In the Garden; Stripes are in Order

A straight line….a band of color…in other words; a stripe….brings a sense of order to a disorderly world.

Stripes are trending right now. As evidenced by recent spreads in national magazines from Elle Décor to Oprah. We usually think of stripes as two or more colors, alternating and repeating to form a pattern. Thus we think of them as being a man-made element, often in fabric or paint – but of course, nature plays the game too and many plants and flowers can join the fun.


modern planters with striped outdoor pillows and contemporary teak bench

The more lines the more modern furnishings look. Stripes look great with any outdoor style. (photo and design Joy Albright-Souza)


A few observations about stripes in the landscape;

Stripes we make; The eternally popular striped fabric, is one of the most common ways to enjoy stripes in a garden. The timeless, classic pattern never goes out of style. Whether in stark contrast or soft gradation, I love the way straight lines juxtapose against the curves and points of organic forms in a way that enhances the appreciation of both.


black and tan stripe cushions with leaves

Classic black and tan outdoor cushions contrast with and compliment the green of the garden.


Stripes plants make;  The living “hands-free” stripes that nature makes for her own amusement are a joy to behold. The presence or absence of chlorophyll, or other plant pigments, in living tissues, creates bands of color, especially in plants with linear foliage (monocots). Colors and patterns in plant leaves are sometimes manipulated by humans for additional variety and pleasure, by breeding or selection, but nature gets it started.


phormium leaves with detail

Phormiums (aka New Zealand Flax)  are one of the best plants for enjoying striped leaves in the landscape.


Human created living stripes – The best-laid plans;  The type of stripe that most fascinates me are the ones we create from the placement of living plants.   Agricultural patterns – such as row crops and vineyards are the primary example of these. This form of striping shows the eternal optimism of a well-planned project.  For ease, for order, for pleasure…..a line of plants shows the hope for an easy and abundant harvest. The promise of plenty. This type of stripe requires energy input to create AND maintain.


vineyard pattern with lines and shadows

Vineyards create horizontal and vertical lines in the landscape. Stakes and shadows seem to dance across the land.


Time and place transform stripes. As the added dimension of time plays her part, the drama really unfolds. Time can be….a season; with the growth of plants changing the simple line to an unruly dance. The line-maker is either pleased with the results or overwhelmed with disappointment, depending on the circumstances.

But time can also create drama by the daily movement of the sun’s arc in the sky. The light that brings a slow but constant movement of shadows and the position and depth of shade adds an additional element and pleasure to our experience of the landscape.


fence shadows stripe cat. perjoy. albright-souza

Patterns of shadow and light reach out from a backlit fence temporarily adding extra stripes to the cat who has wandered by.


The relative position of the viewer creates another transformative pattern in the landscape. This is probably the basis of my fascination with stripes…my childhood wonder at the rhythm of straight rows of crops, perpendicular to the road, appearing to open and close at a pace just faster than my brother and I could keep count, from the back-seat of the car.

rows of strawberries monterey

Perfectly straight rows of a strawberry field appear to reach toward the road, from the low viewpoint of a child in a passing car.


About now you may be wondering…”what is her point exactly?”  Good question.  It could be; the exploration of the graphic representation of man vs nature. But really…it’s just that I like lines in the landscape.


So here are five practical applications for stripes;

Go with the classics. If you are investing in outdoor cushions or other use of fabric – a timeless stripe will stay appropriate through many style changes and always looks great.


Albright-Souza design outdoor stripes cushions and pots

Striped orange cushions echo the striped leaves of the phormium and cordyline in the terra cotta pot. (Photo and plants Albright-Souza Garden Design.)


Harness the power of a line. A line attempts to contain or separate. Providing a pleasant contrast between an orderly edge and the random forms of nature as seen in a border, a fence, an angular pot or a crisp-lined shrub.


Clematis tenuifolia invades porch

Striped fabric balances the chaos of the Late Autumn Clematis that is reaching for the outdoor couch.


Stripes gone wild. Enjoy the fleeting nature of human attempts to organize organic things. A manicured edge can come and go, a line of newly planted vegetables turns to beautiful disarray by the time of harvest. Relax and learn to enjoy entropy.

Notice the details.  A striped shadow pattern reaches out once a day, then recedes and is gone.  A striped plant leaf begs to be appreciated up close. Take time to appreciate the gifts of the garden.


phormium leaf with yellow pattern

Up close detail of the dependable Phormium. One of many color combinations to add stripes to a garden.


Finally, remember this; The beauty of a line is in its success as well as it’s failure. So loosen up and enjoy both.


sunlight through fence with mirrors

Late afternoon sun shines through the striped fence design. Limemound Spirea and garden mirrors brighten the composition. Now all we need is for the cat to walk by. (photo and plant design by Joy Albright-Souza)


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Categories: Enjoying the Garden


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4 Comments on “In the Garden; Stripes are in Order”

  1. Susan Souza
    April 29, 2016 at 9:10 pm #

    Joy, your articles inspire me! The chaos in our back yard is calling out to me.

    • May 2, 2016 at 10:34 am #

      …and now you know that all you really need are a couple of striped cushions and you’re all set…ha ha!

  2. May 2, 2016 at 4:45 am #

    Fantastic, fantastic, stripes, landscapes, stripes, photos, stripes, gardens, stripes. All wonderful! Thank you.

    • May 2, 2016 at 10:36 am #

      Thanks for the comment Ed! Glad you enjoyed my little rant.

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