East...I begin in the East as Eos begins there each new day...
The element of Air is associated with the East. To the East lies my neighbors' garden and pool. They spend quite a bit of time out there so privacy is a concern. My raised garden beds line the trail that way too, so I don't want to shade them out either. The area does get a lot of sun. It is the flattest spot in my rather curvaceous yard. Since my vegetables grow there and my compost bin is just a ways up the path and this area tends to be the spot I stand in when chatting over the fence to the neighbors, this area does get a lot of attention, but only by me. So I feel I can plant some crazy stuff there without worrying too much about who gets into it. There is no room for shrubs or trees here as there is a powerline running overhead. (Part of the reason I chose this spot for my vegetable beds.)
In addition to plants who resonate with the element of Air, I can choose plants that correspond to Mercury, Gemini, Aquarius and Libra.
The cool thing about air plants is that they tend to be fragrant and have composite flowers (carrot and daisy family). This means, that they are not only beautiful and smell nice, they attract beneficial insects too. This is quite the boon considering this garden will be right alongside the one that produces most of my food. In fact, I might just dig up the grass between the raised beds and plant some alyssum all over. I am a fan of alyssum. Unfortunately, it's an annual, so that'll only be a temporary fix, unless it is very cooperative about reseeding itself. But I digress.
I also have some lemon balm that has outgrown the kitchen herb garden and needs a new home. This will be a good spot for it.
Meadowsweet is a lovely, tall air plant that smells wonderful and makes you smile just to look at it. Mullein is a tall favorite of mine, though I admit I liked it better when I was a smoker. Anise hyssop is another tall flower with a contrasting look that will compliment both mullein and meadowsweet nicely. Add yarrow and dill to the mix and I think it's a winning combination of plants that will attract beneficial insects and provide me with all sorts of magical and healing energy. And lovely smells. Plus dill is good for cooking. I would also like to give sweet grass or lemon grass a try, but neither are likely to survive a winter.
We need something for the lower levels. Groundcover, if you like. Lavender is a good choice though I'm not sure it fits in with the look of the rest of the plants. It will be nice for edging the path. Parsley will add some nice texture. Dianthus is a groundcover favorite of mine. The greenery forms a dense, plush mat and the fragrant flowers raise up above that. They smell like cloves! And of course, there's alyssum.
If there were more shade in this spot, something like Jacob's Ladder, or Lily of the Valley might suit.
I don't have room for trees or shrubs. If I did, Rowan or Mulberry would be nice and if I lived somewhere warmer, I'd love to try Damiana. It's just as well I can't since I don't smoke anymore.
South...Fire is the element generally associated with the Southerly direction, so I'm looking at plants that are spicy, thorny or protective for this part of the garden. Also, anything that corresponds to the Sun or Mars.
By default, this area is going to feature St. John's Wort because that is what nature has already provided there. Also, some Southernwood got moved there last year because it was becoming obnoxious in its previous home and crowding out my Sage.
The Southern gate leads to the orchard and so doesn't get as much sun as the other gates do and, because the orchard is such a magical place for children (as is the forest garden beyond) it gets a bit of foot traffic.
Nettles is the first thing that pops into my head to serve as a groundcover leading into the orchard, but this is so unsuitable for a place where children play that I am almost ashamed. It seems I will never find the right place to grow nettles on my property.
Angelica is a protective plant that can go here. I am not sure my soil will be moist and acidic enough for it. I may have to move it over by the blueberries, but it's worth a shot. Wood betony will tolerate the shade, but again, I'm not sure the area is moist enough. We shall see. Ornamental hot chili peppers would be excellent here, but they won't get enough sun. Dittany of Crete would be wonderful, if only I lived in zone 7. But false dittany (dictamnus).. now that's a possibility, even though it's likely to late night misbehavior on the part of the teenagers. It is a shrub, but it's a small one, so I may be able to find a place for it.
Of course, garlic and various alliums are a good fit here. Egyptian Walking Onions are a favorite of mine and I adore chive blossoms. Assuming there's enough sun.
Nicotiana (flowering tobacco, yes, you can smoke it, but it's harsh) would be lovely here but it will only grow as an annual here, and while I am fond of its romantic fragrance, I have little patience for annuals unless they're super easy. So, maybe. If the opportunity presents itself.
Wild ginger can go here, though it is not as useful as its non-wild counterpart. This may also be the ideal spot for blue cohosh, with all the requisite warnings to the children, though they'll get them for the nicotiana as well.
I can also try horseradish. It will grow anywhere, though it's hardly an attractive plant.
Rue will make an excellent ground cover here, provided it gets enough sun.
Who would have thought that the South gate would be so difficult? I'm going to need a lot of mulch.
West...West corresponds to the element of Water and the west gate looks out over my neighbor's yard toward the river on the other side. There are lots of cattails and rushes within view, but the area of the gate is not moist enough for plants of that sort. There is a willow tree just left of the gate, which casts quite a bit of shade.
In addition to water plants, I can plant those that resonate with the energy of the Moon or Neptune here.
I can plant quite a lovely flowerbed here including lobelia, turtlehead, violet, evening primrose and iris. I can even throw in some lettuce, cabbages and strawberries.
I want to stay away from the more traditional moon garden plants, like Moonflower and Angel's Trumpet, because they are very toxic and though they are pretty and fragrant, they really don't have many other redeeming qualities. I might plant a morning glory to climb on my stumps er gates though, they are useful for binding.
North...The North facing gate of my fire pit area also faces my back yard and can be seen from the neighbor's back deck so it would be nice to put in some plants with some height for privacy. This spot also gets quite a bit of sun as the firepit lies to the South and it doesn't throw off a lot of shade, being only about a foot high. Since the North from the fire pit leads directly to the gate leading to my backyard, it is also the path that gets the most traffic, so these plants can be some higher maintenance plants, but I'll want to stay away from anything that's going to be toxic, cause skin irritation or can't handle getting trampled occasionally. Of course, all of my plants must be useful in multiple ways, or I refuse to put effort into them.
The direction North corresponds to the element of Earth. Most grains correspond to this element. Most of these like some sun, have the height I am looking for and many have several uses. Corn is edible, decorative, makes a great offering, provides corn silk for medical uses and corn husks for crafts. Broom corn is not as flexible, but provides materials for making brooms. Other grains, like wheat and oats aren't likely to provide enough grain for eating purposes in such a small area, but they will certainly provide enough for offerings and their straw can be used to make brooms. Planted in small bunches, they might look pretty cool. Amaranth is another possibility. It has height (depending on variety) and some varieties are extremely decorative, plus, the entire plant is edible, including the seeds. (Have you tried amaranth cheesy grits and eggs? Yum.)
If I lived in zone 7 or above, I would definitely plant Vetiver grass. It is a tall, attractive clumping grass with many medical, magical and cosmetic uses.
For color, poppies resonate with the element of Earth and make a striking statement. They are also traditionally weeds in grain fields so they'd be happy living among the stalks. They aren't as useful as I like, so I am on the fence about them. Comfrey is another Earth plant that is nice and tall with lovely flowers and interesting textures. Comfrey is amazingly useful. It can be used as fodder for the animals, it stimulates the compost and it has amazing healing effects. Clary Sage also resonates with Earth and looks particularly lovely paired with comfrey. It is a good herb to have on hand if you're into aromatherapy as it acts as a fixative. it's also sedative. Vervaine and spikenard will complete the floral parts of this garden.
Mugwort resonates with the energy of Earth and is one of my favorites (I <3 The Artemesias in general), but it is also a very allergenic plant. While I'd like to include it in the yard at large, I am not sure I want it in such a high traffic area releasing its pollen all over my guests and kiddos. So I will tuck it in a garden that doesn't see so much action. If I wanted to put a shrub here, I would choose sage, but I probably won't.
Ivy is another Earth plant and one that I generally think twice about planting in my yard because it is highly invasive. However, as I mentioned, this is a spot that gets lots of action, so the ivy will likely get lots of looking after, not to mention trampled if it escapes its designated area. It's also not fond of direct sunlight, so it may try to stay in the shade of the taller plants. And it will look cool growing over the stumps. Er Gates. I do love ivy and have tried and failed to grow it indoors several times. It has protective qualities and symbolizes commitment. My husband and I wore crowns of ivy in our hair when we got married- ivy I stole from my mother's ivy-overgrown yard, which I am about to do again for the sake of my North Gate.
Horehound is a member of the mint family which automatically translates to invasive! But again, it might work here and horehound has wonderful healing properties, particularly for upper respiratory problems. It will be good to locally source my horehound lozenges and this will be a lovely ground cover that will crowd out the grass. It may even take over the path, as it can handle a great deal of abuse, and that's okay. In this spot.
Root vegetables are also generally associated with the element of Earth. I may experiment with sweet potatoes here. They are such a pretty plant. But they are not ideal for my climate and anyway, I think the ivy will kill them.
If I wanted to include trees, I have many options. Oak trees, most nuts and spruce all would work. There is a baby walnut tree along the path on one side and a cherry tree on the other. Those will have to do. I don't have room for more trees.
More information abut the elemental and planetary correspondences of plant can be found at