The circle is symbolic of infinity, as it lacks a beginning or an end and, yet, it is all-encompassing. Native Americans have incorporated this symbol into medicine wheel garden designs for centuries. What is a medicine wheel garden? Keep reading to learn about different medicine wheel garden ideas, plants, and how to make a medicine wheel garden of your own.
What is a Medicine Wheel Garden?
There are several different medicine wheel garden ideas but all contain the same basic element – a circle that is bisected into four distinct garden areas and filled with medicine wheel garden plants.
The medicine wheel garden, or sacred hoop, originates with Native American culture. It represented their relationship with the cosmos and the Creator. Many activities, from ceremony gatherings to eating and dancing, revolved around this central theme of a circle.
Modern medicine wheel garden design may seek to replicate this kinship with the earth and a higher power, or simply exist as a way to incorporate medicinal herbs and plants in a meaningful way into the garden.
How to Make a Medicine Wheel Garden
There are two basic medicine wheel garden ideas:
- The first one is to create a small circular rock outline in an area that has meaning to you. Divide the circle into quadrants with additional stones. Then, wait and see what natural plants take root. Traditional herbalists believe that the plants that sow themselves in this sacred garden are those that you need most.
- Another medicine wheel garden idea involves the same circle and quadrant format but you choose which medicine wheel garden plants will reside within the circle. Each section can be planted with different plants. For example, one or two quadrants might be made up of culinary herbs, another with medicinal herbs, and yet another with indigenous plants – or you may decide to blend your plantings to incorporate all three and maybe some annual blooms and vegetables too.
In any case, the preparation for a medicine wheel garden is the same. Gather five marker stakes, a hammer, measuring tape, compass, and either string or line for marking.
- Drive a stake into the ground. This will mark the center of the garden. Attach string to the central stake and using the compass, locate the four cardinal directions (N, W, E, and S) and mark them with a stake. The distance from the central stake and the cardinal stakes will decide the circumference of the garden, which is entirely up to you.
- Clear out the interior of the circular garden by removing any sod or rocks. Rake it smooth. If need be, amend the soil with compost. What else the soil needs will depend on the medicine wheel garden plants you choose. In general, soil should be well-draining and slightly alkaline.
- Lay plastic or landscape cloth from each outer stake to the center to form paths and then spread your gravel, rocks, or other material over the paths. If you wish, replace the stakes with rocks and then outline the rest of the garden space in the same manner.
Medicine Wheel Garden Design
The design of your medicine wheel garden should be personal and according to your tastes. The only criteria that should be adhered to is a circle shape cordoned off with four sections. The outline of the circle and the bisections can be made with large, medium, or small stones or bricks, pavers, wood, or even seashells – whatever strikes your fancy, but it should be of the natural world.
Additional details can be added to a medicine wheel garden to personalize it even more. Things like statuary, orbs, crystals, or other garden art will truly make the space into your own sacred space.
Medicine Wheel Garden Plants
As mentioned, your medicine wheel garden can be comprised of whatever you wish it to be made of. Traditionally, the garden would include medicinal herbs, but if you are focused on culinary herbs, then feature them most prominently.
Give the garden some height if you wish by including some shrubs and then accent with colorful annual or perennial blooms. Succulents, or even cacti, make interesting additions to a medicine wheel garden as well.
Whatever medicine wheel garden plants you choose to incorporate, be sure that they are suited for your USDA zone and can tolerate the conditions the wheel garden is located in, be it full sun, shade, or somewhere in between.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.