If you think about it, most scenes in nature show groupings of similar plants. These plants are indigenous to the area (i.e. living and occurring naturally).
This natural phenomenon gives us an excellent example and point of reference for our designed landscapes.
If you’ve ever seen a mass of Native Rhododendron or Mountain Laurel growing in the woods, you know how beautiful “plant-groupings” can be.
You’ve probably heard me say it before: “plantings should complement not distract”. Of course there are exceptions to this point, but in general this should be your goal.
In this picture there are 3 Alberta Spruce grouped together to complement and soften a granite sign at a corporate center.
One spruce would not have been enough. The 3 carry more weight to balance with the massive sign — and the grouping looks more natural, especially with the woodland behind.
A plant-grouping shows simplicity and makes it easy on the eye and mind. The result is a pleasant and comfortable setting where “it just feels right”.
By arranging your plant-groupings you can “lead the eye” to focal points or destinations in your design. In effect, you can influence how people move through the gardens.
Beyond the design merits of plant-groupings are the practical gains.
The overall intent is to have the plants ultimately touch one another. You must still be aware of their size potential and growth habit and, like always, arrange and space accordingly.
The point being you won’t feel compelled to keep each plant separate by aggressive pruning & trimming.
You may have noticed that in these examples all the groupings have been in 3’s. Generally speaking odd numbers do make for nicer groupings, especially in the smaller (“countable”) ones.
Once your plant counts get bigger it becomes less of an issue.
Below is a massing of azalea along a border. Whether there’s 7, 8 or 9 azaleas is not an issue. And remember too, ideally they’ll grow together and become one beautiful form.
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Landscapes are complex, and shortcomings anywhere in the process can affect the project… and your peace of mind.
My approach is process-oriented. I break things down from planning to implementation — and make sure everyone is kept informed.
My goal is to alleviate concerns such as design decisions, costs, workmanship and material quality. I want folks to stress less and actually enjoy the process.
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