Updated: May 16
*Click and have a listen to the Holistic Podcast featuring Will Brown to dive deeper into the topic of my journey into feng shui and how I was led to plant a feng shui garden inspired by The Five Elements – Wood, Fire, Water, Earth and Metal.
WHAT IS FENG SHUI, ANYWAY?
Simply put, feng shui is the ancient practice of optimizing layout and flow within a space to promote the positive flow of "Qi" or energy. Have you experienced the feeling that a space just isn't right and have even tried to fix it, but to no avail? This is exactly when feng shui
can help you get "unstuck".
The direct benefit from good feng shui will enhance mood, decrease stress and generally improve your quality of life. This can be done through physical placement and/or specific adjustments to objects within the space to help direct this energetic flow.
In order to understand feng shui applied in a garden, I felt it was natural and necessary to plant and cultivate one for myself – especially before I offered insights for creating a garden for any client’s home. This is my experience of finding a small under-appreciated area along the side of my home and turning it into something that now brings me joy and enhances the aesthetic and energy around my home.
I began visiting gardens and homes in the local area here in Kansas City where I started seeing them through a lens of feng shui to try and learn how some principles appeared in the design. I was amazed how I was able to make some connections, taking into account the coaching I'd receive from Mindful Design Feng Shui School founders teachers Anjie Cho and Laura Morris .
The images below reflect two local gardens including an artist friend’s backyard garden where he often paints and an artisan architectural homes tour featuring a Prairie Modern style home.
A Red Door warmly invites visitors into the garden
A Rock Bench grounds and provides seating to meditate
Statuary of Cranes symbolizes longevity
A Winding Path allows Qi energy to meander
CLEARING AWAY THE OLD; MAKING ROOM FOR A VIEW
Along the side of the house between the paved driveway and the concrete foundation, there’s always been an unsightly spotty patch of grass. Most grass seeds that have been planted are washed away because of the down slope thus leaving a perpetually unattractive area. The side door also had a crumbling concrete step that only seemed to get worse with each passing winter.
These offered two areas of focus for this project.
With the help of my friend and creative DIY guy, Calvin, we set out to make a plan. The removal of all the patchy grass and addition of fresh topsoil helped to immediately add back in lost nutrients and create a healthy growing environment. Next, creating a drainage channel covered over with smooth river rocks was instrumental in helping direct water run-off from the slope of the driveway down and away from the garden planting area. Additionally, we separated the drainage rocks from topsoil with a decorative and barrier line of recycled bricks lining the length of the driveway.
A FRESH BEGINNING; A NEW STEP UP
A side door entrance may provide a convenient way to enter the home but isn't set up to provide the best feng shui since you aren't allowing the Qi energy to enter your home through the front door. To counter this, simply ensure you open the front door each day and check that it's clean and free of fingerprints and other debris. I usually pick up the mail from the front door or even sweep the stoop almost daily so this naturally provides me an opportunity to mindfully open the front door and check that everything is tidy and in good functioning order which invite good energy inside.
The newly completed steps are now wider and broader making it easier for entering and exiting the house and also offers a landing for my dog, Mojo, to easily perch on the steps to watch nature or rest.
PLANTING GOOD FENG SHUI USING "FIVE ELEMENTS" OF NATURE
The real fun for me was in walking the aisles of the local plant nursery and wondering which flowering specimens would be best suited for their new home. After a couple trips, I felt I had enough to begin initial placement. As I set out to make this a feng shui garden that incorporated the Five Elements, I focused next on what these elemental additions could be and how they've make their way into the garden.
- Element One -
E A R T H
A jagged and porous Mountain Rock was placed in the center of the garden strip to help enhance the overall Qi flow in the area as the crevices create more surface area for chi to weave
around and linger longer in the space.
This natural and organic type of rock also adds a Yang element into the garden and helps to add some variety and a non-green element for balance and visual interest.
- Element Two -
M E T A L
Metal Chime - This Metal Wind Chime was chosen for its multiple bells that ring in harmony and rings in a high and clear pitch
White Color - White is the color of metal so I planted a climbing rose bush in white which is both beautiful and fragrant - I’m hoping the rose vines will begin to arch over doorway later this summer.
Round Shape - I was drawn to this rounded iridescent / metallic glass oval shape that creates a focal point in the garden.
- Element Three -
W A T E R
Rather than procuring a fountain in this small space, I decided on a birdbath. I have a hand-made earthen ware bowl that was wide enough yet deep enough to hold water. I elevated it onto a flat rock base and invited the local insects and birds to pop in for a dip.
Watering the garden also became a discipline as they let me know when they need to be rehydrated. With respect to not wasting water, I wanted to ensure I gave water when it was needed without over or under watering the plants throughout the heat of summer.
- Element Four -
F I R E
Coreopsis - Takes on the look of flames and carries characteristics of the Fire element. Continuous summer blooming mounds burst forth in abundance and are very heat tolerant. They also attracts butterflies and bees leading to natural pollination and propagation. The color RED is synonymous with the Fire element so adding in red where you want to immediately draw the eye to make a fiery or visual statement is a good rule of (green) thumbs.
- Element Five -
W O O D
All plants fall into the wood category but columnar plants in particular with their structure and architecture, add height and establish order – as seen here with purple alliums and tall lemongrass. Accompanying the Wood element is a Bodhisattva statue elevated on a rock platform and faces east. She adds beauty and a meditative quality to the garden patch.
Throughout the spring and summer, cultivating the garden became part of my daily routine - from removing spent blooms, ensuring the hydration of the plants and birdbath as well as general trimming and pruning of the plantings. Additionally, I planted several herbs as well and also collected healthy clippings of basil, lavender and sage for general cooking and their aromatic space clearing properties.
Will Brown is a certified Feng Shui consultant, tastemaker and interior designer in the midwest and resides in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Owner of Will Brown Interiors LLC, Will blends livable luxury design with practical function for space and design planning that allows you to feel calmer, in command and in harmony with your surroundings. Please be sure to sign up for future posts
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