So, for the third installment of The Early Show's "Simple Pleasures" series, Organic Gardening magazine editor Scott Meyer shows how to use the Chinese philosophy of feng shui in outdoor gardens.
Feng shui is the classic Chinese art of arranging furniture and possessions to help you find ways to live more harmoniously in your environment. To the Chinese, Chi, the natural lifeforce, can be out of balance if spaces are not inviting and tranquil.
Meyer explains that this traditional Asian way of thinking is aimed at filling your home with positive energy.
"Adherents believe that how you set up your home, workspace and garden will influence every aspect of your life: your emotional and physical well-being, your career, even your love life," Meyer says. "Whether or not you believe that, if you apply the principles of feng shui to your yard and garden, you will transform the area around your house into an oasis for you and your family. Those principles are the basics of smart and natural garden design that will make every garden more attractive and pleasing to be in."
A way to apply the feng shui philosophy to your garden is starting at the entrance, Meyer suggests. An arbor, for example, makes clear to people where to come in and makes the garden inviting.
"Ideally," says Meyer, "the entrance faces south -- the direction, by the way, where your garden will get maximum sun exposure. A closed gate would be less inviting for people and energy, and it might shade some of your plants."
Though there are no particular feng shui plants, Meyer says, "Colors have a strong impact on energy flow, just as they have been shown to influence our moods. Hot colors, like red and yellow flowers, lift up your energy level when you're looking at them. The cooler-colored purple and white flowers are more soothing."
Meyer recommends having both types of colors in your garden, but in separate areas.
"One of the basic principles of feng shui is balance and diversity," he says. "Another is to minimize clutter, which drags down the energy level. That's why we should put relatively few plants in a space. This is hard for most gardeners, because when the season starts, the plants are small and the space seems too empty. So we tend to plant a lot, but as the plants grow, they fill in the space and then, as the season wears on, the space becomes overgrown, jungly, which you don't want to look at."
The plants you choose will likely depend on what's available at this time of year. The emphasis is more on color and coordination, than type.
For spring, it would be flowers such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, primroses, pansies. The most important thing is to be able to create blocks of plants with colors that blend well -- not one of a lot of things, but a lot of a few things.
If possible, add plant herbs such as lavender, sage, or thyme.
In a demonstration, Meyer used small boxwood and evergreen shurbs. He also used tulips, pansies, ranunculus, daisies and primroses.
Besides plants, the demo garden included a birdbath, which Meyer says is not only nice for the birds: "It's good for us, too. Remember, feng shui emphasizes diversity. The five elements you want to have represented in your garden are wood, metal, earth, fire and water. Water, be it a fountain or pond or bird bath, is very soothing. By the way, attracting the birds is the best, most natural form of bug control, because they eat pest insects."
If you don't have enough space for a birdbath, there are other ways to incorporate water into a garden. A simple electric fountain would do. Just add water and the electric pump would recycle it.
Meyer advises using lights to not just help you stay on paths, but to represent the fire element. Of course, he notes, a grill would give fire a presence, if you grill a lot. But the ideal way is to build an outdoor hearth, like a chiminea.
A bench could introduce the wood element. Meyer suggests minimizing the number of plants around it, to make it a calm area. He says it should be the most serene spot in your garden: "You could put in a simple focal point here, a place to gaze, like a stone or a sculpture. Wind chimes are nice. But you don't want too much here. You want it to be calm."
The style of furniture that you choose is also important. Says Meyer: "Feng shui philosophy emphasizes simplicity. So stay away from furniture that is ornately designed. Natural materials that coordinate with an outdoor setting are best."
As for the path you create in your garden, Meyer says it should have curves to create a flow that invites meandering. He notes straight paths lead us directly to the end and don't encourage a more relaxing pace.
The five elements represented:
Water: Bird bath, fountain,
Wood: Arbor, bench, planting boxes
Fire: Lights, grill
Earth: Soil, clay pots, boulder
Metal: Arbor, seating, wind chimes