News & Info

Using texture in landscape design

Various textures and colors, Leucodendron in the background

Texture is a term typically used to describe the overall size of the leaves of any plant. Fine texture describes a more hair-like or needle-like foliage with a softer appearance. Generally fine-textured plants have a more natural, somewhat unkept/ relaxed appearance. They may recede visually and can draw attention to the form and color of other surrounding plants. In mass, small areas of fine textured plants may appear a bit larger.

Heavy or Coarse texture would categorize plants with larger, broader leaves that tend to dominate a planting bed and grab attention when used singularly. Many tropical type planting schemes will highlight plants with heavier textures.

An easy way to create dramatic visual interest in planting beds is to mass plants in layers with a mixture of textures. Since most plants tend to fall into the ‘medium’ texture range, here are some ideas for both fine and heavy textured plants including some trees/shrubs/perennials that work well in Northern California.

The names below are the Latin/ botanical name of a specific Genus, species, and/or variety.
Achillea ‘Moonshine’Agave parryi
Coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’Fatsia japonica
Erigeron karvinskianus Heuchera ‘Stormy Seas’
Leptospermum ‘Ruby Glow’ Hydrangea quercifolia
Pennisetum alopercuroides ‘Hamelin’Magnolia soulangiana
Thuja occidentalis ‘Smarag’d’Stachys byzantina ‘Helen von Stein’


Using texture in landscaping

Different textures in landscape create interesting contrast.

Textures of hosta, pulmonaria, heuchera with lysymachia n. “Aurea” in foreground



Too close to house

This tree was planted too close to the house.


Perhaps one of the most important decisions to make in the planting of a landscape is deciding on the trees –  the specific type of tree and the location within your landscape.

Trees can be the most permanent feature in the living part of your landscape. Over the years in the landscape business, I have seen more poorly located trees than I ever imagined.

Let me share some steps to consider before the first tree is ever planted. I strongly encourage you to do your own homework and familiarize yourself with the ‘nature’ of each and every tree that you are adding to your yard.





Step 1: Investigate the type of environment that your tree of choice would be found in nature.

Some examples:

· a river bed-willow, river birch or boxelder

· a dry, rocky slope- toyon or blue oak

· a shaded understory of the woods- redbud or dogwood

If your site matches the conditions that you would naturally find your tree of choice, then you could have a much healthier tree from the very beginning. If you are in an area of poorly-draining clay soil as I am, it could help to build up the beds by making substantial earth mounds to enable the new tree to root into at least 12” of better soil. This allows it to properly spread its roots and anchor itself.

Step 2: Consider the actual mature size and shape of the tree species and variety that you are going to plant.

This tree is oversized for the small yard.

Keep in mind that if your tree can eventually get 40 feet wide, then you may not want to plant it any closer than 20’ (half of its full diameter) from a structure. The mature size of a tree is very different from how it looks when it is first purchased. Trees planted too close to the house wall will often develop a severely crooked habit as they reach for the best of the sunlight that the house blocks.

The various shapes of a tree would be important in relation to neighboring plants/trees/structures. Tree shapes are usually one of these shapes: rounded, vase-like, pyramidal, weeping or columnar.

Step 3: Know the type of root system the tree has.

Some trees, like Oak, Hickory, and Walnut have a tap root that stabilizes and anchors the tree so it would not be as impacted by minor disturbances around its base. Other trees are notorious for shallow support roots that appear right at the surface – Cottonwood, Birch, Poplar, and Silver Maple. They can cause issues with the lawn or foundation walls.

Some trees have roots that seek water and would not be appropriate to place near a French drain or a septic leach field. Some roots will run and sprout up new unwanted plants along root nodes. Bamboo and Black Locust are good examples of these types of roots.

As it matures, some maintenance may be needed. It is best to periodically – annually or every few years – have all trees inspected by a certified arborist that knows how each specific species grows. These professionals would determine what and when pruning is needed, any treatments for disease/insects, and what type of fertilizer may benefit the overall health and vigor of the trees.

Poorly pruned Japanese Maple too close to the foundation wall.

For smaller ornamental trees (15’ or less) like Japanese Maples, there is also an organization called Aesthetic Pruners Association that has many talented individuals capable of pruning the smaller trees a natural way to enhance their health and maintain their overall appearance.

If you are diligent to follow these steps, you may have trees in your landscape that far outlive any of us and provide much needed shade, tranquility, and personal enjoyment for you and others for many generations to come.


When you work with a landscape designer and landscape contractor on your outdoor projects, there are a few key terms that you’ll want to understand.

Here are a few explanations of terms that you will most definitely want to know.

Patio uses interlocking pavers“Hardscape” defines any solid or hard area within your landscape. This includes items such as patios, walkways, retaining walls, seat walls, outdoor kitchens, bbq islands, arbors, pergolas, solid roof structures, and pools.

Basically this is any hard surface that you might walk on, sit on, entertain on, or sit under.

“Softscape” commonly refers to the ‘soft’ or green part of the landscape – grass, plants, mulch and irrigation.

This also includes all the landscape supporting components such as 12 volt lighting to highlight the greenery, and drainage beyond the hardscape areas.

Softscape design in San Francisco landscaping designBoulders, crushed gravel paths, dry stacked stone walls or natural components like ponds are typically included in softscape discussions.

Both hardscape and softscape are key components of a Master Plan and should always be considered in a proportioned fashion.

Landscape Architect
A Landscape Architect is usually more specialized with training/education in hardscapes including principles of design and architectural history as it pertains to outdoor spaces. This applies to both small landscapes and much larger scale like golf courses.

Landscape Designer
landscape design drawingLandscape Designers often focus on strictly residential projects with a more extensive knowledge of plant materials and the specifics of softscapes.

Any great design has the proper balance of hardscape and softscape that best suits the client needs. Every outdoor space should be treated as a unique place with specific needs different from any other.

From concept to realization, I can help you create a landscape design that suits your home and family – contact me here.

Water Beads on LeafHow can you tell how well a plant is doing when you see the leaves starting to droop?

What’s the problem?

Our first reaction is usually to grab the hose and put lots of water on it because wilting leaves must mean that it’s quite thirsty. Right?

Not necessarily.

The signs of too much water and not enough water are quite similar. Some closer investigation may give you clues on how to best proceed at caring for your droopy plant.

First, rake back the mulch around the base of the plant. Take a small trowel and dig an area down a couple inches deep. Then, feel the soil.

Is it bone dry, moist or wet? That will help you in determining what it needs.

If it’s already wet, no need to add more water around it. If it’s rock hard and dry as a bone, then perhaps adding water will bring it back to good health.

Is Your Plant Too Dry?

A plant that’s too dry will still send its water/nutrients to the youngest leaves which are typically located towards the ends/outside tips of the branches.

So the entire plant may not appear wilted but the oldest inside leaves may begin to droop and often turn yellow or brown and fall off while the outside leaves are still perky and green.

Is Your Plant Too Wet?

The overall appearance of a plant that may be drowning is all of the leaves will wilt simultaneously. It may have the appearance of a somewhat grayish-green coloration to the leaves. The leaves may take on a flagellated look.

ADJ-dripperLeaves will usually turn from green to brown and remain drooped on the branches. Sometimes even the stems will look ribbed and saturated just below the bark.

In those cases, do not add water. Remove the mulch and help the drying out process. Change the size of the drip emitters to a smaller volume to help eliminate excess water.

Having been in the business over twenty years, I have seen my share of ailing plants. Most often it is due to being overly wet even in years of drought. Seldom is it not enough water unless an irrigation system is non-existent or poorly planned.

Excess water can come from run off from other areas, lawn overspray, and leaky lines. For areas that seem to never dry out, perhaps some alterations to the spray heads, drip emitters, or grading could be in order to correct the problem. Even adding sand below the foliage will help hold moisture off the immediate plant leaves.

Whatever the reason for the wilting leaves, definitely always take a closer look before simply adding water.

Call or click to contact Jennifer for your landscape needs.

artistic-drainWith the winter rains, it is a terrific time to evaluate your overall drainage system.  Is it working as it should?  Does the water flow away from the house foundation?  Or is it pooling/puddling somewhere in your yard?


Different scenarios require different types of drainage.  Almost every yard should have some sort of drain lines in place to prevent future issues regardless of the size of the property.