Green Scene

Feng shui techniques can add tranquil quality to gardens

By Joel M. Lerner
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gardens can relax or energize you, depending on their design. Balance the energy flow in your landscape to ensure it will be comfortable and harmonious. The Chinese have used this method of design for many thousands of years. It is called feng shui, pronounced "fung shway."

Learning the terminology and concepts of feng shui can help in the understanding of this discipline (see glossary below).

Qi (also called ch'i) describes the energy flow that moves over and around objects and people. Too much is not good; too little is bad. Energy can be blocked by walls or trapped in corners, becoming stagnant. The objective is for qi to flow gently through openings, not be too aggressive (positive) or too passive (negative). Strive for a perfect balance of the two in your design.

Yin and yang describe the two opposing forces that act on qi. Yin is passive and yang aggressive. The common symbol for yin and yang is a circle with a curved line bisecting it, arranged in two colors, one on each side of the curve, with a spot of the opposite color on each side. This is the symbolic goal of balance to achieve in your garden. Too much yin or yang can create adverse effects. A balance creates proper energy and harmony.

Feng shui is the discipline of bringing balanced qi to your life, including home and garden. Translated, it means "wind and water," two forces that have a great impact on Earth. They are considered part of the cosmic energy that the Chinese believe is in everything. Wind and water carved canyons, eroded mountains, determined locations of cities and dictate whether soil will be rich enough to support life.

Front yards represent active yang energy or public space. Yang energy colors are warm reds, yellows, oranges and bright whites. Ideally, front yards should face south because yang energy corresponds to sunlight, a positive force.

Back yards represent passive yin energy, or privacy. Yin energy colors are cool blues, purples and greens. Yin also corresponds to darkness, or negativity -- the opposite of yang, which can be good or bad. Consider them as similar to positive (active) and negative (grounded) electrical charges. A little yang in the back yard and a little yin in the front yard are necessary.

Qi is most active from the west, so use a heavy metal object, such as a sculpture or urn, to calm energy flow from that direction, if possible. Metal is the element of choice because of its weight.

Observance of rigid feng shui principles requires a "story," or explanation, symbolic of every aspect. When principles are applied to gardens, you can take advantage of the environment, ameliorating energy-flow problems occurring from the siting of your house and property.

The five elements

Wood is represented by furniture, structures, thick evergreens and perennials, and the colors blue and green. It is best used in an east-southeast location. Wood is an enemy of earth and metal, but positive when used with water and fire.

Fire is symbolized by barbecues and other fire structures, red vegetables, strongly scented herbs, thorny plants and flowers in warm colors. Use these in moderation in southern locations. Fire's color is red and its enemies are water and metal, but it is productive with wood and earth.

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