The area outside of your home is as important as what’s inside your home—it’s what people notice first, before they step inside your home. Your yard and garden can invite good energy into your home, they can balance the energy around your home, and they can protect your home from harsh energy. Those three things are the big deal outside your home.
What about applying the bagua to your yard? While the bagua is justly famous for being effective inside a building, it has no history in China of being used in a yard or garden—that use is strictly Western and is about two decades old. The bagua is an important part of my feng shui practice inside a home. I don’t much use it on a client’s property however because nobody lives in the yard. The only times I use it outside are to accentuate the Wealth & Relationship Corners is the back yard. And, if a person needs fame in their career, I recommend a red glass pyramid in the back middle of the back yard. (I have one client, a politician, who credits that to his election in a very close race.)
After I wrote Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens I compared it to the other feng shui garden books on the market and realized that it’s really the best book out there on the subject of feng shui outside. You can ignore Hawaii in the title—the principles apply anywhere. The recommendations of individual plants are mostly for warm climates, but you can ask any nursery person in your area which plants can be substituted in your climate.
The most surprising thing I discovered when I carefully looked over the existing feng shui garden books is that, besides Gill Hale, I am the only author on the list who practices feng shui full time. Many of the books on the list use vast amounts of what I consider to be filler—information completely unrelated to feng shui. It’s almost as if the authors are just using “feng shui” as a phrase to sell a book (the same as some authors use “Zen and the art of…” to sell their book). I see this as a sign of an author who doesn’t know the subject deeply. There’s plenty to say about the exterior from a feng shui point of view. I love gardeners and you folks deserve to be warned away for certain books that would just be a waste of time. That being said, I’ll start with the better books and end with a short review of my own book.
Angi Ma Wong’s Feng Shui Garden Design Kit by Angi Ma Wong, 2000, Pacific Heritage Books. The book itself is a small spiral bound jobbie designed to sit up and you flip over the small, thick pages—all 25 of them. The great thing that you do get with this kit is a very large bagua on stiff pager with an actual compass in the middle. Yes, it’s a Compass School book, but anyone familiar with Wong’s books knows that she puts in information that is applicable to all feng shui schools, such as yin/yang. The very cool thing about this book is that it’s a different book when read back to front (on the odd numbered pages). The book, read in reverse, is designed to sit at the edge of each area of the large bagua and gives information on that area—I love the care that’s put into this kit. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find.
The Feng Shui Garden by Gill Hale, 1998, Storey Publications, 128 pages. Gill Hale is a very well respected British feng shui consultant, a prolific author, and obviously a passionate gardener. The publisher has taken great care with lots of charts, drawings, and plenty of color photographs throughout. The subject of feng shui permeates the entire book—no “filler” material—hurrah! She is a Compass School practitioner, but is kindly diplomatic when discussing other schools.
Feng Shui Your Garden for Dummies by Jennifer Lawler and Holly Ziegler, 2004, Wiley Publishing, 268 pages. This is one of the few in-print book that originates from North America. Both authors have written other “for Dummies” books. There is an insert of 8 pages in the middle of the book with 17 color photographs—otherwise there are some black and white photos in the book. There are several charts and sidebars, but only two drawings. The bagua and the Five Elements are covered. There is a large amount of material unrelated to feng shui. The authors follow the Black Sect because, as they say, “…it emphasizes concepts such as: Intention: Stating what you want and, The Mouth of Chi: The position of entrances into an environment.”
Feng Shui Garden Design: Creating Serenity by Antonia Beattie, 2003, Periplus Editions, 112 pages. This slender hardback is a Compass School book from Australia. Beattie is a new age writer, not a feng shui expert. The book has many color photographs and is lovely to look at, but the plants in the pictures are rarely identified. The author’s lack of experience is sometimes glaring, as when she illustrates a circular plot of land as if it were as common as rectangular plots. (There is no such thing as a circular plot of land—it would be a nightmare to try to survey, and such plots wouldn’t fit together well. Curved borders on properties mostly occur where they meet roads or bodies of water.)
Feng Shui for Gardeners by Lillian Too, Element Books Ltd. (British copyright 2002), 224 pages. Lillian Too is feng shui’s most prolific author, owning her own publishing company and writing over 100 books. Every year she publishes at least 12 more—one for each of the Chinese zodiac signs with predictions for that year. Too readily admits that she is not a feng shui consultant. The majority of this book is strictly Compass School. The photographs are obviously of British gardens. This is exactly the same book as her Feng Shui for Gardens which is copyrighted 1998, and that is mentioned on the copyright page of the Feng Shui for Gardeners book.
Feng Shui for Gardens by Lillian Too, (British copyright 1998), Element Books Ltd., 224 pages. Mentioned above.
Lillian Too’s Little Book of Feng Shui for the Garden by Lillian Too, 2008, Konsep Lagenda Sdn Bhd. Many of Lillian Too’s books are available in concise, very small editions—this is one of them. It is a Compass School book.
Feng Shui in the Garden by Richard Webster, 1999, Llewellyn Publications, 148 pages. There are a few black and white drawings. The author is from New Zealand and writes on various subjects. He is not a feng shui expert as is apparent when the feng shui bagua is presented in both the Compass School and Form School styles with no indication of how to integrate the two in one garden. (They are two very different schools and the integration of both of them on one property is not considered possible or advisable.)
Feng Shui in the Garden by Nancilee Wydra, 1997, Contemporary Books, 175 pages. There’s one page of color inserted in the middle of the book, otherwise there are quite a few black and white drawings. The first half of the book dwells heavily on color and plant symbolism, in fact I can’t think of any book that does a better job on that score. The actual feng shui part is an application of the bagua to the lot. The second part of the book concerns different theme gardens: Power, Meditation, Fertility, Retirement, Healing, etc.
Then there’s my own book. Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens is a straightforward, common-sense treatment based on Form School feng shui. Form School is concerned with the form of things—shape, layout, and color. Often called Landform Feng Shui, it is the oldest kind of feng shui and is widely practiced in North America. The three basic concepts of inviting good energy onto the property, nurturing that energy, and protecting from harsh energy are things I believe in and stand behind. They are things anyone can understand without huge leaps of faith. No other book takes this simple approach. It is an approach that I created to teach my classes on exterior feng shui. My book deals with symbolism—symbolism that is rooted in common sense. If something looks threatening, it’s probably having an adverse effect on you and it would be best to screen that view—simple problem, simple solution.