Begin by thinking of each plant as part of an overall composition When using four plants, one option is to divide them into a grouping of three plus a solo plant, which is particularly effective when you want to integrate two sides of a path.
Picture yourself at the garden center salivating in front of that hot new perennial or the hard-to-find shrub you’ve coveted for the last few years. You know you’re going to give in and buy it, so the real question is, Exactly how many do you need? When deciding the number of plants to use in a composition, you can saunter a garden path between rigid theory and emotional abandon. Though most design courses drill into students the dictum of planting in threes and fives, there are ways to successfully incorporate other numbers of plants as well. Learning how to use each number gives you the tools to forge a well-designed garden. It will also give you the confidence to sometimes fudge the rules to suit your project or budget, or to simply satisfy a craving.
Success lies in identifying your design goals and using the correct number of plants to meet those goals. Think of each plant as part of an overall composition, considering its form, its weight, and its relationship to the surrounding plants and architecture. Evaluating your site’s conditions will also help you to choose appropriate plants and to decide how many of each to include.
The following guidelines for selecting the ideal number of plants for various situations reflect the conventional wisdom I learned by studying landscape design as well as insights I've gained designing gardens over the last six years. Once you become familiar with the concepts underlying these guidelines, you'll likely find that the decision-making process about how many plants to buy becomes second nature. As you play with the numbers, just remember that if the design of your garden is not adding up the way you imagined, you can always get a shovel and shift a few plants until the whole picture is greater than the