While Feng Shui typically refers to the built environment rather than the external, outdoor environment, there are no real rules when creating a garden. For a Feng Shui garden, the main consideration is that the landscaping looks good, and that it is in keeping with the rest of the environment, as living in a beautiful, stimulating environment is better than living in an ugly, dull one. It is possible to tell a neighbourhoods Qi (the circulating life energy which the Chinese to be inherent in all things; the balance of positive and negative forms) from the amount of greenery, and the general colour of the area.
There are some general rules to follow, however:
- Pathways should not follow a straight line; allow them to meander where possible.
- Trees can be planted, as long as they are not aligned with any entrances to your garden, especially the main entrance.
- When planting trees, ensure a balance of yin and yang (dark and light) is maintained by using trees with different colours of foliage.
- Do not plant trees which block light.
- Too much of anything is not good – it is important to maintain a balance.
- Shrubbery can be planted as long as it is well maintained.
- Trees and shrubbery can be used to block harsh Qi such as strong winds.
- Grass poses no problems to the Feng Shui environment.
Flowers and colourful plants can be used as long as they fit within the environment and follow the rules of the 5 elements: “Wood produces fire, fire produces earth, earth produces metal, metal produces water, water produces wood.” Wood is green, fire is red, earth is tans or yellows, metal is white or gold, water is blue or black. You should avoid using them in a destructive combination such that “wood uproots earth, earth blocks water, water douses fire, fire melts metal, and metal chops wood”.
You should also consider the direction in which the house sits. For example, if the house faces North and sits to the south is a Li (the fire trigram) building, and so would benefit from red flowers, but not blue. A house which faces to the west and sits to the east is a Tui (the metal trigram), and so would benefit from a mixture of white and gold, while reds and purples should be avoided. Following these rules of balance can support the house and its occupants. These Feng Shui principles should apply to the trim colour of the house as well.
Two items which should be looked at more carefully are rocks and water. Because both are part of the 5 elements, and are used to remedy certain situations in the greater environment, they must be very carefully placed within your garden environment. Water in the west is not good, however if it is placed in the Southwest or East it can assist prosperity. These directions should not be in front of, or behind, your house. If they are, you should employ a qualified Feng Shui practitioner to determine whether the water will have a positive or negative effect.
If you do wish to have a fountain in your garden, it is best not to use an earthen container, as earth blocks water in the cycle of elements. Metallic containers can be used to great effect, as metal strengthens water. With the right balance of flowers and plants surrounding the container, the container can blend in very well with the surrounding environment. For larger ponds or pools, a Feng Shui practitioner should be consulted regarding the positioning.
Rocks should also be placed under guidance of a trained Feng Shui practitioner, as they can also have an effect on the prosperity of a building if placed haphazardly, particularly to the front or back of the structure, hence a practitioner can help determine ideal locations for placement. Feng Shui folklore suggests that a building should have a mountain behind it for support. You can create this mountain in your garden using rocks and earth. However, while this may sound good, it is not true in every case – every building is different, and so should be judged on a case-by-case basis.
At the end of the day, the goal of Feng Shui is to provide a comfortable and beautiful environment – bear this in mind while landscaping, and your garden should become a joy to behold.
Water and Rock Gardens
Water gardens have become increasingly popular recently, thanks to the calming effects they can offer to a garden as well as the ease of getting a water garden to blend in. They can also spawn a variety of wildlife which requires no looking after, allowing your garden to become a place of interest.
To start with, you must decide what you want to use your water garden or pond for. You may want a simple pond with a few aquatic plants, or you may want a pond with water features and koi carp.
When selecting a location for the pond, consider its location in relation to the house. It is important that you can see the pond from inside, but it is also crucial that the pond is not placed too close, because that could allow runoff water to drain into the pond, which is bad as the water can contain a number of organic or chemical contents which can harm your pond. If you wish to grow plants, particularly lilies, you should ensure your pond is in a location which will receive 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day.
If you will be putting a water feature, such as a fountain or waterfall, into the pond, you will require a water filter. This will help clean water as it is circulated around the water features, and will keep the pond clean, and prevent the features from clogging. If you are to be keeping fish in the pond, you will also require a biological filter, which will reduce harmful substances in the water. Any kind of water circulation is good for both plants and fish; and can also be pleasing to view and listen to if combined with a water feature.
When digging a pond, it should be dug with three levels, to allow for the most variation in plant types. The deepest level should take up about 40% of the available space, with the two remaining levels taking approximately 30% each. You will need to consider where you will be placing any water features or filters, bearing in mind that a feature such as a waterfall will require water to be pumped from the pond to the waterfall tank at the top of the descent. A ditch should be dug between the skimmer or submersible pump to the tank. In this ditch you should lay the a pipe of sufficient diameter to maintain a constant flow down your waterfall.
With the pond dug, you will now need to line it, using a waterproof pond liner material. Around the liner, stones should be placed to keep it in place. You may wish to use un-treated, rough stones, or you may want to make a pathway around the pond. Either way is fine, as long as the stones are secured using mortar so that they do not move. Once the mortar is dried, you can fill the pond with water. You will want to put your plants into the pond as soon as possible. If you intend to put fish into the pond, add a few at a time over a few weeks allowing bacteria to become established in the pond.
Rock gardens are another ideal way to get an interesting and varied garden. With a few rocks and layers of topsoil, you can easily create an interesting and unique garden feature.
Rocks which are found native to your area will be easiest and cheapest to source, and will also blend in well with their surroundings. A mix of sizes should be used to give variation. Also, it is worth adding some limestone as it is porous, allowing plants to take root in it. It also tends to have depressions in it, which can be filled with dirt, and used for planting moss and lichens.
When building your rock garden, start at front part of your garden, and work upwards towards your home. Place a few rocks before spreading soil around them to keep them anchored. You may need to bury more than half of some rocks in order to keep them stable. Once you have completed the layout, leave the layout for a few days. This enables the soil to settle, and also allows you to decide whether you like the layout or not.
If you have decided to retain the original layout, you can now start to plant flowers and plants. Some purists believe that when you create a rock garden, you should only add plants which would normally be found on a rocky slope with poor soils. However, at the end of the day, it is your rock garden, and it is up to you what you plant. Generally, low-growing perennials are the best plants, though these only glower in the spring. You may want to add some summer-blossoming plants such as annuals and heathers, to add a little more colour to your rock garden.
Looking after your rock garden – ensure the plants are well fed and watered, and occasionally loosen the soil using a small garden fork. If you have planted mainly rock plants, they shouldn’t struggle even in poor soil, though it isn’t a bad idea to fertilise them every so often. You should also look after the plants, dead-heading them as required, and checking for insects and slugs which may be causing damage. Be alert for slugs, who like the spaces under the rocks which are dry and dark.
Also, you should never let weeds grow in the nooks and crannies around the rocks, as they may crowd out many of the plants.
In winter, due to the exposed nature of a rock garden, the plants may be a little more susceptible to frost. To prevent this, you should apply a heavy mulch before the first frost of the season, particularly in colder climates where frosts may be heavier or more frequent.