In the countryside, note whether the land is hilly and undulating or flat, whether mountains are near or far; look for water features – rivers, lakes, and waterways – and, if you live by the coast, note the ocean’s location in relation to the site. All these environmental features should affect the way you plan your garden, the way you plant your trees, the way you create cultivated areas and enclosures. When you undertake this exercise in accordance with Fen Shui principles, you will be taking the initial steps toward tapping the best of what your immediate environment has to offer.
Suburban or city gardens offer landscapes that are more artificial than natural. In that case, notice the buildings that surround your garden; examine the height of walls, fences, and dividers; and once again be aware of nearby water flows and structures that overwhelm your plot such as tall apartment buildings or large developments.
Irrespective of the kind of landscape surrounding the site, always observe the orientation of the land. Use a compass to identify the different parts of the garden. Taking directions is a crucial component of Feng Shui practice. Directional bearings allow you to apply compass school formulas and also tell you a great deal about the movement of the sun in relation to the garden, which is important in your analysis of sunlight and shade, of Yin and Yang energies. Take note of the way the sun traverses the sky as the seasons change from summer to winter. This has a huge effect on gardens with tall trees and high fences.
Next examine the topography. If there are hills around you, can you detect the presence of the symbolic Feng Shui green dragon and white tiger? Assessing your terrain will offer clues as to which slopes will need to be planted or camouflaged, particularly if they are sheer. On the other hand, if the site is completely flat, undulations can be introduced into the design of the garden itself, to artificially create the green dragoon.
Smell the air and note how the winds blow. The direction and strength of winds indicate how exposed the site is, or can be, to the elements at different times of the year. This will let you know if protective features need to be built or planted in the garden to safeguard the home. Any home that is continually being battered by strong winds will suffer unfortunate Feng Shui. Wind analysis also ensures that drafts do not hurt the plants in the garden.
If you live near the ocean, wind direction becomes a particularly important factor. Homes facing the sea are very vulnerable to the corrosive effect of salt water. Salt water is also bad for many plants, and when plants die or do not grow well, the Feng Shui of the home will be negatively affected by excessive YIN energy generated. Grow a sturdy hedge to act as a windbreaker between sea breezes and the house or garden. This will improve the Gen Shi energies a seaside home.
Landscape analysis should also consider artificial factors. Nearby drains and drainage of the site itself are more important than is often realized because drains symbolize the flow of water and are used as part of the water dragon formula.
Similarly, boundaries that give definition or shape to the site also affect the Feng Shui, as do the materials used and the dimensions of walls, fences, hedges and dividers. Privacy, or the lack of it, is not the criterion in Feng Shui, but harmony and balance are. Thus the materials used for dividers or fences and the manner of their construction have greater implications for element harmony and Yin/Yang balance than the need to be private.