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'Harnessing the Dragon's Breath'
A focus on Feng Shui in the garden

How do you pronounce it?

Try and conjure a ridiculous and yet memorable image in your mind's eye: think of dancing mushrooms leaning one way and then the other in time to Chinese music, and then say to yourself fung-shway. Try it a few more times and then say it aloud. Repeat for the rest of the day and no one will laugh at you again.

What is it?

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese wisdom that studies the influence of the environment on human life, looking to equilibrium and symmetry with the world's landscapes, mountains, rivers, buildings and its winds and waters.

'Feng Shui philosophy is based on belief in the trinity of luck which influences the quality of a person's life and lifestyle. This is Tien Ti Ren: the luck from heaven, the luck from the earth, and the luck that people create for themselves. Each of these forms of luck plays an important part in our lives.

  • Heaven luck may be interpreted as your karma or your destiny.
  • Luck from the living earth is Feng Shui. If we live in harmony with the environment and the natural surroundings, we will be rewarded with benevolent energies that bring good fortune and abundance.
  • Human luck is the luck that we create ourselves by exploiting the opportunities that come our way. Human luck is what brings out the best results from the practice of Feng Shui.' (Lillian Too - Feng Shui For Gardens)

For the Westerner Feng Shui is the adoption and adaptation of these ancient Chinese doctrines, and put simply: 'is the art of living in such perfect balance with your environment that every aspect of your life benefits'.

Why Feng Shui in the Garden?

Many of us are already familiar with the concept of arranging our homes in tune with Feng Shui principles, perhaps less well known is the use of Feng Shui principles in our gardens. The immediate landscape and environment surrounding our homes can exert an enormous influence on our earth portion of luck, and is consequently of great importance.

In order to understand the principles of Feng Shui in the garden it is necessary to be aware of the four celestial creatures which symbolise different land forms: the green dragon, the white tiger, the black turtle and the red phoenix. The orientation of these land forms in relation to our homes or places of work constitutes the basic practice of Feng Shui.

With a knowledge of the Chinese view of the universe in terms of Yin and Yang and the concept of Chi, an understanding of the five elements (wood, fire, water, earth and metal), their interaction with each other, and a good compass, you can begin to make an assessment of your immediate garden environment. Armed with this assessment and a degree of enlightenment it is possible to make simple changes which will improve your earth luck and further enhance your life.

A common mistake

Don't think of Feng Shui only applying to Japanese or oriental style gardens. The principles are universal and apply whether you have an English cottage garden, a
formal Italian renaissance garden, or any other style.


Plants are an essential element of any garden. In terms of Feng Shui they are the most potent and effective tool in energising a garden and encouraging positive Chi.

Feng Shui practitioners strongly advocate the inclusion of certain plants in a garden. In particular: camellia, jasmine, clematis, honeysuckle, peony, aster, fuchsia, hollyhock, magnolia, ginkgo, paper bark maple, crab apple, wild cherry, peach, plum, orange, pine trees, lilies, chrysanthemum, narcissus and bamboo.

Colours, form, leaf shapes and positioning of plants are important in order to create harmony from a Yin/Yang balance.

Garden ornaments and water

The use of water as an ornamental feature in the garden is held by the Chinese to be a crucial component of Feng Shui. Be wary though, use water in Feng Shui with great care.

Ornaments in the garden, whether gazebos, bird baths, wind chimes or other can be of great value and significance. Take into account what the objects are made of, the symbolism of their form, and then place them with care, being conscious of their compass orientation in relation to your home or work place.

How to proceed further

If you are captivated by the concept of Feng Shui in the garden and want to learn more, there are a number of books by respected authors available (see list below) which can help you on your way. Read them carefully, and only begin to implement the principles when you are confident you understand what you are doing.

Alternatively, contact a professional practitioner (preferably a registered member of the British Feng Shui Society) to request a consultation. A skilled practitioner will base his or her interpretations and recommendations on a wealth of experience.

Follow your own, or a professional's, interpretations, implement the necessary courses of action, and enjoy a life enhanced with tranquillity, energy and, hopefully, good fortune and prosperity.

Recommended authors for further reading:

Denise Linn
Lillian Too
Roni Jay
Philippa Waring
Simon Brown
Richard Craze
Wendy Hobson
Stephen Skinner

All Articles 2000 Paul Lathrope
No Unauthorised Reproduction