With my husband working in an essential industry and the little girls attending the School of Grandma each day so that I can telework, I’ve been alone for hours on end this spring.
I am an introvert, so for the first little bit it was refreshing to get some time to catch up on work that I was behind in. But at two months in, I’ve named all my kitchen appliances and make small talk with them during lunch.
People should not be alone for long periods, and neither should plants. Before I was an Extension agent and before I was a graduate student, I worked for a couple of years managing plants at a retail nursery. Unsure and new-to-gardening customers often asked my advice on selecting plants, or to approve the selection of plants already in their cart. One common garden mistake that I often saw was that customers purchasing five plants for their garden would get five different perennials, just one of each. I understand the mentality; there are many beautiful flowers, so picking five or six different blooms that you think are attractive isn’t a terrible plan, but, then again, it’s not a great one, either.
Get the most impact from your garden and the plants within them by planting at least three of each (though 13 or so would be fabulous). One plant may have entrancing flowers close up but isn’t going to make a splash in the garden from a landscape perspective. It’s going to look piddly. Having a drift of flowers, a rule of thumb being to plant always in odd numbers, is going to look better. A mass of flowers will stand out.
Walk through your neighborhood or drive down the road and look for this principle being put into use in landscapes you admire. Apart from creating a more attractive landscape, planting in drifts is better for the bees; it makes it easier for them to find nectar sources. By planting in multiples, you get more helping-the-pollinators-good-karma for the same effort.
Repeating plants creates unity and rhythm within a landscape. Adding groups of the same plant in several beds, or several groupings within large beds, will help pull a landscape together and make it feel cohesive. When we first purchased our house, there were six guara in a cluster in our backyard. Gaura seed out easily, and over the past two years, we’ve been spreading the volunteers throughout our herbaceous perennial border. Currently, grass-like sprays of blooms weave throughout our perennial border to a nice effect.
The one exception to the rule of never plant just one is specimen plants. Unique shrubs, trees, or other standout plants are sometimes planted alone as a focal point in the landscape. In that case, you want that plant and its features to stand out as different from their background.
With all this being said, gardens are for fun! I enjoy the challenge of design, it’s one of the ways I enjoy my outdoor space.
But it is your garden, so do what feels right to you. This principle is just one of many that can be used or ignored to create a space that is engaging and comfortable to you.