At Home: Feng Shui Garden Basics

As the moon of spring solstice shines on the season's first blooms, and Mother Nature announces the return of her seasonal color palette to our gardens, it is time to implement this year's plans that have been hibernating in our thoughts over the winter months. For gardeners, the excitement of plunging our trusty spade into the thawed soil exudes a rush understood only by those who share in such earthy joys.

My plan this spring is to continue "feng shui-ing" my garden. To begin the feng shui process one must have a path leading to the garden, a threshold or door to enter, walls to define the space, and a place for repose.

An on-going challenge is how to mitigate the "rushing chi" zooming into the garden via a straight walkway. Chi, with its many cultural names, including universal energy, prana, qi, ruach and life force, is our friend. It floats through our environment as effortlessly as petals on a pond---well, ideally anyhow. Try a meandering path, one that reflects a basic feng shui principle, which will coax chi to amble instead of rush.

Along with rushing chi, be aware of what is known in feng shui as "secret arrows" from neighboring properties. Gutter corners, edges of a shed roof or balcony, and street signs may create non-beneficial, negative chi, referred to by the Chinese as "sha." Sha can be mitigated by creating a new focal point and placing a feng shui adjustment in the line of the chi as it travels onto your property.

Using feng shui principles, you can bring harmony and balance to your garden by encouraging chi to gracefully dance through and around it. The goal is to encourage chi to spiral and gather, moving from one space to another in a gentle fashion. No grand plan is needed---just knowledge of simple rules and tools.

First, let's understand a few basic tenets of feng shui. Tidiness counts, so clear leaf clutter and other debris; clear and store garden paraphernalia; stow outdoor toys and tools and discard anything broken.

Chi-inviting shapes are auspicious. You can represent nature's free-form using gentle, flowing lines for flower beds, shrubs and stands of trees; curvy edges and patterns on hard surfaces; and curvilinear shapes in statues, pots, lawn furniture, and all things.

Gentle-on-the-eye, soft-to-the-touch applications create harmony which means that leaves that are sharp and prickly, like holly and cactus, should be avoided. If you must have roses, plant them where they will not "snag" passers-by.

Another principle is to love it or leave it. Replace unwanted plantings with something that brings you joy.

Encourage ease of movement by keeping plantings along walkways trimmed so browsers can move about effortlessly. A free mind and stimulated senses bring about joy for visitors as they partake of your garden's beauty.

The main garden threshold, your front door area, is most important. It is your face to the world. When your garden "smiles," it attracts beneficial chi. This chi may manifest in the form of new friends, helpful people, wealth, good health, fame, love and opportunity. Providing the neighborhood's most prolific colors and sustainable blooms following a summer storm is also a wheelbarrow-size contribution to peace and harmony.

A touch of red in your front-door garden is essential. Red symbolizes joy, happiness, passion and luck. Wildlife images and flowers on a doormat or mailbox, red yarrow (Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen') or red gerber daisies planted along the path, a flag, and a Japanese maple, such as 'tamukeyama' or another cultivar, each represent the symbolic red phoenix of happiness.

For future planning, winter's touch of red can be in the leaves and panicles of white flowers of summer that transform to bird-friendly red berries and bronzed red foliage on the evergreen heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), the fracture of a red-twig dogwood (Cornus seicea 'cardinal') or a simple door wreath ribbon.

Feng shui is often referred to as acupuncture for your home and thus for your garden, an outdoor room of your home. When translated, feng shui means "wind and water." A water feature in your garden is beneficial. When stocked with fish, a pond is considered a symbol of success. Placement, as with any feature, is critical. A good location for a water feature is to the right of your front door (facing the door). Other placement can be determined by location and compass to bring about a balance of the five elements utilizing the traditional feng shui tool, a ba-gua.

After a full day of doing what you love, relaxing in view of your creation is a gardener's reward. A private space, protected from public view and imbued with quiet and beauty, provides a meditation space, ideal for reflection and contemplation. Your place for repose should have a focal point, such as a gazing ball, a statue, rectangular-shaped shrub and/or a show-stopper plant.

As your garden unfolds, be mindful that your choices include feng shui principles to encourage joy and happiness. Good luck with your plans and blessings for the spring season.

Yarrow is a certified practitioner and consultant and can be reached at


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