The Magic Number Three


In fairy tales significant things always show up in threes. It’s a magic number, I suppose.

Turns out, it’s magic in the garden, too.

This week in our community space, I posted a video called “Rules of Thumb for Planting.” One of the things I talked about was the magic rule of planting with odd numbers: three of one thing, at a minimum, and five, seven, nine or more as you have space (though I think once the numbers get big enough, our eye doesn’t detect the “oddness” quite so readily).

Why do this?

Odd numbers simply look more natural. As I shared in the video, even numbers, with their formality and symmetry, highlight the hand of the gardener. Sometimes, that’s exactly what we want. For instance, my formal flower garden is edged with an even number of boxwood balls.

But, if we want a naturalistic look, and in most of our garden this will probably be the case, odd numbers help hide the hand of the gardener. Our plantings have a better chance of looking as if they just happened to grow there.

Pictured above is a new (mostly empty!) flower bed outside my kitchen. As I slowly fill it in, I’ll be planting lots of odd-numbered things because I want this area to look naturalistic, almost meadow or prairie-like. You can see I already have three grasses massed in the far corner. Three bare-root roses have been planted as well. These roses will have single flowers in pale yellow, rather than something ruffled and pink, to fit with my meadow-like plan.


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April 8, 2020

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