globes, grow lights, and other products, but nothing compares to experience. So buy a plant and start learning! Start with something easy, like the aforementioned Snake Plant. Seriously, you can't kill it. I brought one home from college and it didn't take the move well. I took it out of the soil and left it to dry out in a vase for over a year. Repotted it and that Snake Plant is thriving today. Dracaena marginata, Dracaena 'Janet Craig' or a Spider Plant would also be good to start with. Some of the other plants in my home are Ponytail Palm, Jade Plant, Dracaena, African Violets, Orchids, cacti, Agave, Aloe and an array of succulents, among others. They all have different colors and textures to liven up my living areas. The Aloe is especially helpful if I burn myself in the kitchen. I even have basil and mint in one of my greenhouse windows. I miss my herb and vegetable garden immensely in the winter and these tide me over until spring. Next year I'm going to see if I can bring more inside! 

If you have any questions about your indoor plants or your outdoor landscape, email me at ashley@goldbergandrodler.net. Let's figure out your plantscape together.

A blown glass watering globe adds color to plants not in flower


A closeup of the aloe plant, great for soothing skin irritations; just watch out for the tiny spines when you peel it!