NUMBER ONE: Stop using only one specimen of a plant. I see this all the time. Lovers of plants want lots of them, so they focus too much on variety and not enough on numbers. Nature rarely has just one of anything. SO!! Whenever you use a species use them in groups. For the best results, use odd numbers of them such as 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 or better 13! Yes, 13! As you get to this density, you will create what is known as a block of plants. Block planting is one of the secret sauces to majestic places like the High Line and Lurie Park. Blocks also help the eye better understand the same and the depth of variety you may have in your garden.
NUMBER TWO: NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, E V E R R R R RR R R R !!! plant in straight lines! Straight lines are a leftover of the easiest days of gardening when all the experts were creating guidelines based on agriculture. But if you are not a farmer or trying to grow tomatoes, fight the urge to plop your plants side by side. It’s great to maximize a yield from a field, but looks forced and totally unnatural in a contemporary garden. Once you’ve got your odd number of plants, you want to think like nature – and that means clustered…also known as clustered block plantings. Native plants don’t need to be evenly spaced to mature and mesmerize you, but they do want to interact as they would in the environment. The sketch below illustrates both of these points. EXTRA CREDIT!! This clustering will open doors of perception for you as you incorporate other principles for contemporary gardening.