Feng Shui Gardening: From Chaos to Composure
Are you exhausted, estranged, and constantly stressed by the challenging demands of contemporary life? Do you seek balance and harmony in your life? Create a feng shui garden and you will have not only a sanctuary of tranquility and beauty, but also the promise of health, prosperity, friendship, and good fortune.
Feng shui (literally, "wind and water") is the ancient Chinese science of arranging space in order to bring about desired effects or changes in one’s life. According to feng shui masters, there is a profound interconnectedness between environmental and personal conditions. For better or worse, what happens in our physical surroundings deeply influences our mental and spiritual well-being. Therefore, it behooves us to respect the principles of feng shui and apply them to our homes, offices, and even gravesites.
A feng shui garden is a powerful tool because the quality of energy surrounding our living space invites auspicious energy inside our home. Incidentally, it’s not necessary to live on a vast estate to benefit from feng shui gardening; metropolitan apartment dwellers can also enhance their space in the spirit of feng shui.
Fundamental Principles and Tools of Feng Shui Gardening
Chi is the universal energy or life force that dwells in everything: plants, animals, people, stones, furniture. This invisible energy, called "cosmic dragon’s breath," is manifested by nature’s waving, undulating lines (the irregular shape of mountain ranges, the meandering path of a stream, the verdant forms of flowers and leaves). Feng shui encourages the flow and accumulation of good, healthy chi and avoids or diminishes the effects of bad "killing" chi. For example, a gently curving path to our front door is preferred over a straight line. Because straight lines and sharp edges conduct negative energy, we soften the sharp corners of a house by planting shrubs or flowers there. Because chi travels in a meandering fashion and lingers wherever there is water, we can invite auspicious chi into our garden and capture it with a stream, pond, or birdbath. In fact, the presence of birds and living creatures adds vitality to your home. But, be sure the water is always flowing and clean. And clear away all undergrowth and clutter to enable chi to travel freely in your garden.
Yin and Yang express the principle of universal duality found in all life; yin and yang are forces that are opposite, yet complementary and mutually supportive. Yin encompasses female attributes, for example, softness, darkness, passivity, coldness, silence; and is represented by the moon. Yang evokes male attributes, for example, strength, brightness, heat, noise, and is represented by the sun. Attaining a happy balance of yin and yang makes us whole and centered. A garden offers many opportunities to harmonize yin and yang. For example, we can create a pleasing balance of sun and shade, placing bright flowers within a shady corner or adding small lamps along a dark path. To balance wet and dry, we can add a fountain that splashes over rocks; this same fountain balances sound (yang) with silence (yin). We can alter yin flatness by building hilly mounds or arranging rocks at various heights.
The Five Elements
Water, wood, fire, earth, and metal are very important in feng shui. Everything in the universe is made of these elements, and no one element is better or more valuable than another. In feng shui gardens, all elements co-exist in harmony. Feng shui gardeners skillfully engineer the interplay of elements to bring about creative, auspicious energy. They interpret elemental interactions as either positive or negative.
· The positive cycle of influence is: water produces wood (plants), which produces > fire > earth > metal > water, ad infinitum. The logic of this cycle is obvious; for example, the burning of wood which produces ashes or earth.
· The negative or "controlling" cycle of influence is: water > fire > metal > wood > earth > water, and so on. For example, water destroys fire by putting it out, fire can melt metal, and metal saws, knives, and nails can cut trees and plants.
Thus, in our gardens, if we have too much sunlight, we add water as a balancing element to cool and nourish the wood. If the land is flooded or soggy, we introduce rocks or mound up earth as a dam because earth controls water in the cycle of negative influence.
Each element is associated with specific colours, shapes, seasons and locations on the compass (see Ba Gua). By working with the interplay of such variants, feng shui masters accentuate auspicious energy. For example, circular shapes belong to the metal realm; thus, a round flowerbed is not fortunate because metal has a negative effect on wood. Instead, plant flowers in an undulating border or a rectangular bed since the wavy form represents water (positive for wood) and the rectangle resembles the column-shape that is associated with wood.
The Ba Gua or Compass is a mystical representation of the eight trigrams of the I-Ching, an ancient Chinese divining tool. The hexagonal compass is used to analyze one’s interior and exterior environment. Each of the directions governs a different aspect of life (for example: south= fame, achievement, east=health, harmony, southwest=marriage, romance, etc.) and is associated with a specific element, shape, or colour. Once the garden is aligned with the compass, it is easier to design the most propitious placement of plants, furniture, and other content. In recent times, some schools of feng shui gardening have rejected the compass directions and use the entrance of the house (or office or garden) as the reference point. In either case, specific areas of the space are associated with specific aspirations and one arranges the space to enhance one’s fortune.
Feng Shui for Small Spaces
City dwellers, despite their relatively small garden space, can also introduce feng shui to their apartments. The presence of plants on a patio, terrace, or doorway attracts vitalizing chi.
· Potted plants, hanging baskets, and window boxes are excellent; located at the threshold of your home, they draw the energy of the garden inside.
· If you have a sunny space, plant bright flowers, such as geraniums, begonias, marigolds and petunias; their colourful vitality will balance the dark interior of an apartment.
· In even a small space, create an arrangement of pebbles, wood, and plants to balance yin and yang energies.
· A miniature fountain surrounded by ferns and other greenery soothes the eye and the ear.
· Sculpture, wind chimes, and empty ornamental vases or bowls also encourage auspicious chi to visit and settle.
Whether you have a green thumb or are just beginning to garden, the principles of feng shui can add to the success of your garden. More importantly, feng shui can add immeasurably to the quality of your life. When we cultivate our feng shui garden, we cultivate our soul and experience the harmony of the universe.