You don't need big showy flowers to create a garden bed that vibrates with color. Use leafy perennials to plant a quilt of subtle color and eye-catching texture. In this photo, Carex elata 'Bowles Golden' and hardy impatiens 'Omeiana' rub shoulders with viola 'Heartthrob' and a leafy hosta.
Create plant texture combinations by pairing leaves with opposite characteristics. In this photo, the spiky needles of a spruce branch contrast nicely with the flat, puckered leaf of a hosta. Think about textural vignettes when planting beds and borders.
Use the talents of gray-green plants for instant texture in a garden. In this photo, Artemisia ‘Parfum d’Ethiopia’ offers lacy contrast to the starry blooms of bacopa. Other gray-green foliage plants include sage, Dusty Miller, and many types of Artemisia.
The pairing of different flower shapes, sizes, and forms creates interesting texture in a garden bed (in the same way that flowers do in a bouquet). Here, a large globe-shape purple allium contrasts well with a rose-color, frilly-petal peony. Both bloom in the spring. Alliums range in size from short to tall, but nearly all the flowers are round. Peonies bloom in red, pink, white, yellow, and bicolors.
A mix of low-growing sedum varieties makes for a colorful and easy-care garden bed. In this photo, a vibrant and textural mix of perennials carpets a green rooftop. These low-growers form a thick mat of textural foliage and flower. Included are yarrow, catmint, and a variety of sedums.
Ornamental grasses come in small to tall varieties and add lush texture to any garden or landscape. In this photo, the airy plumes and fountainlike blades of ornamental grass Miscanthus sinensis ‘Helga Reich’ contrast with the wiry branched, yellow-blooming goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’).
Think tall and small when creating a garden bed. In this photo, a redbud tree creates a pink cloud of bloom above a rosy peony border. Using different blooming plantings in the same color scheme (but with different flowering forms) creates a coordinated look in the landscape.
Pop in several spiky blue fescues to make an easy edging plant in a container surrounding a single red-leaf banana plant. (You could also replicate this look in a garden bed -- laying a carpet of blue fescue beneath a banana plant or other tropical beauties.)
Add textural, lacy lushness to any shaded spot with ferns. In this photo, lovely lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) contrasts beautifully with the round leaves of bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla). The ferns also look stunning growing beneath the ball-shape hydrangea blooms.
You’ll relish rainy days when you add lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) to your garden beds and borders. This plant’s big, velvety, scalloped leaves look stunning in sunshine, but they take on special beauty when studded with jeweled raindrops after a summer shower. Simply stunning!
Box up a bunch of succulent species for a textural tabletop mini garden. In this photo, low-growing sedums overflow the edges of their container. Included are Corsican stonecrop (Sedum dasyphyllum), Lewisia, and hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum). All plants require little care and are drought tolerant.
If you love texture, add a Yucca linearifolia to your container collection. This Mexican native has lovely blue-green foliage that looks like a fireworks display. Also called linear leaf yucca, this agave relative loves full sun, needs little water, and will grow 2 to 4 feet tall. It's hardy in cold climates to 20-25 degrees F.; in colder areas, bring it indoors for the winter.
Add a textural mix of perennials and grasses to decorate the edge of a walkway. In this photo, a moundy border create beauty and texture. Included are: Amsonia hubrichtii, ‘Walker's Low’ catmint, dwarf crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia), Letterman's ironweed (Vernonia lettermannii), and maidengrass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’).
Create a watercolor mix in your beds and borders by combining perennials with the same hues. In this photo, Veronica umbrosa, Allium schoenoprasum, Amsonia tabernaemontana, and iris create a melange of blues. Vary the heights of the plants, and choose varieties that bloom at the same time to get the best presentation.
Sometimes a plant’s leaves can be more interesting than the flower it produces. Case in point: begonias. There are a wide range of leaf possibilities produced by this one plant type. Angel wing begonias sport lovely winged leaves. In this photo, Begonia ‘Caravan’ offers puckered, veined, and rolling texture in leaf form.
Choose a mix of big-leaf beauties for a shaded spot. In this fantastic shaded border, an undulating mix of big-leaf foliage plants create a green textural backdrop. The border includes Gunnera manicata, variegated blue-hued hosta, Vinca minor, and euphorbia. This all-foliage garden is easy care, too. All are perennials and return bigger and better year after year.
Add quiet texture to a container by carpeting it with mounds of moss. Here, a shallow bowl is packed with plump pillows of cushion moss (Leucobryum). The contrasting lacy-leaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Orangeola') completes the Zenlike vignette. Cushion moss likes sandy soil and a shady to partially shady spot.