In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2003
Regional Report

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Invite friendly spirits to linger in your garden with a Thai spirit house.

Friendly Spirits

According to the ancient Chinese art of placement called Feng Shui (meaning "wind and water"), the flow of energy through a home or garden can have a positive or negative impact on the owner's health and well-being. Modern advocates of Feng Shui say that business success, marital bliss, and even fame can be achieved by proper furniture placement in the home and balanced landscape design in the garden.

You can harness and properly use Chi, the "life force" central to Feng Shui principles, by following a few simple rules when laying out your garden. The three elements needed in a garden are; mountains, water, and greenery. Mountains can be symbolically created using raised planting beds, tall trees, rocks, and shrubbery.

Water, which symbolizes wealth, can be represented with streams, ponds, or fountains. A representation of water also can be created with a river of stones. All plants provide greenery, which symbolizes life.

Balance is a key factor in applying the principals of Feng Shui to the garden. The elements of mountains, water, and plants must be placed fairly close to one another. Sharp items, or even sword-like foliage, such as flax, planted near a pathway will direct sharp Chi at a passerby, which can disrupt one's internal energy flow and create tension and stress. Meandering or circular pathways in the garden are preferred over straight paths, since a straight walkway creates fast-moving Chi, which causes a sense of discomfort. Planting a flat garden is the most common design mistake gardeners make. Different layers and levels encourage the flow of Chi. Curves in the garden design also improve the flow of Chi.

Different areas of the garden relate to specific parts of life. For instance, the far left corner of the garden represents wealth. Since bright colors attract Chi, try planting purple, red, or blue flowers in the left corner of your garden to entice money into your life. The center of the garden represents fame and reputation, thus placing an archway here will beckon Chi to enter and bestow fame and enhance the owner's reputation. The far right corner of the garden represents love and marriage, and is often enhanced with pink, red, and white flowers.

One simple way to invite good fortune into your garden is by planting flowering quince (Chaenomeles). This shrubby, thorny plant not only produces beautiful, bright pink flowers that are considered very lucky at Chinese New Year celebrations, but also fragrant, golden fruit later in the fall. The color gold in the garden represents money. If you have never tasted quince, be prepared. It will make you pucker, but it makes a nice jam or chutney. Quince should be planted in full sun in fast draining soil. It will tolerate extremes in temperature and is practically indestructible. Regular to moderate water will keep your quince quite happy and bring good fortune to your garden, guaranteed!

While you are inviting these benevolent spirits into your garden, you may as well make them feel at home by providing a little spirit house. The Thai culture uses these charming garden ornaments to provide a resting place for wandering spirits. They can double as bird houses if you are skeptical by nature. They are a delightful addition to any garden, and what the heck, it never hurts to hedge your bets.


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