Designing a Zen Garden for Small Spaces

City dwellers or those with small yards can design an inviting and tranquil Zen garden by applying principles of feng shui. Well-tended gardens can be therapeutic for people as well as beneficial for wildlife including birds, butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Psychologists say a person’s physical surroundings can affect his or her moods and mental well-being. Gardeners can create an oasis in the middle of an urban jungle by balancing a small space with the five basic elements used in the ancient Chinese philosophy for arranging space. By using the elements of water, fire, earth, stone and metal, a gardener will create a harmonious space. Gardeners can use feng shui as a powerful tool that allows the beneficial Chi or cosmic dragon’s breath to circulate.

Water element

One of the most important elements for bringing good fortune into a person’s life is the element of water. City dwellers may place a bird bath with bubbling fountain just outside their front door. Make sure the water flows toward the entrance as opposed to away from the house. A miniature tabletop fountain, a wall fountain or bamboo water fountain may be used inside the home as well to increase the positive chi. In feng shui, the most auspicious placement for water features such as ponds is the north side of the yard.

Fire element

When designing a Zen garden, include the fire element in the form of lighting, a grill or a small fire pit. In feng shui, the south area represents fire. Plant red and orange flowers in the south corner of the garden. Ideally, choose solar lights for a Zen garden as they are better for the environment. Twinkling lights can add a magical feel to the landscape.

Earth element

To bring the earth element into a small garden space, place a few large boulders as well as ornamental clay pots in the northeast, southwest or center areas of the garden. A winding stone pathway will engage the chi energy. Statues made of clay or other earth elements in the form of angels or rabbits can bring joy to the Zen garden.

Metal element

Gardeners may incorporate the metal element with wind chimes and metal seating in the northwest area. The area is also ideal for metal birdfeeders that welcome wildlife. Another unique idea for the northwest area of the garden is to add gazing balls or mirror balls on metal stands.

Wood element

Since space is tight for people with small yards, it’s important to use window boxes. Choose wood planting boxes, trellises and arbors in the east and southeast areas of the yard. Gardeners can choose from a variety of auspicious flowers to plant in the east and southeast areas including orchids, peonies, narcissus, lilies, lotuses, chrysanthemums and plum blossoms. Avoid thorny roses and cacti throughout the Zen garden since they are unlucky and should only be used to deter intruders.

Although a feng shui garden may sound superstitious, it’s really quite practical. Gardens with native plants attract birds that eat pest insects. According to some ancient cultures, birds are also considered messengers from heaven.

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