Gardening isn’t just all about plants and soil. It’s also about providing spaces that encourage the flow of chi—call it Feng Shui for the outdoors.
Just as you’d apply feng shui principles to your indoor spaces, it makes sense to be mindful of nature and arrange your outdoor gardens accordingly, said Minnie Kansman, author of "Spirit Gardens: Rekindling Our Nature Connections".
Kansman explained there are four corners that can enhance or invite different areas of life in gardening or embellishing outdoor spaces as you face your home: front left (knowledge), front right (helpful people), back left (wealth), and back right (partnership, or love). Then there are five other spaces amongst those, including fame and children, which Kansman explains in her book. “Each has colors related to it; use the colors to enhance it,” she advised.
The place to begin is at one’s front door, whether it’s a walkway lined with flowers or two (always two) plant containers. “That’s because it’s the mouth of chi, the life force of all living things. You can attract more of that energy with the plants you put in, that will greet you and others, like bright colors. Red is a traditional color to attract that energy.”
“A popular perennial geranium like Max fri or Roseanne will flower all summer, said Bryon Angerman nursery manager and landscape design at Alsip Home & Nursery in St. John. For red, coral bells, 10"-16" tall work; the foliage is the colorful part, said Julie Severa, assistant manager at Allen Landscape in Highland.
Kansman said for the helpful people area at right front, a statue if St. Francis of Assisi works well, along with pretty, colorful flowers.
Perennials will keep popping up every year, so they’re ideal for a lasting garden.
Angerman advised bringing in photos taken at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. to show how much sun or shade there is. “Also look at how tall or wide the area is, and what colors you favor. This will cut out a lot of the guesswork, so we can get the right plants for the area.”
The left front side is knowledge, meaning finding out who you are and cultivating that. “I like to put a place where you can read a good book, a meditative place where you can commune with nature. It could be a reflecting pond, even a bird bath, because water is very reflective in showing who we are,” said Kansman.
At left in the back is the area for inviting wealth. “Clean that up and put in a bench or pond—a reason for the energy to go there for you, it can be a wonderful change, from a pile of sticks to a place to relax,” said Kansman, adding that the color for wealth is purple.
Perennials flowering in purple, said Severa, include the perennial geranium (there’s an annual geranium), millennium ornamental chive, bellflowers, catmint and may night sage—all short varieties, from 6 to 18 inches tall. Taller varieties in purple include blue false indigo and Russian sage, ranging from 2 to 4 feet tall, for a colorful backdrop. A fragrant lilac bush works, too.
Partnership, or love, is at the back right of the property. “Think of pairs of things, like two similar statues, two chairs, two candles. Pink flowers work well here—impatiens, pink daisies,” suggested Kansman. For greater height, “I’m a big fan of hydrangeas,” says Angerman. "They make great cut flowers and there are probably 100 different varieties that will tolerate sun and shade, from 18 inches to 4 feet tall.”
For bare spots, “There are lots of perennial flowering ground covers,” said Angerman. ”There’s (bluish-purple, spring-blooming) myrtle, dianthus blooms in spring and summer, and cedum flowers in fall. For lots of color, in an annual, wave petunias and super petunias will spread out.
Severa said other short, bright colors to mix in include the pink or yellow hardy ice plant, blue gentian, daylilies, pink or blue creeping phlox and yellow threadleaf coreopsis, all shorter plants. A taller one is coneflower, 2 to 4 feet, in several colors.
“When you begin to honor nature spirits, you’re working in partnership with that energy, communing with Earth and plants,” said Kansman, who talks to her plants and said they talk back, in the way they thrive or appear to be unhappy. “It’s very much on an intuitive level.”
Kansman is certified as an advanced practitioner and master educator of Feng Shui. She invites people with questions about Feng Shui and spirit gardening to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.