W4W: Tracery

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

Images of stained glass windows and old European churches immediately jump to  mind when I think of the word Tracery. This is the Word for Wednesday hosted by Garden Walk Garden Talk. It brought back memories of a humanities course I took as an elective in college which focused on architecture. The funny thing is what I remember most about the course was the lengthy study of flying buttresses.

Tracery is a term most commonly associated with architecture during the Gothic, Romanesque and Medieval times. It usually refers to windows and some ornamental design elements. Tracery structures often use interlacing and branching lines.  So how does one translate this terminology to the garden? 

I first looked at my plants for inspiration. I found that the Dogwood blooms reminded me of tracery used in Gothic windows. The dogwood bloom is also very symbolic in Christianity. It is said that the four bracts form the cross. The marks on the outer edges of the bracts represent the nail marks. The center of the bloom resembles the crown and the red dogwood berries represent the blood of Christ.  Makes you wonder if it wasn't the inspiration behind the cathedral windows.

The blooms of this Columbine resemble the more intricate plate work of rosette windows.

Aquilegia Winky Red & White

The petals of the iris could also be a vision for a window tracery.

Iris cristata 'Tennessee White'

The leaves of the Ghost Fern invokes images of the tracery work found in the framework of some of the long window of that time.


As does the veining of this decaying leaf.

The interweaving vines of the Lady Banks Rose resemble rambled lines sometimes seen in the more extravagant tracery works. I envision the lines of vaulted cathedral.

Some of the wildlife which call my garden home also have some interesting examples of pattern that could be the inspiration for some tracery works.  

The lizards have wonderful repetition and shape to their scales.

Here is a closer look~

The markings on the monarch caterpillar could be applied to the tracery with complex, interlacing designs.

The butterflies also have some wonderful patterns and symmetry like this zebra swallowtail which is feasting on the dainty blooms of the Coral Bell . It reminds me of a stained glass window with light filtering through reflecting beautiful patterns and colors onto the floor.

Heuchera 'Encore'

Thank you for indulging me as I stretch the imagination to find tracery elements in my garden. For other interpretations and examples be sure to stop by GWGT.


  1. Karin, you did a good job with the word. It is harder not to relate it to architecture, yet it is a legitimate landscape architecture word and garden element. You made the association with the imagery in the window designs, which often portrayed garden flowers and foliage. When I was in the church, I was tempted to photograph all the nature finds in the many windows, but thought I should go traditional garden design with the design explanation. I am glad you noted the subject of much of the architecture tracery. It is often filled with garden plants. I could bet you are the only one to do this too.

  2. Great choices and some lovely photo shots.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  3. Love the dogwood and the aquilegia. And the iris fleur de lis pattern is often seen in architecture. But I love the veining of the old leaf the best. Skeletal patterns can be so interesting.

  4. Karin this was a grand tour of lovely tracery in the garden..some that I missed and now will see whenever I look at these lovely flowers and critters...

  5. This was a beautiful expression of tracery. I especially like the scales on the lizard...excellent!

  6. Hi Karin, I am sure nature and the garden is the most common source of inspiration of the artists during those times. And the relationships you showed here are very well said and very well manifested in your beautiful photos. Your picks are very special and very touching. I love all of them. Something just come to mind now, not tracery but in relation to the reptiles. When we were in Java, Indonesia we saw lots of designs, engravings, etc etc, of lizards that it is really very common everywhere. We learned it is lucky for them to have those designs, however i haven't seen it in their stained glass. Or maybe because we didn't enter churches.

  7. Some superb photos! I especially like the Aquilegia and zebra caterpillar! And the veins in the old leaf is great too!

  8. I was delighted to see that picture of the columbine included. I purchased Winky Purple white last year and now I have a good idea of what those flowers will look like! Although, had I known there was a red and white...

    1. Marguerite, sometimes I wonder about the names...mine is named red & white but in my humble opinion it is more maroon than a true red. I wonder how your purple will match up. I hope you will post a photo!

  9. Lovely post, as usual. You are an inspiration to me and for that reason, I have awarded you the "Liebster Award" as one of my favorite blogs. Should you choose to accept, please link back to my blog, Gardening With Nature. http://gardeningwithnature.blogspot.com/

  10. Very nice Karin, I think the tracery of the skeleton of the leaf is my favorite. I am surprised you can grow Brunnera in your locale....thought it was too warm for it.

  11. Gorgeous examples of patterns and tracery in the garden!

  12. Hi Karen, you were asking about Heather. My only tip is that it doesn't like to be cut hard; no hard cuts as the plant finds it difficult to recover and will go very lanky etc. I try not to cut Heather and only do a very light trim after it flowers. Hope this helps.

  13. oops, I spelled your name wrong. I often spell my own wrong lol :)

  14. Beautiful photos - I love the Brunnera! I think so much of cathedrals and stained glass are patterned from nature, the ultimate inspiration.

  15. An excellent interpretation of the word. I didn't know about the symbolism of dogwood.


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One of my favorite things about blogging is the conversation with readers. Leave a comment and let's get talking. ~Karin

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