What Counts in Your Garden?

Descriptions of gardens are often full of impressive arithmetic. This garden has over three hundred roses, that garden has an avenue of thirty one maples and over eighty different fuchsias... So what counts in your garden? Do you know how many irises you've got? Or roses? How much notice do you take of numbers?

 I'd like at least twenty five of these!
Allium Pinball Wizard

That's Odd...

You might be a keen beginner gardener making your first perennial border - designing with odd numbers of plants. That's odd as in 1,3,5,7,9 - and so on. So hands up if you can honestly spot the difference between fifteen and sixteen Alliums? No, I didn't think you could!

Right. Odd numbers are recommended, vital to the composition of your herbaceous border's grand design. But can you really tell? Mind you, I agree that three new roses are better than two, when one is in a rose buying mood. In fact, the concept of buying odd numbers of plants is a sneaky ploy by nurseries to make more money.

Here is a common scenario. You have the budget to buy four standard roses. By the law of odd numbers they will apparently look wrong, and, gardeners being naturally a little greedy, you'll obviously round up to the nearest odd number - say five, or even seven. See how it works?

That's Big...

While odd numbers have created their own mystique, large numbers are equally powerful - and a little dangerous! You might read of a country gardener who has three hundred and seventeen roses (oops - counted just this morning).

Rose Envy

This sounds extremely floral, and can easily cause that dreaded condition known generally as rose envy.

 These are flowering in the Botanic Gardens.
Public Rose Envy

It's important to recognise the two types of rose envy. Public Rose Envy is short-lived - it only occurs in Botanic gardens and the like, and has inevitably worn off by the time you're sipping your overpriced latte in the garden cafe. Private Rose envy is much more dangerous. Someone just like you has a large number of roses in her private garden. The number is mind-boggling, and you are extremely jealous.

 Pink Flower carpet roses.
Private Rose Envy

This type of rose envy can lead small-time gardeners into temptation - they may even raid the housekeeping money. Further signs include the cramming of dozens of patio roses into pots and window boxes, and the popping of little miniatures into every garden gap. A gardener thus struck down has been well and truly seduced by the power of large numbers! Here's the antidote.

 Oh dear...
Watering Some New Roses

Shut Your Eyes...

Shut your eyes and think of three hundred and seventeen roses in winter - ugly leafless branches, pruning, and so on. Then think of a hot moist summer - blackspot, mildew, rust. Multiply the number of roses by, say, a factor of ten to the power of eight.

This is the potential number of sucking and chewing insects who will attempt to live on the roses during one season. Then go and count your own modest collection - and call them blessings!

Numbers are just a guide in the garden, whether they are odd or even, big or small. It's what your eyes tell you that truly matters. And three hundred and seventeen roses aren’t really that many - after all, they don't all flower at once...