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Triple Play

Martha Stewart Living, March 2008

Thinking in threes can bring perfect balance to even the smallest of gardens. When it comes to people, three's a crowd. But in the design world, three is a magical number. One of something may seem a little spare, and two may be too symmetrical, but put three of a kind together -- whether decorative pillows, vases, or plants and things start to get interesting.

When objects are grouped together, they begin to have a dialogue, and the space around them suddenly seems charged. Just as the principles of focus, scale, and rhythm translate from interior design to garden design, so does the concept of using things in threes. Container plantings offer an opportunity to practice this in miniature.

A selection of three plants makes for just the right amount of variety; the arrangement feels balanced without being uniform or overly formal. Try different configurations, experimenting with the interplay of tones and textures, including those of the pot. Also, consider the size and density of the foliage and any blooms, and how the plants will drape. Be creative and confident in your choices, knowing you're in good company among legions of professional designers who also rely on the power of three.

Coleus, Fuchsia, and Moneywort
Easy-to-grow coleus, fuchsia, and moneywort create a rich palette in an attractive bronze-colored base. Religious Radish Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Religious Radish'); Coralle Fuchsia (Fuchsia 'Coralle'); Golden Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia Aurea)


Flax, Fleeceflower, and Dichondra
Silver-edged fleeceflower and silver-white trailing dichondra are set off by dark-green flax and an unobtrusive textured gray pot. New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax); Red Dragon Fleeceflower (Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'); Silver Falls Dichondra (Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls')


Fern, Amethyst Flower, and Begonia
Tropical plants shoot orange and blue flares, framed by pale-green ferns and an understated pot. Kimberly Queen Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata 'Kimberly Queen'); Amethyst Flower (Browallia Americana); Bonfire Begonia (Begonia 'Bonfire')


Copperleaf, Toffee Twist Sedge, and Sweet Potato Vine
Textural contrast adds life to this mostly monochromatic display, showing off shades of copper. Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana 'Haleakala'); Toffee Twist Sedge (Carex flagellifera 'Toffee Twist'); Sweet Caroline Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline Bronze')


Caladium, Euphorbia, and Wishbone Flower
A wooden window box anchors this planting without detracting from the delicate leaves and flowers. Aaron Caladium (Caladium 'Aaron'); Diamond Frost Euphorbia (Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Diamond Frost'); Wishbone Flower (Torenia Summer Wave Blue)


Cordyline, Oxalis, and Geranium
All curves, spikes, and colors, this arrangement is set off perfectly by a traditional pot. Red Sensation Cordyline (Cordyline Australis 'Red Sensation'); Zinfandel Oxalis (Oxalis Vulcanicola 'Zinfandel'); Vancouver Centennial Geranium (Pelargonium 'Vancouver Centennial')