The 3 friends of winter (岁寒三友) refers to the symbolic union of three plant friends.
While there is no particular order to how they are prioritized, the mandarin term song zhu mei (松竹梅) puts them in the sequence of pine, followed by bamboo, then the plum.
This trio of plants are grouped together as the 3 friends of winter because of how well they stand up against the harsh cold of the winter seasons, and sometimes even thrive, while other plants wilt and succumb to the environment.
While the 3 plants have their own symbolism, as a threesome, they represent friendship, nobility, strength, rising above adversity, scholastic ideals, and resilience.
When we consider that individually, these flowers and plants have very strong reputations in feng shui, their union takes things to a whole new level.
Famous scholars have mentioned them in poems, celebrated artists have painted them, great writers have written about them in novels. And the earliest mention of this term has been found in poetic writings from the ninth century.
Even Confucius had specifically referenced them. Describing 3 types of positive friendship that consist of sincerity, injurious, and righteousness.
Because of this linkage to the great sage, this arrangement of plants is also said to be symbolic of scholarly ideals.
In paintings, they are often depicted with magpies that signify happy long-lasting friendships.
Some infamous oriental paintings safely guarded in museums have this trio subtly added into it to convey the message the grouping represents. You just have to look hard enough.
The pine can sometimes be replaced with a stone.
The 3 friends of winter is sometimes depicted in motifs of gifts to those who are not well-to-do to signify that wealth has little to do with materialism.
It would be a wonderful configuration if a homeowner is able to bring the 3 friends of winter into the garden.
But that poses quite a challenge as pines are trees which can grow to a hefty size. Even bamboo can sprout to an unmanageable height before anyone realizes it.
So the most common way for households to bring the 3 friends to the residence is with the display of paintings.
However, there nothing wrong with being a little creative with interior furnishings and feng shui.
For example, some people have them painting on wall tiles and have them installed in the kitchen.
The kitchen being a space of fire element would be in harmony of the wood element which the trio of allies brings. Firing up the good luck with regards to wealth.
They can also make their presence felt by being printed on cushions.
Just have them embroidered on 3 cushions for the sofa set to have them bless anyone who uses them with loyal friendship that is meant to be treasured.
There are various ways to incorporate them into home designs and you are only limited by your imagination.