by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
The neighbors’ block party, clubhouse friends who flew in for Christmas, and that September garden party that was a time to remember. All of these pleasant recollections were stimulated by the gardens and their incorporated architecture. Visitors hardly realize the design, but they all feel the inviting warmth even if they can’t quite find the words to explain the pulse of the event.
Novices describe the air of such environments as beautiful, having an openness, and very stylish. Designers expound on mathematical balances and ratios of hardscape to softscape. Asian culture defines this feeling as feng shui.
Feng shui applied to designing a garden attracts nourishing high energy and delights all the senses. It feels wholesome, well rounded, and balanced. The result is an atmosphere for the garden and the home, its people and pets, that simply flows.
Feng Shui is defined as divine, far eastern and exotic, but I have witnessed good feng shui in Santa Fe-style homes, cottage gardens, southwestern cactus gardens, and high mountain cabins. Feng Shui is not a style, but a feeling that flows in and around a living area. It is an effect achieved through design and décor.
When it comes to a good feng shui design, the size of your garden is not the main factor. Of course, it is wonderful to be surrounded by a big, lush garden, but if all you have is a small space you still can create good feng shui that greets you each and every time you arrive home.
A talented designer is quick to spot unattractive right angles, stark colors, gray concrete, crowded clutter, with a rock lawn that emphasizes a starkness and emptiness. Many new track homes feel empty because they are pale and lacking ‘something’. Feng shui can bring that empty feeling into balance and imbue a flow that is just right.
There are some basic principles of feng shui that always seem to feel right. For example, the northeast area of any garden is connected to the energy of ‘Personal Growth & Self-cultivation’. This is the ideal space for a contemplative ‘earth’ garden with beautiful rock formations. This is where you want your landscaper to place those ancient lichen-covered boulders that set your home apart from the ordinary.
In bringing a water element to a garden, consider that the purest sense of feng shui dictates that the southwest areas should be designed to address ‘Money & Abundance’; due east ‘Health & Family’, and the north side defines ‘Career & Path’ in life; each is an excellent area for a water feature.
Important – In designing your garden, be sure to allow gently curving pathways to flow smoothly for Chi, the universal energy that permeates everything around us. Straight lines are rarely present in nature, so it’s more natural to use flowing shapes and pathways for a feng shui garden. This same approach is important for plant placement. Plants don’t grow naturally in straight lines. Stagger plants in soft triangular shapes that flow, rather than marching them in single lines across the yard.
Good garden decor can be used to add feng shui touches. Think of the Chi energies needed in each area and match your garden decor accordingly. For example, an outdoor fountain is excellent for the ‘Money & Abundance’ energy (southeast), while a concrete sculpture of a tortoises protects the ‘Career & Path’ areas in the north of a garden.
Have fun at this point by using garden elements that please you personally. I am not a feng shui purist. I’m drawn to faces and gargoyles for my garden! But, it’s okay to mix styles; at its core feng shui is all about the flow of energy, not a specifically Asian look or style.
If you want to create a play area for your children in the garden, a west feng shui area is recommended as it connects to the energy of children and creativity. Plus, it’s the sunny part of the garden when children get home from school. This also is an ideal space for vegetable and/or herb gardens.
Bamboo commonly is used in feng shui designs as it represents power, the ability to get along, and flexibility.
Wind chimes are a wonderful addition to any garden, as their gentle sounds create healing vibrations in the air. There are a variety of wind chimes on the market, from metal to bamboo, with various symbols, colors, and numbers of chimes. Selecting a wind chime ultimately comes down to sound. Choose a chime that is pleasing to your ear, and you’ll add positive vibrations to the feng shui of your garden.
In feng shui, colors emphasize various rhythms in a garden. Also, colors are used according to the five elements that bring healing harmony and joy. Choose colors for the garden that emphasize specific energies such as the Fire energy in the southern part of the garden, represented by red and purple flower colors, or the Earth energy in the southwest, with light yellow color.
Enjoy creating your feng shui garden and employ items, colors, and natural elements that bring you pleasure. The more joyful energy you put into your garden, the more joy and healing will be reflected on your home, its residents and visitors, and you.
Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center for more design ideas.