Laurent-Perrier’s gardening insights in the run up to the 2014 RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Award-winning designer Luciano Giubbilei has been commissioned to create the 16th Champagne Laurent- Perrier show garden and this year the theme is based on texture. We caught up exclusively with Luciano to find out how to create a textured space in our own gardens:

Luciano says “Texture in planting is often overlooked in favour of colour. It’s easy to be distracted by seductive reds or calming blues, but just as effective as colour combinations are textural combinations. In fact, some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen are monochromatic –  a controlled colour palette of just greens and whites, for example – but it is their textural combinations that make them so effective.” 

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  • When it comes to planting, it is usually the size and shape of the leaves that visually carry the texture of the plant. The larger the leaf, the bolder or coarser the texture. The finer or more filigree, the lighter and airier impact it has. Successful planting combines and contrasts textures for the best effect.
  • Remember that the impact of massed broad-leafed plants – like Hostas or Rodgersias – is greater than the same size area that is planted with finer-foliaged plants. So if you are using the two as textural contrasts, it you may wish to have a higher proportion of fine foliaged plants.

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  • Planting textures aren’t just leaves or flowers, it’s about trees too. Think about how certain bark types can change a garden; especially depending on the season. In our climate where many of our garden trees are deciduous, it’s worth thinking about this carefully as for at least 25% of the year – if not more – the bark is what you will be seeing! For example, the glossy, smooth mahogany-like bark of Prunus serrula has a very different feel to the rough fissured exterior of an Oak tree or the sinewy, muscle–like trunk of a Hornbeam. Even within the same genus bark can vary – consider the salmony, roughly peeling bark of Betula nigra (the River Birch) and contrast with the smooth white feel of  Betula papyrifera – is isn’t called the Paper Birch for nothing.
  • More delicately foliaged plants like grasses take a subtle yet vital role in planting design. All too often they can be unnoticed as a plant in their own right and used on their own they do not give presence, but without them, planting can look too heavy and overbearing. They allow the broad-leafed perennials to take centre stage but provide a unifying back-drop, giving essential grace and airiness to the planting. They knit together your beds and lighten the feel of them.
  • Wonderful plants with delicate textures – think lacey umbels; small, needle-like leaves; almost transparent veil-like structures. Chelsea favourites include grasses, ferns, fennel, Amsonia and Japanese Maples.

HARDSCAPING

Many things contribute to the feel of a garden, and texture is one that can be overlooked, especially in hard landscape. Taking the time to purposefully consider what hard landscape choices you are making is just as important as thinking about trees, shrubs and perennials. 

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  • Every material contributes a different quality. For example, the natural feel and warmth of wood; the fine, detailed crunch of gravel; the smooth, crisp finish of sawn natural stone paving. The quality of the surface of the material helps to set the tone and feel for your garden
  • Even within one type of hard material – say, natural stone – different effects can be achieved by choosing alternative textural finishes. For example, riven York stone communicates a more traditional, country feel to a garden. But laying crisply sawn Yorkstone suggests a contemporary, urban approach