Have you ever walked through a mysterious garden that seemed to shift mood with every turn? Have you experienced a landscape where you wanted to reach out and touch everything in sight; some alluring space where the luminous tufts of fountain grass and velvety soft lambs ears just begged to be stroked? The qualities of texture, shape, and line add wonderful depth and complexity to a garden design, allowing space to be revealed, concealed, and enjoyed in layers. But unless you have an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, and an eye for design, this kind of garden can be very difficult to create. So where does the average gardener turn for practical information on how to create this kind of magical space? Until I picked up Linden Hawthorne's Gardening with Shape, Line and Texture, I thought that an approachable book on the subject of plant structure and tactile characteristics was impossible to find.
Gardening with Shape, Line and Texture is an unusual, and endlessly useful new landscape design book focusing on the material and spacial qualities of plants and how they may be used to strengthen a garden's structure. One of my favorite things about the author's approach to the subject, is the innovative way in which she has chosen to lay out the chapters. Hawthorne organized this fantastic sourcebook in sections divided by shapes—including verticals and diagonals, clumps and mounds, horizontals and tiers, and so on—so that a plant can be easily found to fill a particular design need. For example: if I were hoping to create a semi-sheer division between a dining terrace and pool, I could simply flip to the 'clouds and transparents' chapter to locate airy, living solutions to my design dilemma. This filmy section includes all sorts of delightful choices, from stately Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus), to feathery plumed Silver Maiden Grass, (Miscanthus sinensis 'Silberfeder').
Even experienced designers struggle with the three-dimensional aspects of a garden's layout from time to time, especially as seasons change and plants mature. Hawthorne approaches the subject of garden design from a painterly point of view, encouraging an emphasis on the overall compositional and proportional aspects of spacial structure. There are many ways to create a beautiful and dynamic garden, and Gardening with Shape, Line and Texture reveals dozens of the key design tools professionals use everyday. With Hawthorne's help, even the beginner can learn to find the right plant for the right space, creating a beautifully layered garden, filled with touchable, sensory allure.
Which plants in your garden are your favorite to touch?
Michaela grew up gardening, studying plants, and picking organic produce on the family farm. When she isn't spreading compost or pruning shrubs, she can usually be found writing articles or giving seminars on all things gardening. Michaela has worked as a gardening professional for 15 years and is author of the popular blog, The Gardener’s Eden.