Nana's Garden

"There is a deep interconnectedness of all life on earth, from the tiniest organisms to the largest ecosystems." ~ Bryant McGill

My grandmother (aka "Nana") had a "green thumb." With only a small yard in the city, she and my grandfather ("Popi") created a lush green lawn surrounded by a garden overflowing with an array of gorgeous greenery, including vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Along with tending the lawn, Popi's annual tradition was to order a small load of both peat moss and topsoil, and spread it all through the two or three feet around the periphery of the yard -- first the peat moss, and then the topsoil. Over the years, the rich soil extended deep into the ground, held in place by a tidy row of reclaimed bricks. Then, Nana took over, lovingly planting seeds and seedlings she had started indoors from last year's crop. I remember thick jungles of tomato plants, peppers, marigolds (to repel nematodes and aphids), and herbs, and there were probably many more species that I don't remember. I remember smelling earth and foliage, and tasting fresh, sweet tomatoes and peppers fried in olive oil. The fragrance of basil and fennel still take me back to that garden, the deliciously-scented spearmint planted off by itself, on the other side of the detached garage, because it was so invasive. Flowers bloomed alongside the sidewalk from the back door to the alley, and that's where I first learned the difference between petunias and pansies, impatiens and four o'clocks. In his basement workshop, Popi cut and sanded stakes for Nana's tomato plants. He built a small bench topped by a trellised arbor that was always covered with morning glory and moonflower vines.

As a child, I watched Nana tend her garden, digging in the soil, dispensing water, snipping lower leaves to send the earth's nourishment to the higher parts of the plant, where the edibles would grow, popping the deadheads off the marigolds, tying the long tomato vines to their stakes with soft cloth strips she had torn from worn bed sheets. She talked to the plants, not in long conversations, but offering occasional praise for how well they were doing, how big they were getting, how lovely they looked and smelled. She lightly ran her hand over their tops, like tousling a child's hair. Everyone said she had a green thumb, as if it were some kind of magical luck, producing the best crops in that tiny space, year after year. But what I saw was her imbuing her plants with positive energy. They were extensions of herself, her heart and soul, her joy and love. For her, I think, they were easier to love than people. She was quicker to compliment rather than criticize them, to encourage rather than control them. Love energy flowed through her and into the soil, the seeds, the stalks and stems, the fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and then to those of us lucky enough to eat them.

As an adult, I have gardened in most of the many places I've lived. My favorite was the backyard that most resembled Nana's. Beyond the large deck was a nice lawn and a few feet of garden soil all around the edge, inside the wooden fence. There was a tall martin house, and I planted morning glories and moonflowers at its base, so they would wind up the pole and end at the top, enveloping the little house like a vine-covered cottage, providing shade for the purple birds. With my family, I grew tomatoes, peppers, basil, marigolds, impatiens, lettuce, bush beans, cucumbers, and other vegetables, herbs, and flowers I don't even remember. We lived in that home for nine years, and every year, added more peat moss and topsoil to the garden. Our large dog never caused any problems there, but we always had to plant extra for the squirrels, since they insisted on sharing some of whatever we grew. We learned to give them their own food (nuts in shells, peanut butter smeared on corn cobs), but we didn't really mind the squirrels, birds, bees, or butterflies; they were part of the garden, too. For us, it wasn't about producing the most (although that garden produced plenty). It was about the gardening itself, the work and joy of digging in the dirt, planting the seeds, weeding, watering, tending, encouraging, nourishing, and watching. Watching germination. Watching growth. Watching energy, and being an integral part of it.

Who me?

I don't have a yard now, but my grandchildren plant seeds in pots on my balcony. They delight in the first sprouts, the thriving greenery, the buds and flowers, the fruits and vegetables. They especially love to water, but they are forgiven in the warm climate where we live, causing their plants no harm. They compete with each other, but since all their efforts produce beautiful results, there are no hard feelings. They know the scents of basil and sage, the differences between sunflowers and marigolds, and the taste of their own home-grown tomatoes, parsley, and peppers. They know how to collect the seeds from spent flowers and use them to birth another generation.

"Gardening is an active participation

in the deepest mysteries of the universe."

~ Thomas Barry

With or without grandchildren, you can give and receive energy from the nature outside your home. You don't have to have a lot of space or even any yard at all. You don't have to have a "green thumb." You just have to let the energy flow to you and through you, inflowing and outflowing, from the living earth.

Feng Shui in the Garden

When the only outdoor space you have is a balcony or small terrace, you can simply include that in your home's bagua. If you have more space around your home, you can place a bagua over the entire property. This will include the home, but your focus will be on the outdoor spaces all around the building. If you prefer, you can also place a bagua over just your garden or backyard. In either case, you will use this bagua in choosing where to place plants, trees, bushes, flowers, vegetables, herbs, water features, seating, bird houses, pathways, wind chimes, rocks, potted plants, and everything else. You will find the best places for specific colors and shapes. You will balance yin and yang energies and the Five Elements, just as you do in your home. Because all of the people, animals, nature, buildings, electrical wires, streets, and activity around your home affects the energy entering it and ultimately, affects you, you will employ some of the same kinds of cures for problems as you do indoors, but you will also have some unique opportunities to use remedies found in nature.

When you use the bagua to apply Feng Shui to your entire property, you consider its placement among other homes, as well as other buildings and the natural terrain, including hills, valleys, mountains, forests, and bodies of water. For example, a steep drop-off behind your home is very inauspicious and even dangerous, but can be remedied using fencing, large boulders or rockery, and/or planting tall bushes and trees. If your home sits at the end of a street, receiving far too much direct energy rushing toward it, you can help disperse the energy using a water fountain (water moving toward the front door), planting bushes, and designing indirect driveways and pathways leading to the home. On the other hand, if the energy leading to your door is weak, coming from an area filled with unhealthy or absent plants and trees, empty or unkempt buildings, or unhappy/unfriendly people, you will need to enhance the energy with bright colors, healthy plantings, and movement (such as a windsock or flag) between your home and the negative sources. Waterfront homes may provide high property values and a place to dock your boat, but the overabundance of the Water Element will require balancing the Water with other Elements. It's always best to choose a location free of as many issues as possible, but there are cures available to help alleviate almost anything.

From a more positive viewpoint, you can use the bagua to choose colors, shapes, plants and structures to enhance your property and facilitate the proper flow of energy throughout. Place your children's play area in the Creativity and Children gua. The best place for lights, a firepit or barbeque grill, and red flowers is in the Fame area. Pink flowers -- peonies are my personal favorites -- go perfectly in the Love area. The Career gua is a great location for water features, but a koi pond in the Wealth area can work well, too. In South Florida, we grow a lot of fruit trees, and the Wealth area is a also good place for them. Create a peaceful Zen garden or place a bench for quiet contemplation in the Knowledge and Personal Development section. Grow greens, and perhaps your herb garden, in the Health and Family area. White and pastel flowers go in the Creativity/Children section. While a large expanse of plain green lawn may be easy to care for (if you consider mowing and watering easy), so can gardens filled with perennial flowers, rocks, walkways, water features, bushes, and trees. The Center gua can include enough green space for kids to run around and practice cartwheels, but surrounding it with an array of shapes, sizes and colors of live vegetation energizes the area around your home much better than only a flat stretch of green carpet ever could. Remember, too, that the practice of planting annuals and vegetable plants inserts you into the flow of energy, and therefore, enhances the quality of the energy around and entering your home.

Front yards will likely fall in the Knowledge, Career, and Helpful Friends areas, and depending on where your home is situated on the property, side yards may be in the Health/Family and the Creativity/Children areas. You can still use the corresponding colors, Elements and shapes to enhance these areas, even if they offer fewer opportunities for flower and vegetable gardens. A detached garage, studio, greenhouse, or storage shed may also fill up an area, often on one side of the home, or possibly toward the back of the property. Don't forget this building, its colors, shapes, driveways, walkways, and plantings around it. Trellises can be attached to or leaned against such a structure, with climbing vines (such as roses, morning glories, cucumbers, or runner beans) planted at their base. The main thing to remember is not to leave anything out when looking at your whole property as one bagua.

If, on the other hand, you are using the bagua just on your backyard or garden, it's easy to create a complete design that enhances the flow of energy and balances yin/yang energies and the Five Elements. Your home's exit/entrance facing the yard will be where you set the base ("north") of your bagua, or if your door to the backyard happens to be on the side of your home, you can base the bagua against your home's back wall. This area may include lawns, flowers, vegetable plants, herbs, walkways, water features, rocks, bricks or stones, patios, barbeque grills, and trees and bushes.

You may also cultivate a separate vegetable patch, in which case, you can use a bagua for this area separately, basing it at the garden's gate entrance or, if it's not fenced in, the side closest to your house. Then, depending on the sun and other conditions, you can design your plantings accordingly, such as growing red tomatoes in the Fire and Fame area and purple eggplant in the Wealth section. Remember, too, that many vegetables -- including tomatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, beans, lettuce, cauliflower, and peppers -- come in a variety of colors.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience,

everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace.” 

~ May Sarton

Nana's garden taught me that what matters more than anything else is the energy you put into it. Not in a frenzied, exhausting way (although there are times when working in your garden can certainly exhaust you), but in a peaceful, steady effort, a communing. Go into your garden daily and notice everything, see everything, watch everything; the minute growth from one day to the next, the changing scents as flowers bloom and vegetables and fruits ripen. Be with your garden, become one with it. Place yourself in the flow of energy to it, through it, and from it back to you.

Energy flows through you and into the things you plant and grow.

Take care in designing your entire property and your gardens.

• Draw a rough sketch of your entire property. Identify the nine bagua areas. Walk around your property and note the colors that correspond to each area.

Fame - Red.

Love - Pink.

Creativity - White and pastels.

Helpful Friends - Grey.

Career - Black.

Knowledge - Blue.

Health/Family - Green.

Wealth - Purple.

• Add plants in the proper colors to your property, including in the front, back, and side yards. Add pavers, stones, rocks, walkways, decorative planters, trellises, reflecting balls, birdhouses, and whatever you personally love, using the bagua and the Five Elements to place them properly.

• Lay a bagua over your separate vegetable garden, if you have one. Plant your vegetables accordingly.

©2018 by This Feng Shui Life.