What could be more lovely than early morning or evening in the garden, when plants virtually glow from warm backlighting? Who can deny that light gives plants life?
Light and shade change the way colors look and how they work together. Although you can't control natural light, you can play up its effects. Bright light has the same impact as warm color -- it advances visually, making an object or area feel closer than it really is.
Keep in mind that light can be either natural or artificial. It is easy to add a low-voltage lighting system to extend your garden enjoyment into the evening hours. Various fixtures and their positioning create different effects. Frontlighting a dark area highlights a particular feature. Backlighting silhouettes a sculpture, tree, or shrub. Sidelighting, which can also produce dramatic effects, is used mostly for safety along walks and paths.
Texture evokes emotional responses. Both tactile and visual textures invite you to touch. Use texture to contrast plants in groups or minimize architectural lines.
The characteristics of texture divide plants into three basic groups: coarse, medium, and fine. Coarse-textured plants, hardscaping materials, or garden structures have large or boldly tactile components, such as the leaves of rhubarb or an arbor made with rough-cut 8x8 posts. Fine-textured materials include many ferns and grasses or a delicate structure such as a bent-wire trellis or arbor. Medium textures fall in between.
Changes in texture can be subtle; the textures of various plants (and objects) are relative to one another. An ornamental grass, when viewed alone, may seem a fine-textured plant. However, when compared with zoysiagrass, which is much more finely textured, it may appear more coarse-textured.
You'll find lots of textures -- smooth or prickly, ripply or frilly -- and endless ways to combine them to achieve repetition, contrast, balance, and unity. All are found in a successful garden.
Often, the textural appeal of plants is found in their leaves. Dainty-leaved plants make a staccato of dots; grasses, irises, and daylilies paint pleasant, smooth stripes. Smooth hostas paired with astilbe's feathery flowers and serrated foliage make a classic combination.
A landscape without strong, contrasting forms becomes as confusing as a melody without rhythm. The form and shape of plants and other objects in the garden work to divide space, enclose areas, and provide architectural interest. Grouping plants displays their shapes and creates various effects.
Round forms, such as boxwood or barberry shrubs, for instance, add definition and stability to a mixed border. A series of mounded forms creates an undulating rhythm.
Repeated, narrow verticals also add stability. Alone, an upright arborvitae or a thin cactus looks awkward. Clustered, they appear well-placed. The strong uprights of a fence add a sense of security and completeness.
Continued on page 3: Scale, Pattern, and Balance