Regular readers of this column know that we are hard-headed realists when it comes to landscape design. “Form follows function” is our guiding principle. “Less is more” is equally important. So is “paint with the big brush first”. These are well-known design clichés that help us decide what to do (and NOT to do) in landscaping. We believe that if you focus on practical, common-sense solutions, beauty will fall into place almost automatically.
So, it might surprise you that over the years we’ve adopted many principles and ideas from the ancient oriental discipline of Feng Shui.
Wikipedia defines feng shui (pronounced “fung shway”) as “a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. The term feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English.” Feng shui explains “invisible forces” that bind the universe, earth, and humanity together. A goal of feng shui in design is to harness positive life force called Qi, (“chi” in English). Feng shui ideas in landscape design help create a peaceful and serene place where positive chi will flow freely.
Historically, feng shui was widely used to decide where and how to place buildings in the most favorable way, based on local features such as bodies of water, stars, or a compass. For example, feng shui might suggest placing a home on a sunny south-facing slope with a hill behind it for protection from the north wind.
Using feng shui helps balance natural elements such as wood, water, metal, fire and earth in your overall landscape design. In your garden, the five elements of feng shui are represented by various plants and objects. Earth; soil, rocks and boulders, pottery. Wood; arbors, planting boxes, benches. Water; fountains, birdbaths, ponds and waterfalls. Fire; lights, lanterns, fire pits. Metal; wind chimes, arbors, and planters.
Feng shui gardens must be free of clutter so positive chi can circulate freely. Everything should have a specific purpose and place. Each tree, plant and object is there to balance the five feng shui elements. Disorder, disarray and clutter disrupt the flow of chi and lower the energy level of the area.
Our favorite feng shui concept is focusing your landscape on the main entrance door of your home. We use landscaping to direct attention to the front door, thus “funneling” positive energy into your home. Feng shui holds that directing attention to the entrance will bring prosperity into your home, and we’ve actually seen it work. Entrances that are hidden from the street, driveway or parking area actually block chi, depriving the home of positive energy.
Using plants and paving creatively to frame the entrance is just one way to harness the ancient discipline of feng shui to improve your mood and make your home more welcoming. Entering your home should uplift and inspire you with positive energy, and should have the same effect on your guests. Just a brief look into feng shui as a design tool will quickly open your eyes to many ways that positive and negative energy can affect your living space.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are on the “Garden Advice” page at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information is available at www.goodseedfarm.com or call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.