Landscaping: Tune In To The Four Winds

December 18, 2015
Compass Four Winds

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The New Year is coming. One way to honor this turning point is to celebrate the four directions or the four winds as they were once called. Many cultures honor the four directions as part of the circle of life.

Go out into your garden on New Year’s Day and face each direction, concentrating on what is special about each aspect.

  • What are the features of the land?
  • How do the trees grow?
  • Where does the prevailing wind come from?
  • Why is the snow deeper in one area than in another? Each direction has its own qualities.

The north is often associated with cold, challenging conditions, and things like seeds or ideas waiting to germinate. It also symbolizes wisdom, thankfulness, and trust. 


The north side of your yard is a perfect place to plant a double row of sheltering evergreens to block the wind. Since the north is also the direction of contemplation it would be a good spot for a meditative zen garden or sculpture garden. Quiet colors like white, cream and silver represent the north.


East is the direction of springtime, awakening and new life. It can be symbolic of rejuvenation, healing and communication. Morning light is good for growth so look for trees that block the morning sun from reaching your garden and prune or remove them altogether. Most perennials thrive where there is morning sun. East facing gates are welcoming and the east side of the yard is also a good place to locate a bench or hammock to spark creative daydreams. Plants with gold or yellow flowers and foliage represent the east.


South reminds us of warmth, growth, fulfillment, and passion. It also symbolizes faith, change, self-sufficiency, and strength. A south-facing slope is ideal for a vegetable garden, a large open field, or flower gardens. Plant a border of hot colors in a south-facing garden or locate a fire pit or barbeque there. Triangular shapes can take the place of real fire, so you can use a triangular shaped sculpture or even a three-sided stone to represent fire. Plants with purple or blue flowers contrast with the hot colored flowers and calm the heat.


West is the direction for restlessness, travel, and new horizons. It is symbolic of the power of the imagination, the attaining of goals, and of compassion. It is also a social direction that encourages fellowship. A west facing patio, shaded by deciduious trees is a perfect spot for gathering with others at the end of the day. Water is also associated with the west making it a good place for a small pond, fountain, or other water feature. Rich reds and oranges echo the colors of sunset in a west facing garden.

To chart the progress of your garden throughout the year, snap a picture looking in each direction on the first of every month. You’ll be surprised at the transformation as the seasons change.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.