A feng shui garden can usher good luck into your home
All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.
- Academy award-winning actress Helen Hayes
The garden is a place where we can all reconnect with the powerful energies of the earth. As a microcosmic model of nature, it's a dynamic space that has life and vitality.
This vitality, it's believed, can be harnessed to create a positive and harmonious environment that's not just beautiful but also beneficial to us - spiritually, physically and financially.
This practice of channeling and harmonising the energies of natural elements - both in our living spaces and gardens - is part of feng shui, an ancient Chinese science founded on the yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) concept of balance and harmony.
And if all this sounds Chinese to you, it may be surprising to hear that architects and interior designers in Europe, Asia, Australia and even the US are using feng shui to create architectural landmarks and interior spaces.
According to Samita Khanna, a consultant and founder of Feng Shui Arabia, this science is gaining importance in today's turbulent world.
"Globally, people are developing a sensitivity to the energy (chi) flows within the environment. They are also learning how to harness this chi to bring happiness and success into their lives," she says.
While feng shui has been employed in designs for indoor living and work areas, it's only natural that its influence has spread to other areas of the home including the garden.
Khanna says that in feng shui you apply landscaping themes and architecture in the garden space to create a tranquil, beautiful, enriching and healthy atmosphere for the residents - an oasis in which to re-energise, de-stress and relax.
However, peace and harmony are not the only benefits that feng shui gardens endow. While the idea may seem unorthodox to some people, these gardens can also augur well for your finances.
"People who have a decently sized garden can create balance and harmony and the inflow of wealth energies through the activation of water features and appropriate placement of other outdoor elements," says Khanna, who also adds that people living in apartments can also bring the same positive energy into their homes with indoor landscaping features based on feng shui principles.
The five natural elements that come into play in a feng shui-inspired garden are earth, metal, water, wood and fire - all of which have to perfectly synchronise in a garden to offer benefits.
"How the elements work together is called the 'productive cycle' of the elements. You have to be careful that you put the right elements together because the elements can sometimes also cancel each other out.
"This aspect is called the 'negating cycle' of the elements. For example, too much of the water element can douse the fire element, leading to an imbalance in the garden," says Khanna.
Each of these elements offers advantages when placed in a particular direction. According to Khanna, the fire element harmonises with the south, so she suggests using bright lights and lot of red and green plants here to enhance fame.
The north goes well with the water element and hence a water feature placed here boosts career prospects. The west needs the metal element. Yellow flowers and metal statues of children placed here can enhance children's luck.
The east requires the wood element, so planting trees and flowers along with garden ornaments symbolising children or cranes in this area encourages good health and longevity.
The wood element also works well with the southeast direction. So trees and other plants along with a yang water element in the area will usher wealth into your home, says Khanna.
The southwest direction harmonises with the earth element, hence, a brightly lit rock garden with a bench or loveseat for two can strengthen marriages and invite romance into your life.
White flowers, sundials or metallic symbols of angels placed in the northwest direction, which corresponds with the metal element, enhances your contacts and your mentor's fortunes.
Khanna says that the northeast direction works well with the earth element, so creating a Japanese rock garden there or positioning clay or mud pots and rocks will energise areas such as your education and career.
The centre of the garden represents the earth element and is the tai chi area and core of the space. This area must be kept open and uncluttered to encourage family ties and joy.
The main goal in feng shui gardening is to raise the level of chi in the garden and make sure that it moves smoothly and freely throughout the space. Curved pathways encourage good chi flow.
Khanna says that, "The straight lines and angles of a house are balanced by the use of curving, flowing or meandering pathways. Flowerbeds, for example, can also be used to counterpoint and balance the straight lines of a house.
"You can also reduce shar chi (negative energy) when using paving, by avoiding the use of overtly straight lines. Curved paving stones are best, but straight-edged paving stones laid in curved lines or a herringbone pattern will help break up the edges and encourage chi flow."
Khanna, who has consulted on projects for Emaar Properties and the Dubai Economic Department, also has the following recommendations for the use and placement of feng shui elements to enhance the energies of your garden space.
When you use beautifully crafted water features, the size should be right (neither too small nor too big), so that they do not overpower the home.
"There are two types of water features that we create based on feng shui guidelines, the yang water feature (moving water) and the yin water feature (still water used when growing lotus or water lilies).
"Cascades or waterfalls are powerful water features that invite wealth into the home. However, while creating the water feature, you must ensure that the water is flowing in towards your home and not away from it," says Khanna.
Lights represent the fire element as well as life-giving yang energy. These two attributes can be effectively harnessed to create auspicious feng shui The use of lights is especially potent in the south, southwest and northeast sectors of any garden, since these are the sectors symbolic of fire energy.
Lights can also be used as a highly effective antidote for a variety of feng shui ills - for example, they can be used to balance a missing corner of the building itself or to raise the chi of dark, damp corners.
Harsh or bright spotlights create an excess of yang energy that transforms good energy into bad. Balance is always a vital component in feng shui applications, so lights should be small and non-threatening.
The placement of ornamental statues and ceramics in the garden or around the house is popular with people everywhere; but some objects are particular favourites, either because they are traditional or because they symbolise a social aspiration, says Khanna.
She adds that Chinese symbols of wealth, longevity and good health, such as fish, turtles, cranes and horses, are all considered favourable according to feng shui principles and are popular worldwide, as they have no religious connotations and have vast universal appeal.
These should be placed in strategic corners, so that the energies created are subtle rather than overwhelming. Do not place statues of fierce animals inside the building, near terraces, or facing inward. These positions can target negative energies against the residents, causing them harm.
"Having tall green trees behind the home softens the view of the house and enhances privacy," says Khanna. She also suggests using trees for the qualities they represent. The acacia tree, for example, denotes permanence while offering a perfect yin-yang balance in the garden.
"The palm and neem tree bring longevity while the lime tree brings good luck. The gulmohar tree attracts fame while flowers such as the jasmine attract friendship. Hibiscus brings abundance while orchids bring patience and endurance," says Khanna.
In the same way that certain plants attract good energy, there are others that have negative connotations and bring bad luck.
- Prickly plants with thorns and spiky leaves such as cactus, as they emit harmful energy and should be used only in places that are not frequently used by the residents. They can be used as protection symbols outside the gates to your home.
- Artificially stunted plants such as bonsai because they represent stunted growth in all life aspects.
- Plants that have downward falling leaves such as the weeping willow represent sorrow and sagging energy.
Use broad-leaved, healthy and attractive plants such as the philodendron, money plant and rubber plant indoors to attract favourable energy. Avoid plants with very pointy or spiky leaves, as they emanate negative energy.
Noted feng shui practitioner and author Lillian Too also makes a very important suggestion for gardens on her website. She advises trimming plants and trees regularly so that they do not cut out the precious yang energy of sunlight. She says that when plants get too big they create excessive yin energy.
Khanna says that not all garden themes deal solely with plants and water features. "We can also add elements of hardscapes such as decorative walls and elaborate woodwork, including auspicious pathways to usher good luck into the home."