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Feng shui principles create colorful harmony in the garden

Marianna Rieg sits in her colorful south-facing perennial garden, which she created using feng shui principles.
Marianna Rieg sits in her colorful south-facing perennial garden, which she created using feng shui principles.

For Marianne Rieg, a garden is more than just a pretty collection of her favorite plants. She has used feng shui principles to create not only a vibrant, colorful space, but a place she can draw energy from. It helps her create harmony, balance and prosperity in her home and, by extension, her life.

Her efforts won her the June Garden of the Month contest put on by the Inland Empire Garden Club.

While feng shui’s popularity has grown in recent years, its roots go back centuries to Chinese design principles that, when followed properly, focus chi – life’s energy. This creates balance and harmony and, by extension, good fortune in all aspects of life.

Its foundation is based on an energy map, or bagua, that represents the characteristics that create a good life. When extended to a garden, these characteristics are expressed in the interaction of the natural elements of water, wood, fire and earth.

Rieg started building her garden three years ago on a small lot on the South Hill next to a busy street.

“It was nothing but weeds and a few half-dead birches,” she said.

Following the feng shui principles, Rieg planted the north side of the house in vegetables and berries with a small water feature to represent water. Following the tradition that water flows to nurture wood, the east side of her house is planted to represent a small woodland with birches, mugo pines, low shrubs, roses and ground covers that represent the woody plants found in a forest.

Wood in turn fuels the fire that brightens the garden to the south of the house. Here she grows an eclectic collection of bright perennials that provide color throughout the seasons and represent the colorful nature of fire.

Fire is also represented by a tall sculpture of a phoenix that symbolizes rebirth through fire. Because fire reduces whatever it burns back to the earth, its energy continues to flow to the west side of the house, where plantings of white iris, lilies, phlox and daisies represent metal found in the earth.

When Rieg constructed the garden she hauled yards of soil to raise the east end of the garden to be higher than the west. The principle here was that the dragon represented by a tall juniper topiary lives in the east, and if he is higher, the sleeping tiger in the lower garden to the west will remain sleeping.

She rebuilt the entrance to the garden so that it welcomes visitors and leads them to the house along a tranquil curved walk. By curving the walk, negative energy is dispersed before it reaches the door.

Does it work? All I can say is that it was a delight and very calming to walk through the garden even though it was within 10 feet of rushing traffic.

Pat Munts can be reached at

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