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Designing A Feng Shui Garden

Updated on August 7, 2012

Feng Shui is the art of directing the energy of the environment to move in ways in which we feel comfortable.

In the Feng Shui garden the design principles of ancient Chinese landscapes are used to create, not Chinese gardens, but indigenous gardens which relate to our own psyche as well as to the spirit of the place where we live.

By using local or native plants and natural methods we can create a garden in which we can distance ourselves from the hurley-burly of modern living. A Feng Shui garden should be both a supportive and nurturing environment. We need restful yet energising green spaces when we return to to the nurturing space of our own homes.

The Chinese have a saying "First luck; second, destiny; third, Feng Shui; fourth, virtues; fifth, education" so although Feng Shui can be a powerful force in shaping our lives it is not a cure for all ills. Luck plays an important role and also personality or 'karma'. Feng Shui is a philosophy that has the capacity for change built into it. It is a philosophy that can be used in any culture and alongside any belief system.

Taoist Principles

Taoist principles lie at the heart of Chinese garden design and many of these principles are echoed in what is considered to be good garden design around the world.

Chinese gardens originated in the centres of power, the homes of the wealthy and around religious sites. They represent an attempt to recreate the perfection of nature and the unity of human beings, Heaven and Earth.

In China, the garden and the home are considered to be a single entity. The garden is drawn into the house through windows and latticed panels. They are designed to accommodate human beings and the buildings act as viewing platforms or observatories. Ancient Chinese designs incorporated natural scenery as a backdrop to the gardens incorporating mountains, natural water features and trees into the design. If such natural features were absent they created them, building hills and importing large rocks to emulate mountains.

Domestic houses were typically built around a central courtyard, an empty centre that a space lies in its potential - it is not a lifeless void but an energetic area brimming with possibilities.

Walls were given meaning but inserting windows which looked to the world beyond. According to the Tao, human activity should never dictate the shape of the natural world so whatever alterations take place in the Chinese garden, the result must look natural. Ponds, hills and plants must resemble their natural counterparts.

Creating A Healthy Garden Environment

With an understanding of the principles of feng shui we can choose garden features which are harmonious and which help create a balanced and supportive place. A Feng Shui garden allows for individualism and does not discount 'statements' in design or plantings that clash with the norm. In fact, such clashes can create a vibrant energy which can help us develop at certain times in our lives.

The plants we grow should feed our senses with their colour, form, texture and smells. What we choose will depend on our local area but what is important is the conditions in which we grow our plants. Feng Shui gardens 'go with the flow' and it is not always possible to alter the soil to grow your favourite plants. If you are starting a garden from scratch look around at what grows in your local area. A healthy soil produces healthy plants and supports millions of micro-organisms, each with an important role to play. Healthy plants support wildlife and even those species that we find undesirable will provide food for those we welcome to our garden.

The use of chemicals in a Feng Shui garden is not recommended as it degrades the soil and kills helpful insects as well as those we consider to be pests. In the Feng Shui garden we respect our fellow workers. Careful planting and and awareness of the relationships between plants will enable us to create gardens where spraying is unnecessary.

Yin and Yang

Nowhere are the two opposing, yet complementary, forces of yin and yang more pronounced than in the Feng Shui garden. The strong mountains, or the rocks that represent them, contrast with the still deep waters of a pond. The beauty of a single flower is more pronounced when set against a dark, rocky surface, just as the twisted branches of an ancient tree are when seen against the sky.

A Chinese garden is serene but not static or lifeless. There is movement and sound and everything is placed to emphasis it's beauty,Every plant is endowed with yin or yang depending on it's qualities and an English cottage garden filled with a rich variety of flowers can be just as lovely in a different way to one where a stone or single bloom is used to create a visual impact.

Chi - The Universal Energy

Chi is the life force present in all animate beings and is also the subtle energy expressed by seemingly inanimate objects.

Gardens reflect the human quest for longevity, which in China means the maintenance of youth. Every feature in the garden is placed there to achieve this aim. Rocks and streams represent permanence and long lived trees and perennial plants are preferred to annuals or biennials. This makes the life force of the environment strong and stable.

Water is frequently used as it brings energy to the garden. Water symbolises wealth and is believed to be a good collector and conductor of chi.

Bridges and pathways are common in Chinese gardens. Reflected in the water arched bridges create a circle symbolising heaven. Decks and pavilions encourage people to congregate in the garden and pursue leisure interests while interconnecting paths and covered walkways enable people to enjoy gentle exercise.

Seats, pots and ornaments also feature in Chinese gardens but the main focus is on the rocks and plants.

The Five Elements

The five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water are the agents of Chi. The aim of a Feng Shui garden is to create a space where no element is dominant and in which there is a balance of yin and yang.

The feel of the garden is very different when a balance exists and we can achieve this through our planting schemes and by careful placement of garden buildings and ornaments. That is not to say that a garden must have something of every shape and size. There is a Chinese says "Too many colours blind the eye". We have all seen gardens full of highly coloured plants, ornaments and features. They make a fantastic visual display but they are not always conducive to relaxation or harmony.

The Feng Shui garden aims to follow examples from nature in striking a balance between shape and colour. It gives us scope to experiment with our favourite exotic plants or unusual ornaments as long as the perspective, proportion and balance are right.

Wood - All plants represent the element of wood. We can introduce this element specifically with columnar trees, fallen logs or upright trellises. Other ways to include this element iare with wooden decks and benches, bark chip pathways, wood carvings and rattan cane furniture.

Fire - Fire is suggested in plants with pointed leaves or shrubs and ornaments that form triangular or pyramid shapes. A splash of red can also represent this element. Other ways to introduce this element into your outdoor space is with an outdoor grill, fireplace, fire pit or chiminea and candles. This is a powerful element so be careful not to overstate it.

Earth - Earth is suggested in our paving and pathway material such as bricks or stone pavers. The real earth is not shown in a Feng Shui garden since it is covered with plants but our soils should be healthy and well cared for. Other ways to include this element in your garden is to use pots or containers of terracotta.

Metal - Round shapes and domes represent the metal element. This might be in the form of ball shaped conifers or in the circular shape of garden pots and ornaments. Other ways to introduce this element to the garden include adding an iron arbor or cast iron bench, a rusty metal birdhouse, a metal sculpture, bells, chimes and gongs, a stone patio or boulders set in the landscape.

Water - Apart from streams, ponds and pools, water can be represented by meandering pathways and plantings. Other ways to introduce this element include adding a bird bath, a decorative sprinkler, a swimming pool, mirror and crystals.

Feng Shui Garden Decor Ideas

Feng shui wind chimes are a wonderful addition to any garden, as their gentle sound creates healing feng shui vibrations in the air. Alive in the slightest breeze, wind chimes express the essence of feng shui - wind and water - so it is a good idea to place them close to your garden water feature.

Fountains represent the vital water element. For example, an outdoor fountain with floating golden bells is excellent for money and abundance energy. If you are planning to keep fish in your pond, make sure the fish are healthy and the water is clean and clear. Turtles and terrapins are also considered to be good omens and conducive to success.

In feng shui, birds are considered to be good messengers from heaven, as well as the symbol of inspiration and freedom. Include a bird bath or bird house to encourage these messengers to come to your garden. A garden without the joyful songs of birds is not a complete feng shui garden.

Beautiful garden lights will bring a gentle feng shui fire element into your garden, as well as a truly magical feel. Lights represent the fire element as well as life-giving yang energy. Go for solar garden lighting for the ultimate Feng Shui experience. You can find garden lights in all possible designs - from flowers to turtles. The use of exterior lights is an effective way of harnessing earth luck and enhancing family and relationship luck.

Another way to bring good feng shui energy to your garden is to add beautiful garden sculptures such as angels, fairies, classical figurines, children, birds or horses.

The Feng shui fire element is often missing in many gardens during the winter months when the bright, fiery blooms of summer are gone. If the size and design of your garden permits it, having a fire pit is excellent feng shui.

Having a place to rest in your garden is excellent feng shui. It helps you absorb silence and deeply nourishing energy. Furniture and patios invite you into your garden to relax and enjoy the beauty around you. Depending on the style of your garden you can go for seating made of different materials and styles. Consider creating a place in your garden to sit and socialise. This can be something as simple as setting up an umbrella with a table and chair. This provides shelter from the sun and rain and represents the ultimate symbol of shelter and protection. Make sure your furniture is well maintained. Any broken furniture will attract sickness. Throw away damaged pots and containers, and repair furniture that is broken

A gentle flow of energy is a must for any Feng Shui garden. Stepping stones add a new dimension to the meandering flow in the garden by emphasizing that life is a series of stepping stones.


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    • Gargoyle-statues profile image

      Gargoyle-statues 4 years ago

      To repel negative energy from untidy neighbours you will need to create a strong positive energy around your place. This might mean a good fence (a beautiful one!) or tall evergreens in your plantings. You could also create a Feng Shui rock garden in the area you feel most of the negative energy is coming from.

      In traditonal Feng Shui the bagua mirror is hung with the mirror side facing towards the negative source. This can be hung inside or outside a building. But you can use any reflective surface, such as a mirror ball.

      Place plants on either side of your door and add salt to the soil once a month. Or draw a line of salt around your threshold to stop negative energy from entering your place

      In feng shui, grapes symbolize abundance of food, thus abundance of material wealth. The South East sector is usually associated with prosperity so maybe you could have this plant near you door.

    • profile image

      valenmonroe1 4 years ago

      Hi ,I love plants I have many I live in a duplex and my duplex is everything the next one isn't mine is neat clean,quiet the next one to me is very messy,noisy and untidy.I want to know how I can keep the negative energy from that duplex from affecting my duplex? I also would like to know where to place a beautiful grape plant in a big planter I got as a gift what is luckiest placement for it my door faces East I have a south side and west side but other duplex faces north so I have no north.Thanks.

    • Gargoyle-statues profile image

      Gargoyle-statues 5 years ago

      Thank you Robie :) I hope that gave you some inspiration. I have used many of these ideas in my own garden.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Great description of Feng Shui garden characteristics. I'll try to apply what I learned to my garden. Thanks for sharing. :)