Ever tried bringing home plants to celebrate a date? Both the occasion and the plant become special. This Chinese new year, on 14 February, we decided to pick up a jasmine. One Feng Shui book advises planting it in the south-west for harmony and in the south-east for money. But wherever it stands, the delicate white blooms and fragrance are heady.
Gardening for good luck
Feng Shui, the study of orientation and aesthetics, considers the garden an integral part of the home. A cluttered garden obstructs the flow of chi, the life energy. The thumb rules in Feng Shui are balance, order and harmony. A lot of it makes practical sense too—such as keeping the garden as large as you can, but no bigger than you can easily maintain.
Balance: The five elements—wood, fire, earth, water and metal—must be in equilibrium. Plants of different sizes, leaf shapes and colours can represent them. So don’t let one type of plant dominate. Holistic healer and Feng Shui consultant Poonam Sethi says, “Contrasts in colour and texture not only look appealing but will balance yin and yang energies.”
Good grass: The lucky bamboo stands for longevity, but needs care.
Order: The garden needs to be kept neat, the grass mowed and the cobblestones clean. Compost bins should be kept hygienic and tucked out of sight. Dead twigs and dry flowers are depressing, while pruning and deadheading encourage fresh growth. Screen out overbearing buildings with your favourite climber running up a trellis. Sethi says red and purple bougainvillea attract wealth. But don’t let them block the light.
Harmony: Artificial light is important too. In the garden, go for low, subdued lighting. Lights at a height along a boundary make you feel secure. Feng Shui recommends lighting dark corners .
If you’re laying a pathway, let it meander. Feng Shui consultant Ritu Kapoor says, “No matter how small your garden is, curved pathways slow down the energy of the dragon, that ultimate symbol of good luck, making it auspicious.” Stuck with a straight path? Kapoor suggests letting grass and adjoining plants grow over the edges.
Water brings positive energy to your garden. But consider: Does your locality face water or electricity shortages? Can you keep a water feature clean? Experts prefer moving water—flowing south to north or west to east—over stagnant. For a fountain, the ideal place is north-east.
Get lucky indoors
Fish are believed to draw wealth to the house. However, Kapoor says: “Unless you can offer the fish an excellent habitat, you might do better to install an indoor fountain. It also acts as a humidifier to help counteract the dry and ionized air produced by computers and other electrical equipment.”
Most Chinese gardens include bamboo, a symbol of longevity. Kapoor advises growing it behind the house to give supportive energy to the family. However, she warns, “Bamboo absorbs a lot of nutrients from the air, so avoid it near your dining area.” Indoor bamboo must be well fertilized to avoid health problems.
Sethi adds: “Avoid plants that grow downwards, like spider plants. They tend to pull energy downwards.” Feng Shui experts say spiky plants breed tension—Sethi would never house yucca, snake plant, holly, spiky palms or agave. But Kapoor suggests prickly cacti can make symbolic sentinels outside the home.
Bonsai versions of large trees represent stunted growth—also not good Feng Shui. Pruned shrubs and smaller plants are better indoors. Kapoor advises putting a tree in the south-west corner, to filter the afternoon sun shining through your windows.
Colours for every corner
Rameshwar Prasad, director of Vaastu International and a Feng Shui expert, recommends planting flowers of different colours in different parts of the garden: white or off-white flowers to the north-west; blue or purple to the north; and red, pink or yellow in the north-east. In the west, grow white or cream flowers. In the south-west, try yellow and pink. Set the south aflame with red, yellow and orange. For the south-east, he advises shades of green. In the east, intersperse greenery with blues and mauves.
Plan your garden so that there is some change of colours year round, in flowers or foliage. Sethi says, “Flowering and fruit shrubs attract beneficial chi and invite living creatures into your garden.” Create nooks for the sparrow, the squirrel and the bulbul. If you spot a frog in the garden, consider yourself lucky. The Chinese believe the frog protects you from danger. It certainly keeps several insects away. Finally, earmark space for yourself. Put out a cozy chair from where you can appreciate your garden.
The author is a journalist and writer of children’s books, with a passion for gardening.
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