Last time I talked a bit about the sorcerer’s garden and why to have one and what it might be like. Now I want to take some time to talk about how to set up the garden. This will help other people set up their own gardens, but I freely admit it is also to help me think through my garden plan. A large chunk of this is gardening 101, so feel free to skim until it gets more interesting.
Let’s start with the absolute basics: What space do you have to plant your garden? It seems obvious, but I got carried away thinking about it before, and I’ve seen others do the same in conversation. Obviously if you live in an apartment or such your space will be very limited to what you can put in some pots and planters, which is fine, it just means you have to be smarter and more selective. What space do you have to plant your garden? Then do you want it there? I have a front and back yard. My house is near two high schools and a junior public school, so kids walk by or on my lawn frequently (get off of my lawn!), and my postal carrier does too, so I might not want to put my magick garden in the front yard. Normal veggies and flowers I’m less concerned about, but if your sorcerer’s garden is a green temple you don’t want people traipsing through unaware. If I fenced it in with some hedges (long term plan) I could reconsider it, but right now there is no physical or visual privacy. What about you? Do you want your garden in all of the available space? What areas might be better or worse for that? If you have the space don’t sacrifice the functionality of the garden just to make it bigger.
Now that you know what space you’ll use for your garden it’s time to look at the environment factors of the place. What direction is it from your house? (Or what direction is the window if you’re doing it indoors) This will inform how much light the garden gets. In general the side closest to the equator gets the most sun. (So if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, the south side gets the most sun) But this is in general, in my case my neighour’s house, which is rather tall, is against the south side of my property, so it blocks a lot of the sun there for about a third of my property. East and West both get good sun exposure, but again this is dependent on what casts shade over it, my back yard faces east, and my neighbour’s house on that side is sufficiently far away to not interfere with my sunlight, but I have a huge 50 year old maple tree in that yard which blocks the sun for much of the yard. The direction farthest from the equator gets the least sun. (The north side of the house in the Northern Hemisphere). This is critical because plants evolved enjoy different amounts of sun, so you’ll be able to find something to grow no matter how much or how little sun you get, but not all plants will grow well with lots of sun or shade. It’s important to know what sun is available before you start picking your plants.
The last major environmental factor to consider is your zone. Sometimes called climate zones, growing zones, or hardiness zones, different countries and groups use different designations. They’re broad areas that tell you what types of plants you can grow there. They’re figured out based upon things like year round temperatures, sun light, and water. It makes it very easy to see if a plant it likely to grow in your area. (You can sometimes grow plants outside their regions, but it’s harder, you’ll need to take care watering them more/less, sheltering them from the sun, or thoroughly insulating them or their roots for winter)
We know where we can plant, and we know the sun and zone for that spot so now we need to figure out what to plant. This is all up to you. There are various things to consider: your spiritual tradition(s), your local plants, your family, and your preference.
As a Buddhist I’d love to grow lotuses, but can’t with my lack of a lake on my property. I can grow nettles, juniper, sandalwood, and possibly figs though, so those are on my list. From a more western practice of ceremonial magick and sorcery there are things like datura, wormwood, and rue I can grow. I think it’s important to also grow local plants of some sort, it seems odd to set up a garden in part for the land spirits and only grow foreign plants. For me that might be things like maple, or chokecherry. Your family can influence what you grow too. My garden plans to have several of my Beloved Dead’s favourite flowers to be offerings for them, but also as my family is Mi’kmaq I’ll be growing tobacco, sage, cedar, and sweet grass for my Relations. And of course personal preference is a huge factor too. What flowers and plants do you like, what colours, what are you called to? I like blue and black, so most of my flowers are blue or black. I’ve never felt called to a plant in general so nothing there for me, but I know other people probably have connections they could try to nurture.
Once you know what you want to plant, research it. Can it grow in your hardiness zone? Can it grow with the amount of sun and shade you could provide it, or the amount of rain? As much as I’d love to grow a Dracaena cinnabari tree (Dragon’s Blood) not surprisingly something that evolved to live in the Arabian Sea can’t handle Canadian winters.
Finally if you can grow it, the ultimate question for the magick garden comes up…if you have the freedom how do you want to arrange the garden? In the end the main priorities will be the plants and environment themselves, but what can you do in that? Do you want to divide your garden for magickal purposes too? Plants are associated with planets and elements…do you want a garden divided along those lines, so you know if you need a spark of fire for the ritual, that all your fire plants are together? What about divisions based upon tradition, if that’s important to you it could be worth keeping them separate. You could think about it in terms of chthonic, terrestrial, and celestial plants. Plants for the dead and the living, and other spirits. Really if you have the freedom to go wild with the arrangement it could be satisfying to think about that in the planning your garden, though that might be the ceremonialist in me.
Next time we’ll think more about the actual raising of magick plants.