Do you love a good movie marathon? I do. I find myself repeating famous movie lines long after watching one.
The hugely popular Hunger Games movie trilogy was on TV recently and it has the unforgettable line, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Hearing it again reminded me of all the times I’ve laid out a new landscape or when we help a customer at the store select their annuals, perennials, or shrubs.
I do it instinctively now: arranging groups of plants in odd numbers can help create eye-catching plantings or containers that are visually balanced and harmonious. Groups of threes, fives, or sevens can be more aesthetically pleasing than a single plant grouping arrangement. There is no hard or fast rule. However, planting in odd numbers, also known as the “rule of odds,” has some logic behind it and can be very effective at helping to draw the eye through your garden.
Sometimes, you might be tempted to buy that ONE plant that has caught your eye as you wander around the store—a plant which looks so amazing you think you just have to have it. However, once you arrive home you wonder where to put it. If you really must have that one single perennial, shrub, or tree—turn it into a focal point by giving it “rockstar” positioning. Plant that special plant next to your home entry, off the patio, where you view while sitting outdoors, in the very center of a border, or even right at the end of a path as a focal point.
Planting only one or two plants here and there can create a busy look or messy patchwork effect. The beauty of the individual plants may be lost in the chaos. We tend not to plant in even numbers because we want to avoid a bed with plants that are all in a row lined up like soldiers. Why not make a statement? For example, a single zinnia or coral bells may look lonely and straggly, but when added to a group of three or more it creates a lush drift of color. When ready to buy or plan your landscape, my suggestion is to choose three plants of the same type, variety or color. By clustering an odd group of the same type of plants together, a drift of color is created giving impact.
I've worked on many landscape designs with enthusiastic homeowners who want to incorporate different plants that they’ve picked up from garden centers or at a sale. They plant them without really knowing how big they will get—or whether they will blend into their landscape. I then get "to do my magic" and, using the rule of three, transform their garden AND keep plants they like. In the end, the design incorporates all their favorites, transplanting them into odd groupings and adding more to create a cohesive final design.
Lastly, a secret tip: I love to pick one plant and repeat it in three different locations around the home. Again, by using the rule of odds, you can tie the landscape together as a whole. The overall effect is striking and pleasing to the eye.
If you remember the rule of odds and plant in groups of three or more, and not plant in a straight line, you will create a dynamic landscape where the odds will be ever in your favor.