Andrea helps people design their homes and gardens. She likes to use Western Astrology and the Chinese Zodiac to help build templates.
Designing Your Garden with Earth Features
Designing a garden around feng shui can make your outdoor space look more attractive, more tranquil, and balanced. When designing a garden, I encourage using all five elements: earth, metal, water, wood, and fire.
Earth is one of the easier elements to incorporate into your garden. Earth is also the most malleable and amicable element in feng shui. It is a hybrid of yin and yang energy. You can use it to balance areas that need to be tamed or regulated.
Earth is the soil, the mud, the ground without flora. It is a stabilizing element. You can use it to help direct your plants and cut off water flow. Earth elements make for great pathways, mulch, flat surfaces, and caverns.
- Earth is the only element in the Chinese Zodiac that has four animals dedicated to it. This includes the Ox, the Dragon, the Goat, and the Dog.
- In the Chinese Zodiac, the earth element occurs between new elements. The cycle goes something like this: water, water, earth, wood, wood, earth, fire, fire, earth, metal, metal, earth.
- Earth doesn't stand for a fixed season. It is about transitions.
- The main colors for earth are yellow and brown.
- Earth is promoted through square shapes and flat surfaces.
- Hexagons are another good shape for earth energy.
- Earth represents your health, knowledge, and partnerships.
Yin and Yang
Circles, Ovals, Spheres
Rectangles, Triangles, Squares, Prisms, Diamonds, Stars
Black and Blue
Red, White, Yellow
Time of Day
Dark and Dim
Light and Bright
Black and White
Water / Earth
Fire / Air
Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Goat, Rooster, Pig
Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Dog
Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces
Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius
Yin, Yang, and the Midpoints
Yin and yang are polar opposites. Between those two points are transitions. We gradually move from one element or context into another. A day doesn't suddenly switch to night. We have sunrise and sunset, and during sunrise and sunset day and night are both occurring.
Those in between places are called cusps. It's important to keep cusps in mind while designing your garden. You want elements to gradually shift and feel blended rather than jumping from one element to the next, which can come off jarring or clashy.
- You can use colors and shapes to help you blend from one space into the next.
- Study how colors work on a color wheel.
- Consider shapes that combine yin and yang principles. For instance, hearts are made up or triangles and rounded curves.
- Earth is often a great element to use for transitions, but keep in mind it is considered destructive to water. Use earth with caution around water elements, so as not to tone done the energy too much.
- There are times when you want to tone done your earth element, for instance if it is putting out too much dust. Consider adding more plants and columns; these items are related to wood. Wood is the destructive element to earth.
Adding Earth Features
Earth is represented by rocks, soil, clay, bricks, terra cotta, and pottery. Adding a rock or pebble garden can help boost the earth element in your yard.
Make sure to keep your earth elements clean. You don't want to grow algae or mold on surfaces. Your soil should be healthy and able to support flora. (Don't leave your earth elements neglected; consistently tend your yard.)
Pottery that's left outside should be cleaned. You don't want pottery to become dens for critters or bird poop. You also don't want your pottery to hold gross waters and debris.
Earth is the foundation of your garden. You want soil that is rich, full of nutrients, and is level. You don't want a yard that's challenging to maintain or difficult to mow. You may first want to work on your feng shui garden by starting with the earth element and working the soil and getting it shaped before adding other elements.
Zen gardens are generally focused around earth elements. This is where you can string rocks together to make lovely arrangements. A zen garden helps make your yard look attractive and mature.
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Best Locations for Earth Features
The best baguas to install earth features are the Southwest, West, Northwest, and Northeast sections.
- Romance and relationships belong to the Southwest. It is also the space designated for the female head of a household. This could be a space dedicated to your mother or wife. Add pottery or other earthen art representative of the important woman or women in your life.
- Also in the Southwest, it is encouraged to put seats in pairs. The seats are to remind you of important relationships.
- A stone fireplace is also recommend in the Southwest. Fire supports earth, stone is an excellent material for fireplaces, and fire represents the passion of a couple.
- In the West, earth nurtures metal. The West space is about completion, creativity, and children. Place small flowers in this area in earth tone colors.
- The Northwest represents helpful people in our lives and travel. This space represents the male head of the household. This is an excellent space to dedicate to your father or husband. Add pottery or terra cotta representative of a strong, well-respected man in the family. Someone that children look up to, someone who makes great decisions, and someone who is humble. (Don't put in objects into your garden that are representative of people who have negative chi.)
- The Northeast represents knowledge and spirituality. This is a good spot for a zen garden, a meditation space, to practice yoga, or a place for reading.
Designing a Zen Garden
Zen gardens were first created by Japanese Buddhist monks. The gardens are meant for meditation. A traditional zen garden is known as a karesansui. It is a minimalist dry landscape. Zen gardens are generally made up of rocks, gravel, sand, and very few plants and no water.
Keep in mind: in feng shui, the wood element is considered destructive to earth. Plants will ambush your rocks, pottery, and the like. You want a space in your yard where plants are not allowed.
Zen gardens often contain bridges, stone lanterns, and an enclosing wall that separates the garden from the rest of your yard and home.
The zen garden doesn't need as much care and attention as your space for plants. It isn't affected by seasonal changes. It is more of a transitional space between earth and heaven.
- A zen garden is meant to be in a flat, out-of-the-way corner in your yard.
- Prepare the space so it is suitable for meditation and prayer.
- Choose aspects from other zen gardens you have seen and like and incorporate those aspects into your space.
- Keep in mind: big rocks can overwhelm a space while small rocks can get lost in a sprawling vista.
- A zen space should be uncluttered. It should be simple. It should be concise. It should make you feel calm.
- A zen garden should be quiet, private, and lovely.
- Use a muted color scheme.
- People enjoy raking gravel or sand into patterns. There are many different types of symbols that zen gardener practitioners like to use that revolve around seasons, life, death, and the pursuit of happiness.
- Gravel is integral to a zen garden. Raking gravel is considered a way to improve mental focus.
- Gravel is more durable and easier to maintain than sand.
- Use rocks for imagination. Rocks can represent mountains, islands, shrines, familiar places, animals, or magical beasts. Looking at rocks in abstract ways helps your mind to wander, which is encouraged in meditation.
- Rocks represent human desire for eternity.
- Rocks are considered enduring parts of nature.
- Bamboo screens can be used to separate your zen garden space from the rest of your yard.
- Add statues in a meditative pose.
- Add meditative art.
- Pathways to the zen garden should be made up of different items than what you use in the zen garden. This will help contrast the two spaces.
- Feng shui encourages having curvy and winding paths. It adds more dimension, whimsy, and softer chi to your garden.
- Water, if used, should be less about how it looks and more about the sound.
- Plants that are recommend for a zen garden include: Japanese maples, azaleas, bamboo, ferns, mosses, and sedges.
Even though a zen garden will likely require less maintenance than other parts of your yard, it shouldn't be neglected. Make sure to weed, pick up leaves, and prune the area. Rake through the gravel rather than leaving it stagnant.
Zen gardens are based around seven guiding principles:
- Austerity / Koko
- Simplicity / Kanso
- Naturalness / Shinzen
- Asymmetry / Fukinsei
- Mystery or Subtlety / Yugen
- Magical or Unconventional / Datsuzoku
- Stillness / Seijaku
Elements in Feng Shui
Earth nourishes metal by creating minerals in the soil.
Earth destroys water by drying it and cutting off its path.
Metal nourishes water through condensation.
Metal destroys wood by chopping into it.
Water nourishes wood by helping plants to grow.
Water destroys fire by putting out flames and turning it into steam.
Wood nourishes fire by giving it tinder. Wood helps fire to grow and gives it a path to burn.
Wood destroys earth by popping up out of the ground and disheveling it.
Fire nourishes earth by turning into ash and helping land to form and spread.
Fire destroys metal by melting it.
Add Statues of Oxen, Dragons, Goats, or Dogs
In order to bring out the earth element, add statues or other art of oxen, dragons, goats, and dogs. You could also add bulls or cows for oxen and sheep for goats.
These animals are considered representations or guardians of the earth element. In the Chinese zodiac, the Ox took the second designation in the race after the Rat jumped off him and made it first to the Jade Emperor. The Dragon came in 5th after leaving the race momentarily to help a village suffering from drought. The Goat was 8th after having its fun. The Dog was 11th after helping fight off evil in another country with the Monkey and the Rooster.
- The Ox guides the transition between winter and spring.
- The Dragon guides the transition between spring and summer.
- The Goat guides the transition between summer and fall.
- The Dog guides the transition between fall and winter.
I would recommend adding statues of these animals in stone, ceramic, terra cotta, and clay. You want the animals to be symbols and representatives of the element you want to boost. These animals have mostly positive dispositions; they encourage health, longevity, stability, and legacy.
The animals are not meant to be seen as gods, deities, or idols. You're not supposed to worship them. They act as guardians and protectors of your garden space.
Adding Yellow and Brown Flora
There is a great deal of yellow that occurs in nature. You can easily find vegetables, fruits, flowers, and trees in different shades of yellow. Yellow is related to the solar plexus and gut health. A healthy solar plexus makes for a strong foundation for your body's overall health.
Brown is more unique. Trees will naturally have brown leaves in late fall and into winter as they shed leaves. Brown vegetables and fruits may take more creativity to find. You don't want to keep food that is browning. You want food that naturally has a healthy brown tone.
There are a variety of flowers that are naturally brown, but they're not as common as yellow flowers. It will be easier to find trees that are yellow in spring than trees that are brown in spring. You may want to plant trees with yellow blooms for spring, and trees with yellow and brown foliage for fall.
Brown is more associated with soil and the ground. You want to have healthy soil as it is the foundation for your whole garden. Be sensitive to the color of the ground and what nutrients are going into it. The right fertilizer and manure can make a huge different on the quality of your plants.
Yellow and Brown Vegetables, Fruits, Flowers, and Trees
Corn, squash, bell peppers, golden beets, pumpkins, beans, potatoes, cauliflower, turmeric, onions, parsnips
Mushrooms, taro, potatoes, ginger, Jerusalem artichoke
Bananas, pineapples, apples, figs, pears, lemons, mangoes, peaches, yellow melon
Bosc pears, coconuts, longans, dates, passionfruits, chojuro pears, baobab, kumato, durian, coconuts
Marigolds, sunflowers, begonias, daffodils, pansies, dahlias, roses, black-eyed Susans, water lilies, goldenrods, yellow archangel
Rodeo girl, supreme sultan, spiced tiger, red hawk, spiced lemon, ruffled feathers, dodge city, living legacy, peruvian lily
Yellowwood, golden chain tree, golden shower tree, Chinese flame tree, golden trumpet tree, yellow buckeye, American elm, shagbark hickory, witch hazel
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.