The idea for this page came to me in early April 2023, when I wrote the following blog post. (The header image for this page comes from mid-April 2022, featuring a key What3Plants mix of Tulipa ‘Flaming Purissima’, Narcissus ‘Actaea’ and N. ‘Thalia’ as the key elements for at least a fortnight, repeated over a large area of the magic terrace garden.)


With increasing honey bee activity ahead, and the usual few articles reminding one of the potentially severe reactions to bee stings, we’ve mentally dusted off our protocol of what to do if we do get a sting. This reminded me of the advantages of knowing, in an emergency, the What3Words location tag for where our remote property is. For anyone unfamiliar with this, every 10-metre square on the earth’s surface now has its unique 3-word tag. Click on the link to find out how it works.

For any location, there is clearly a range of offerings, as you move the cursor around the map or satellite image. Remembering most of them seemed tricky, but eventually, I found one square centred on our hammer-dressed blue-stone seat, which seemed curiously appropriate. Both for this ancient, relocated stone and also for anyone placed in the emergency recovery position, after a serious anaphylactic sting reaction:

Grounded, Passively, Prone.

Let’s hope we never have to reference it in a crisis.

Thoughts of 3 words had also returned to me since I was reflecting on how a powerful visual scene in a garden often relies on the combination of a set of plants. In our gardening style, often just a few forms or species which can be repeated, intermingled, or at least be part of a single visual scan. Because many of the best effects here are the result of trial and error or serendipity, it’s likely some of these particular success stories may well be unique – after all just how many thousands of shrub, perennial, daffodil, tulip, or muscari cultivars are there?

I guess one could choose a larger number for such heavenly, if fleeting, marriages but just 3 often seem to be the critical minimum and stray too far above this, and any impact of repetition can be diluted. So 3 it will be.


Example 1: Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’, Helleborus X hybridus, and Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’

Example 2: Narcissus ‘February Gold’, Helleborus X hybridus, Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’
We often comment when concentrating on such a particular view that if just one of the plants were missing the real WOW factor would be lost. Yet so often it depends on a particular cultivar flowering at the same time as its neigbours, which can be well nigh impossible to work out from even the best specialist nursery catalogues.

So trial and error with combinations seems to be the only way to go. And if one gets a glimpse of a combination that works really well then it sometimes takes years of effort and propagation to build up the numbers to make it even more dramatic.

The example below is one of my current What3Plants favourites from the garden, which lasts for a good fortnight in most years. Several Ribes sanguineum bushes, grown from cuttings from another specimen in a different part of the garden. Years later, the Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ were whacked into the rubble stone slope below and are sufficiently tough daffodils to thrive here. The final element was scattering saved Muscari latifolium seed onto the evergreen Saxifraga x urbium ‘London Pride’ leaves, and discovering that in just a few years, they were flowering bulbs, adding that wonderful 2 tone dab of intense blue flowers for quite a long period, without the messy leaves of many other forms of Muscari. Now I just need to bulk them up. So a What3Plants effect long in the making, but a real delight every spring, and one which I suspect could be reliably replicated elsewhere.

We’re just approaching one of the best moments in the garden when just 3 plants, dominate a large part of the magic terrace and reliably create an evolving vista for several weeks.

I’ll add other What3Plants combinations as I spot them throughout the year.