Achieving the balance and beauty of a feng shui garden is easier than you might think
Story: Samantha Honey
The prospect of a feng shui garden seems daunting to many of us. Visions of pebbles and bamboo nestled impeccably within a quiet, meditative space may spring to mind. So if your passion is a native-focused backyard or country cottage garden, for instance, you may be thinking, “What can feng shui have to do with my masterpiece in creation?”
The answer is, quite a lot. The basic principles of feng shui make good design sense. Putting the Five Elements of feng shui together in your garden creates a space that is pleasing to the eye and has the added advantage of directing more good energy — called “chi” — to flow through it, into your home and into your life. To achieve this, a Five Elements feng shui garden needn’t look Asian-inspired in the least.
Gardens which honour the time-tested principle of the Five Elements of feng shui unfold uniquely, each displaying the personal taste and style of their custodian. So whatever your garden style, the following guide to creating a feng shui garden of balanced beauty will apply to you — and you will find it a simple and effective technique.
So what are the Five Elements? They are Water, Earth, Wood, Fire and Metal. And why do they need to be kept in balance? Well, if any of these elements has too much influence, or one is missing, your garden won’t look or feel right. It may seem like “something’s missing” but you don’t know quite what it is. The garden may also be suffering from an energy imbalance, which shows up in such symptoms as having an above-average number of plants that get sick, refuse to grow, or attract pests.
The diversity of the feng shui elements and their representation gives us lots of scope to play with colour, shape, movement and styles. So you’ll begin to see how every garden, regardless of its theme, can enjoy an underlying energy of harmony and good flow.
1. The element Water
Water in the garden can be literally translated to mean a fountain, swimming pool, pond or birdbath. On a more abstract level, the presence of the element Water can be represented by a garden design that has an easy flow to it. A meandering path bordered by plants with rounded shapes is one example. You can also use glass, flowers or plants in the colour blue or dark purple to represent the Water element.
2. The element Earth
Things made of rock and stone, terracotta, pebbles, flat surfaces, troughs and plants or flowers in the hues of yellow, orange and brown all represent the element Earth. A mound of bare dirt, however, is not considered auspicious and will hinder the flow of good chi around your garden.
3. The element Wood
Again, things made of the element Wood all hold its energy. This is the only element that can dominate to some degree without restricting the flow of positive chi. In feng shui, the element Wood rules the life area of Health and Family as well as Prosperity. It enhances the Communication and Friendship life areas, and is therefore very auspicious in a garden.
Happily, most of our gardens are green, the primary colour of the element Wood, and will already be a welcoming benefit to these areas of our life. Any decking, planters, trellis or garden supports made of wood, as well as columns and poles, further bring the energy of the element Wood to the garden.
4. The element Fire
Lights, a flame, the barbecue, pointy structures, spiky plants, and the colours red and pink all bring the influence of their ruling element, Fire. Especially in a dry climate, this element is considered very powerful and we only need small splashes to enjoy the energising, spirit-boosting effect its presence creates.
Just remember to avoid placing spiky plants close to doors that lead into the home because their points emanate “sha chi”, or cutting energy, which can weaken the good fortune entering your house.
5. The element Metal
Make sure Metal is featured in your garden through the use of wrought iron, mirrors, sculptures, and reflective surfaces. Too much will result in a feeling of restrictiveness, but placed thoughtfully by the way of accessories, Metal accents speak of creativity and add a sense of luxury. You can also bring the element Metal into your garden by using the colours white, grey and charcoal.
Once you’ve created a balance of the Five Elements in your garden, your final step is to invite the all-powerful, unseen energy to bless your work — the aspect of wind. After all, it is the other half of feng shui: Feng means wind and shui means water. A flag, wind chime or mobile, as well as anything put in place to encourage beneficial birds and butterflies, all entice feng. With the positive balance you will have created, it’s sure to offer you its good energy, no matter which personal garden style you’re cultivating.
Samantha Honey is a feng shui expert and writer, and director of Feng Shui By The Sea.
Water energy: Think plants that grow on or around water, such as water lilies, or varieties that prefer cool, damp places. Ferns, African violets, the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow bush, hydrangeas and wisteria are other examples.
Earth energy: Plants that grow close to the ground, such as soft grasses or mosses, small plants with round leaves, or ivy. A flat-top box hedge is a classic Earth element plant; also any species with brown/gold leaves, such as deciduous autumn trees.
Wood energy: Most luscious green plants fall into this category. Conifers and eucalypts are classic examples. The health and harmony of the element Wood can especially be brought to a garden by growing edible herbs and flowers and fruit-bearing trees.
Fire energy: Sunflowers, naturally, along with red-flowering plants such as azaleas, kangaroo paws, waratahs, banksias, ginger and fuchsia. Bougainvillea and roses both represent Fire energy with their spiky thorns, regardless of the flowering colour.
Metal energy: Varieties that bring Metal energy to a garden include Busy Lizzy with her white flowers, gardenias, frangipanis, star jasmine, honeysuckle, and blossom trees.
Your garden sectors
Where the various elements or their representations are placed also plays a role as different sectors within the garden signify different areas of your life, and boosting, or reducing, the presence of the appropriate element can have a beneficial effect. The sectors, which are based on compass directions, are:
South: fame, reputation
East: family, health
West: children, new ideas, projects
South-east: abundance, money
North-east: study, knowledge
South-west: marriage, partnership
North-west: helpful people, support
For a better understanding of how to use the compass sectors and other feng shui fundamentals you need to do some reading. One book worth taking a look at is Feng Shui Garden Design: Creating Serenity by Antonia Beattie (published by Periplus Editions, rrp $30.95). It will show you how to analyse the flow of energy in your garden and how to combine the principles of good garden design and feng shui to create beautiful outdoor spaces.