I love flowers, who doesn’t? Most of us start gardening because of desire for our very own flowers (and tomatoes). After a while, though, you begin to realize that a “flower” garden is a lot of work – and, unless you live in the tropics, looks like crap in the off-season when all those annuals and perennials die or go dormant. There are all sorts of ways to lower your maintenance and increase the beauty of your yard. Trees, shrubs, having a plan, mulching to keep weeds at bay, hardscaping, can all help a garden along to year-round good looks. I’m a big fan of hardscaping, paths and decks are costly to put in but usually low maintenance and long-lasting once installed, (I made the mistake of putting in decomposed granite paths once. Dirt slumped out of the raised beds and sluffed out of the rockeries right into that grit making a seedbed most perfect – yikes.) Handsome furniture is a focal point and a place to sit, woohoo a twofer, fountains, pergolas all give a yard year-long structure.
“But what about the plants?” most new gardeners moan. Well, think beyond flowers, at least for some of them. Explore form and texture.
Form is the basic shape of a plant. A narrow tall Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) for example has a very different shape from a squatty dwarf pine. A rounded hebe may have a very similar form to that squatty pine from a distance but the texture of the two differ vastly. The pine has its clusters of pointy needles whereas the hebe has rounded leaves to go with its globose shape. To some extent, form is about how a plant looks from afar and texture is about its up close appearance, mostly it’s leaves.
A lot of plants give you an irregular blobular, indistinct form and fairly normal texture = elliptical leaves of an ordinary size. These plants hopefully have some other good reason for being in your yard – great flowers, or fabulous berries, showy autumn leaves, or cool bark – but they are unlikely to make a statement or give the garden appeal throughout the year like a plant with good form and/or texture will.
Upright rosemaries provide both form and texture. The upright growth makes a definite statement next to the more blobby shape typical of plants. Similarly the whitish stems with their upright, spiky evergreen leaves are a marked contrast to most other plants in the garden. The texture and form of rosemary draws the eye in the garden, giving it a place to settle. Of course rosemary also provides winter into spring blue flowers of varying shades and leaves for cooking. And they’re drought tolerant. I personally, never plant rosemaries because I hate their smell and their taste. Which is a pity because I really, really like the way they look.
OSU photos used to create collage found here.