In landscape design terminology, plant "texture" is the perceived surface quality (regarding size and shape, not feel) of a plant part via-a-vis surrounding plants. The texture of a specimen's leaves or blooms can be perceived as coarse, medium or fine. Eye-catching combinations can occur when coarse foliage is juxtaposed with fine foliage, creating a contrast.
Note that the term is necessarily relative in nature, even though one sometimes has occasion to use the term more loosely, in isolation. That is, when we're trying to be truly precise, we will say that the leaf or flower of plant A is coarser or finer in comparison to the corresponding plant part on plant B.
Note also, as alluded to above, that this is not an issue of how a leaf or flower feels to the touch. In everyday parlance, when someone says "texture," they're most likely referring to whether the surface of an object feels soft or abrasive, smooth or rough, etc. Occasionally, the term is used this way when referring to plants, as well, as when we say that a tree's bark is rough. In landscape design parlance, however, references to plant "texture" most often reflect observations about how a plant part looks relative to others, as defined above.
I have a photo gallery showing examples of plant texture and form to better illustrate these two concepts. But here are a few quick examples of plant textures:
- The leaves of elephant ears (picture, above right) are coarse.
- Since ornamental grasses have a finer plant texture, by comparison, they would contrast with elephant ears.
- Likewise, in terms of flowers, the blooms on the various types of roses are relatively coarse
- By contrast, the flowers of perennial bachelor buttons have a fine plant texture.