Bearded iris foliage with a heart-shaped leaf of Dioscorea batatas vine.
According to feng shui, spiky foliage denotes activity, energy, and excitement in the garden. It’s associated with the yang principle, which is the outgoing, upthrusting, active aspect of life. Everything shiny, bright, light, or pointed represents the yang principle.
The yin principle, which is relaxing, inviting, and nurturing, is represented by soft or dull or dark foliage, broad or rounded leaves, and broad or rounded plants.
While I wouldn’t want to have all spiky foliage in my garden (and any feng shui practitioner would caution against it), some of my recent and ongoing plant choices have led to more spiky foliage in my garden. And I’m enjoying it.
The iris in the header photo is one of the legacies of a trip to a local grower. I’m not wild about bearded iris (I hope I don’t get a lot of flak for this), but the types I saw there opened my eyes to the possibilities of iris, and I ordered many more than I had planned to get.
Well, when have I ever gone to a place purveying plants, and failed to order more than I’d planned to get?
So I stuck them where there was space in various containers, and I’m afraid I didn’t label them too carefully, so I can’t tell you which this one is until it flowers. While I was watering, I noticed how sweetly the fan of iris leaves fell, and how nicely they were outlined by the light. They are accompanied in this picture by the heart-shaped leaf of a yam vine (Dioscorea batatas).
This year I experimented with japonica corn, an ornamental variety. In feng shui, these leaves would be considered a bit less yang than the iris leaves: they’re a bit wavy, and bits of them (although you can’t see them in this picture) curve gracefully down.
My abiding love for lilies includes their foliage. Yang aspects of trumpet lily leaves would be their shininess and spikiness. The round spiral pattern of the leaves on the stem, though, would be considered yin: peaceful, restful, nurturing. This Lilium regale (regale lily; not a hard translation) has long since flowered, but still contributes its good looks to a jumble of plants that includes some sprouting native oaks.
This year I got a lot of glads–flowers I’d often scorned until I tried them, especially some of the older varieties.
What I didn’t expect was that I’d like the foliage. And here’s a perfect example of that interplay of yin and yang that is recommended in feng shui: round, small rose leaves (with those little slightly-yang toothed edges) shadowing the tall, spiky glad foliage.
Actually, if you’ve been paying attention, all of these pictures are about the interplay of yin and yang. How could they help but be? It’s what makes the world go around.