A curvy path winding through the garden? Good feng shui. A prickly cactus plant in the family sector of the garden? Bad feng shui.
Feng shui is the Chinese practice of arranging your environment to create harmonious surroundings, which is said to help energize the nine life sectors: wealth, fame, relationships, family, health and well-being, children or creativity, knowledge, career and helpful people.
Use it to create a healthy garden and balanced life, said Janet Marletto, a local feng shui consultant since 1998.
"It sounds nutty until you do it," Marletto said. "The most powerful people in China have been doing it for well over 4,000 years. It was only for the very powerful. The most average people weren't privy to it. Even the Chinese Olympics were done using feng shui."
Feng shui literally means "wind and water." Practitioners use a bagua (pronounced bawg wah) shape, which is an energy pattern, to map out the sectors in your home, garden or office. On paper, the bagua looks like a square or rectangle and is broken into nine boxes, the center of which is health and well-being. A feng shui practitioner can look at the bagua and see how the entrance and sectors correspond to your home or garden. A session can range from $40 to $800, depending on the size and scope of the consultation, what the client wants and how many people are involved.
For example, if you stand at the entrance to your house or garden, the far right corner is the relationships sector - a good place in the garden for a bench big enough for two people to sit on. The prosperity sector is located in the far left corner - an ideal place to put a birdbath filled with water, Marletto said. Water, or flow, is important, especially in terms of prosperity. The bath, however, must be kept clean and filled.
Though Marletto uses classical Chinese feng shui, which makes personalized recommendations based on a person's birthday, there are general guidelines anybody can use to help gardens thrive.
When Marletto goes to a client's garden, she looks at the directions: north, south, east and west. Not only is there meaning that goes along with each direction, there is an element and a color. It is ideal to have all five elements (water, fire, metal, earth and wood) present in each sector. For example, the color yellow and the element of earth are excellent choices for the center of the space, which relates to well-being. Yellow flowers would be ideal there.
Sizing up the property as a whole is also important, said Suzanne Metzgar, another local feng shui consultant. Yards can sometimes slope down at the back or side of the property.
"They're important parts of the land," Metzgar said. "Those are the wealth, fame and relationship areas. You don't want those rolling away."
To lift the energy up in those spots, she recommends using solar lights, convex mirrors or upward growing plants, like Russian sage.
Test the feng shui in a garden by placing a plant in one particular spot, and keep track of how it grows.
"I tell people to use the elements, and to use their instincts if they aren't ready for a consultation," Marletto advises. "People's (instincts) are more than likely 80 percent right. If something's dying, dig it up, especially if it's in the prosperity direction."
And never give up hope if it feels like your home and garden are filled with bad feng shui.
"There is mitigation for everything," Marletto said. "Nothing is hopeless, and a fix is usually inexpensive. You can often just move something from one place to another.
"There's no such thing as perfect feng shui. Things are always changing."
Good feng shui
- If the terrain or quality of soil is affecting the growth of the garden, add some weather-resistant or kinetic sculptures.
- Add surprise and whimsy, Janet Marletto said. "It makes you enjoy being in it (the garden). You want the same thing in your home, like going up a stairway. You want something unexpected."
- Color is good. Choose yellow and red for the front of the house or garden to bring prosperity and get people's attention.
- Use pots, Marletto said, like a blue porcelain, or plastic, which allows the soil to stay moist longer.
"Everybody should have near their front entrance a pot that has all the elements in it. When you have all elements, you are appealing to everybody. They're going to feel welcome."
- Plants with round leaves symbolize prosperity, because they resemble money. They can also be used inside the house. Put them in the prosperity sector, generally toward the back left corner of the bagua.
- The relationship sector is located in the back right corner of the bagua. In a garden, place a sculpture of animals that mate for life, like wolves or owls. The color pink can also be used here.
- Any bird bath in your garden needs to be kept clean and filled, especially if it's in the prosperity sector. Money can dry up.
- Use stones that have visible minerals, like crystals, in them. These rocks fulfill the earth element and go in the center of the garden where they can catch the light.
- If it's a large garden, put in lilac bushes. Have a curvy path around them that runs into a fountain and have a couple of chairs for people to sit and relax in.
- Any edging in a garden should take on a meandering shape so it's curved. Square corners can form an arrow of negativity, especially when it's pointed toward a seating area. If there is an arrow like that, use a rounded plant or a sculpture to round off the corner.
- Wind chimes are good. They help move sluggish energy.
Bad feng shui
- Don't use the same items and plants every year, Marletto said. Mix it up so the energy can flow and doesn't stay stagnant.
- Avoid weeping plants, like weeping willows, especially in the relationship sector. Any weeping plant will bring misery to a relationship if you place it in that sector. Avoid anything like bleeding heart plants or mother-in-law's tongue with its leaves that look like blades of a sword. Steer clear of anything spiky in the garden.
- Dried flowers are typically not ideal, Suzanne Metzgar said, but they're acceptable if you keep them looking nice. Replace them regularly.
- Don't have big rocks in the garden sit on top of the soil. Dig the rock into the dirt, so it's somewhat buried. This subconsciously can create a feeling of more safety, Metzgar said.
- You can have a xeriscape garden only if there is also some water, otherwise it becomes too sterile and parched. Put potted plants around the rocks, so you'll have to water, or a bird bath or fountain that can be plugged in.
Contact Jennifer Mulson at 636-0270.