What makes a California garden designer, whose education and experience is firmly rooted in Western design principles, think she can write a book about Feng Shui?
The short answer is, she can’t.
Like many of you, however, I consider myself a life-long learner. And when the subject at hand relates to garden design, so much the better. I’ve been dabbling in one specific aspect of Feng Shui for several years now, and recently published an eBook on the subject. What sets Everyday Feng Shui A Plant Lover's Guide to Garden Design (On Your Own Design) apart from other books on garden Feng Shui is that rather than a complex system of space planning, the focus is on the plants themselves.
The Creative Cycle
I’ve concentrated on one of the core tenents of Feng Shui—the Creative Cycle. At the heart of the Creative Cycle is the belief that all things have their origin in one of the five elemental groups: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water or Wood. Just as Western garden principles strive to create balance in the garden, Feng Shui similarly focuses on harmony, teaching that for a garden to be truly welcoming, all five elements should be present. Now here is the fun part: each of the elements can be represented by specific plant characteristics! A perfect design tool for gardeners, as we already see plants as the heart and soul of the garden.
Here is a brief description of each of the five elements:
Fire – Symbolic of energy and aggression. Represented by the color red and triangular or jagged, sharp shapes.
Earth – Symbolic of harmony and balance. Represented by the colors brown and yellow and square, flat-topped shapes.
Metal – Symbolic of creativity and collecting. Represented by the colors white, silver and gray and by circular or domed shapes.
Water – Symbolic of meditation and reflection. Represented by the colors blue and black and by wavy, meandering shapes.
Wood – Symbolic of growth and trust. Represented by the color green and by rectangular shapes.
What makes this approach to garden design so appealing, is that rather than replacing traditional Western design principles, it enhances them. As an example, take the following photo:
From a Feng Shui perspective, this front yard is suffering from an excess of Earth (represented by the square shapes of the lawn, driveway and severely-pruned bushes) and Wood (via the color green). Peaceful to the point of boring. Zzzzzz. The key to bringing it back into balance is through the introduction of the other elements on the Creative Cycle. If this were my client, I would begin by removing the unnaturally-shaped shrubs, downsizing the lawn and adding curved planting beds. Budget allowing, I might even add a curved path from the street to the front door. These changes would bring in Water’s meditative influence. Next comes filling the beds with plants in a mix of colors and textures, making sure to include plants with variegated foliage to bring in a touch of Metal’s elegance as well as some sharply-textured New Zealand flax or aloes to channel Fire’s bright energy.
While similar conclusions can be reached without recourse to the Creative Cycle, of course, determining what is wrong with an existing garden is often more challenging than creating a new one from scratch. Why not add another diagnostic tool to your gardening toolkit? Not to mention it’s just plain fun to rethink an outdoor space through the lens of the Creative Cycle.
If you are looking for easy-to-implement ways to make your garden a more enjoyable space that is alive with positive energy, then Everyday Feng Shui provides a roadmap to achieving a new level of harmony in your garden. No need to redesign the garden’s entire layout or rip out and replace planting beds wholesale (unless you enjoy that sort of thing, of course). With a few additions or subtractions, almost any garden space can become more balanced, welcoming and harmonious.
To learn more, go to Amazon and download a sample of the book. Or better yet, leave a comment here or on my Facebook page. I’ll be giving away 3 copies, winners to be announced next Thursday, December 13th. As an FYI for those of you with gardeners on your Christmas list, if you’ve never given a Kindle book as a gift before, it’s incredibly easy. All you have to do is enter the recipient’s email address and voila! It’s done. Should you prefer to bestow your gift in person, simply have the gift certificate emailed to yourself.
In the unlikely event that you're not interested in this giveaway, check back next week anyway. I'll be giving away a copy of the just released Why Grow That When You Can Grow This?: 255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants.
Update 12-13-12: The winners are in!
Chosen by a random number generator, congrats to commenters #8 Loree/Danger Garden, #13 Sheila Schultz and #15 Judy Tilson. Keep an eye on your email for a message from Amazon!