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Better to cluster multiples or dot individual plants?

Posted by denninmi 6A SE Michigan (My Page) on
Sun, May 27, 12 at 10:56

What is more interesting and effective in the landscape, to cluster 3 or 4 of the same plant together, or to plant individually?

I am redoing a garden area where I will replant with perennials. Just contemplating whether, instead of planting one of this and one of that, I might be better off in terms of the visual impact by planting fewer kinds, and planting them in groups of 3 or 5 of each thing. I'm thinking about using ornamental grasses, sedums, Rudbeckia Goldsturm, Echinaceas, probably some kind of silver foliaged Artemesia, maybe some asters for the fall.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Better to cluster multiples or dot individual plants?

Like so much else in landscape design, the "it depends" answer presents itself.

Will the view of your bed be from a distance, or up close? Drive-by (high-speed) vs walking speed? Is the bed big or small? Are you a person who enjoys the details, or the sweep of the big picture?

By the way, you might want to make sure you have some spring interest in that bed, or will you mostly be seeing it in summer and fall?

Karin L

RE: Better to cluster multiples or dot individual plants?

Was looking around the Conifer Forum yesterday... mainly because people do have interesting ways of showcasing their gardens and collections. In the link, 3 people have posted pictures.

See in particular the entry - April 23 at 12:30 for the dot effect.

Here is a link that might be useful: clusters and dots

RE: Better to cluster multiples or dot individual plants?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, May 27, 12 at 12:35

In general a garden will have more visual impact with massed quantities of individual species played off each other. The standard recommendation of odd numbers of 3 to 5 is really more of a minimum in my opinion, and could be a lot more than that depending on the desired look. Repetition of plants elsewhere in the garden also gives continuity to a planting design, and can direct the view where you want it to be seen. Some of the plants can very easily be multiplied easily by yourself during the growing season to increase their area coverage, Sedum spectabile is one that roots easily from cuttings or can easily be divided in the early spring.

RE: Better to cluster multiples or dot individual plants?

Thanks, both helpful answers. Yes, I will throw some things for spring in there. I already have daffs/narcissus, alliums, and a few other spring bulbs in this garden, but I could add some other stuff. And, there are already some hostas, quite a bit of Northern Sea Oats, a patch of red monarda, some Limelight Hydranges, and a pair of mature magnolias, Ann and Jane.

Duluth, I see what you mean in that post -- to me, its too busy. Helped me to firm up the answer I already had in my mind, keep it simple with fewer types of plants and multiples of each. I think that will be more attractive in the end.

RE: Better to cluster multiples or dot individual plants?

If a plant in the landscape is one-of-a-kind, it had better be a substantial specimen if it is to register any impact. It almost always requires groups of plants working together in order to make a statement worthy of being made. Like Bahia, I think 3s & 5s are more like minimums. The other best way to make a landscape look amateurish is to alternate two different plants in a continuing line as is frequently done with "edging" plants. It's too "granny."

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