Crystals and gemstones for your garden

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Quartz Image by Sharon McCutcheon from PixabayQuartz Image by Sharon McCutcheon from PixabayWhen people hear the word “crystal” many will associate it with chandeliers, wedding goblets or bowls, some may think of snow or salt, and others will immediately think of them in their beautiful symmetric mineral and rock forms,  produced by the earth over millions of years. Mankind has always had an affinity with crystals, and places like New Mexico and Arizona have known energy vortexes, caused by meteorites and other natural phenomenon that produced an exponential amount of crystals in the earth.

Perhaps it’s their perfect symmetry that first draws us to crystals, because symmetry is all around us in nature. It’s in the paired wings of a butterfly, the pattern of a snowflake, the whorls of petals and seeds in a sunflower, and even in the legs of a spider!  In crystals these repeated patterns occur within the basic atomic structure and reflect the pattern of faces of the crystal. What they are made of determines how they will form, and under the influence of various temperatures and pressures, atoms combine in an amazing array of shapes. Many crystals grow from water rich in dissolved minerals, but also from melted rock and even vapour.

Crystals Image by Dirk Ropert from PixabayCrystals Image by Dirk Ropert from PixabayThis variety and perfection of form has long drawn scientists to the study of minerals, and why they typically describe crystals as “growing” even though they are not alive, because in their subterranean gardens they branch out symmetrically, as trillions of atoms connect in regular three-dimensional patterns. Scientifically, crystals are the most orderly structure that exists in nature and this structure responds to all the different energies around them, so they oscillate, emitting specific vibratory frequencies. The way they are balanced, the frequencies they emit, and their ability to store a tremendous amount of information makes crystals essential to modern technologies, and why they are critical elements of practically every ‘tech-y’ item in the modern world today, from supplying electricity to our homes and businesses, to cell phones, computers, TV’s, and satellites. Many of the first radios ever invented used crystals to transmit the radio waves, and some watches, like quartz watches, still use crystals today.

The first historical reference on the uses of crystals comes from the Ancient Sumerians, who included them in magic formulas; and ancient malachite mines dating back to 4000 BC were found in the Sinai. The use of talismans and amulets dates back to the beginnings of humankind, and the oldest amulets are of Baltic amber, some dating back 30,000 years. Amber was widely believed to have magical healing powers, and amber beads were discovered in Britain dating to about 11,000 BC, at the end of the last ice age, and worked amber dating back to the same period has been found at many archaeological sites in England. Jet was also popular and jet beads, bracelets and necklaces have been discovered in Palaeolithic gravesites in Switzerland and Belgium.

The Ancient Egyptians used lapis lazuli, turquoise, carnelian, emerald and clear quartz in their jewellery, and for grave amulets. The stones were primarily used for protection and health, but the Egyptians also used crystals to make cosmetics, and Galena (lead ore) was ground to a powder and used as the eye shadow known as “kohl.” Malachite was also used in a similar manner.

Jade Pendant. Picture courtesy Province of British Columbia - see their flickr pageJade Pendant. Picture courtesy Province of British Columbia - see their flickr pageThe Ancient Greeks attributed a number of properties to crystals and many of the names we use today are of Greek origin. The word “crystal” comes from the Greek word for ice, as it was believed that clear quartz was water that had frozen so deeply that it would always remain solid. The word amethyst means 'not drunken' and was worn as an amulet to prevent both drunkenness and hangovers. Hematite comes from the word for blood, because of the red colouration produced when it oxidises, and because it is an iron ore, and the ancient Greeks associated iron with Aries, the god of war, soldiers would rub hematite over their bodies before battle, believing it protected them.

Jade was highly valued in ancient China and emperors were sometimes buried in jade armour; and musical instruments in the form of chimes were also fashioned out of jade. Burial sites in Mexico, dating from around the same period, also contained jade masks; and as recently as 250 years ago the Maoris of New Zealand still wore jade pendants which represented their ancestor spirits, and which were passed down for many generations through the male line. The tradition of green stones being lucky continues in parts of New Zealand to this day.

We have always admired crystals and love to add them to our homes, but have you ever thought of adding crystals to your garden? Some people talk or sing to their plants, some may place a lucky gnome in their garden, or use Feng Shui techniques to promote harmony and balance, and today many gardeners are using crystals as a means of using the energy of the earth. Plus, they're just downright pretty!

Malachite Image by Ondre Synek from PixabayMalachite Image by Ondre Synek from PixabayCrystals come in many different bright and vibrant colours, and simply placing them amongst your plants will instantly improve the overall appearance of your garden or outdoor entertainment area.  And, to really make your garden turn heads, choose gemstones with colours that complement their surroundings. For example, Yellow Citrine looks heavenly when it is nestled in a bed of yellow or white flowers, and Green Malachite complements pink and purple flowers. At your front entrance, greet you guests with a grouping of beautiful plants and a display of Rose Quartz, its energy is one of compassion and love. If you thought your garden was alluring before, wait until you see what it looks like once the crystals have been added!

You can choose any crystals which appeal to you, but certain ones are known to be beneficial to plants. Because the colour green is a sign of growth and abundance, green crystals like Tree Agate are especially good for the garden. Tree Agate symbolizes the miracle of photosynthesis and its intricate combination of sun and water. Quartz Crystal is said to encourage abundant growth, and Onyx, Obsidian or another dark coloured crystals reportedly help to keep pests away. Amethyst, Rose Quartz, Tourmaline, and Sodalite add healing energies to sick plants, and Jasper is known to encourage new growth, so take some time to learn about crystals and select those which you believe will benefit your garden the most. Different stones also represent the four elements of, earth, air, fire and water, adding balance and harmony to the garden, and most important when designing a Zen or meditation garden.

Moonstone Slice. Picture courtesy James St. John - see his flickr pageMoonstone Slice. Picture courtesy James St. John - see his flickr pageHowever, a note of caution, although many crystals can be exposed to full sun, just like some stones  can become damaged from  water, there are some crystals and stones whose colours  will fade, and which may even become brittle and break if given to much exposure to direct sunlight.

A general rule of thumb is that if the crystal is semi-transparent like: Amethyst, Moonstone, Beryl, Citrine, Fluorite and Opal, , they should be situated in the garden where they receive only a little early morning, or late afternoon sun, but remember, the fading of colours in a crystal is a natural reaction, because many of them are mined underground, far away from UV rays.

Crystals which fade under sunlight include:

Fluorite reacts heavily under sunlight. It is advised not to keep the crystal under the sun for more than 15 minutes. Exposure to the sun will also make fluorite extremely hot.

Amethyst should not be exposed to UV light at all as it quickly leads to fading of the deep purple or violet tones of the crystal.

Opel loses its colour if exposed to sunlight, but on the flipside, it is okay for an opal to get wet.

Citrine is a yellow variety of quartz and cannot be kept in the sun, because when a transparent citrine crystal is kept in the sun for longer than 4 hours, it fades to form clear quartz.

Quartz should never be allowed to remain in the sun for longer than two hours or it can become brittle and break into pieces.  Dark coloured quartz easily loses its colour within a few minutes of midday sun exposure.

Rose Quartz fades under sunlight, but quartz originating from Brazil fades the most, so be sure to trace the origin of your pink quartz before you keep it out in the sun.

Smoky Quartz, like other quartzes, loses its colour to become grey or brown in sunlight. When kept in a glass case, smoky quartz will not lose colour as the glass blocks UV light. 

Turquoise can react vigorously in water and in sun. Moreover, if the seasonal changes are drastic in your area, turquoise can lose almost all its colour.

Aquamarine can quickly fade to white if kept in the sun for long. Although aquamarine is heated to remove the green colour, direct sunlight can fade the beautiful blue shade of the stone.

Celestite changes from blue to white if you keep it in the sun for long. As celestite is a fragile stone, with the fading of the colour the strength of the stone also decreases, leading to easy breakage.

Sapphires must not be in the sun for long or they will lose their blue, pink and yellow colours quickly.

Kunzite can get wet, but should be kept away from direct sunlight or it will quickly become white.

Topaz has the most stable of colours when compared to other stones in sunlight, but it will slowly fade if kept in the full sun. Yellow topaz will become brown and deep yellow topaz will become a maroon shade when kept in the sun.

Caution: If reflective crystals, and especially reflective spheres, are placed in the sun for a long time, they can get extremely hot, and if the angle of sunlight is just right, crystals can act as a magnifying glass. If conditions are right, for example, if the sun’s rays are hot enough, the environment is dry, or there is flammable material like cloth, a thatched roof, or just simply dry grass nearby, concentrating the heat of the sun’s rays into one spot for any length of time could start a fire!

Also, remember that some crystals can be damaged and even disintegrate when wet. Common stones that can't get wet include: Amber, Turquoise, Red Coral, Fire Opal, Moonstone, Calcite, Kyanite, Kunzite, Angelite, Azurite, and Selenite.

Crystal Lighting Image JotalucasBH from PixabayCrystal Lighting Image JotalucasBH from PixabayIn the garden, place your crystals where they will be most appreciated, small tumbled gemstones are fantastic to mulch the top of containers, but remember that the stones can get very hot outside in the summer sun, and therefore may not be suitable for pots standing in very hot areas of the garden. Tumbled stones also liven up bird baths, fountains, or succulent container gardens, and are a ‘must-have’ for fairy gardens. Larger precious stones can be placed in protected areas like patios or shady regions throughout the garden, much like statues and other garden décor.

Be adventurous when using crystals in your garden, patio or balcony - man-made crystals and beads like Czech crystal beads are perfect to use for outdoor decorations. Crystal beads can be strung anywhere in the garden to catch the sunlight, and Agate crystal wind chimes are delightful. Antique crystal chandeliers or lamp shades, powered by solar lights or strings of fairy lights, can be hung from tree limbs, overhangs, pergolas, etc. The sun will hit them during the day, casting patches of dancing light around the garden or patio, while recharging the solar panel so that at night the dancing reflections continue, adding an element of magic to your space. If your antique chandelier has missing or broken crystals, these can be replaced with different unique gemstones.

Here are some favourite garden crystals:

Aventurine Pebbles Picture courtesy Mauron Cateb - see his flickr pageAventurine Pebbles Picture courtesy Mauron Cateb - see his flickr pageGreen Aventurine is a variety of quartz characterized by its translucency and sparkly metallic inclusions, which are muscovite mica, and which usually results in medium to dark green stones with a silvery green or blue sheen. This sheen is especially notable when the stones are tumbled or polished. Aventurine is a favourite with gardeners because it carries a strong connection to the Earth and nature spirits, providing a better understanding and appreciation of nature and its soothing vibrations upon the mind and body. It is therefore an excellent stone for gridding houses or gardens to ease the tension of stress on the environment and to protect against pollution. This stone is also reputed to aid new plantings and help reduce transplant shock. Larger stones may display a mottle of different green tones, while smaller stones can differ greatly in colour, making Aventurine a much more attractive mulch than gravel or river pebbles to finish off pathways, potted specimens, or bonsai. It also reflects beautifully in water, so use it in decorative fountains, bird baths and water bowls. Green Aventurine also provides a less expensive alternative to jade for Zen gardens.

Quartz must be everyone’s favourite garden crystal because their clear to cloudy white, glassy surface reflects the light, sometimes casting magical rainbow reflections. Quartz crystals are available in small or large pieces, and can be clustered or singular, rough or polished. Clear quartz crystals are valued for their high vibrations of energy, and in the garden, clear quartz stimulates growth and promotes healing, and is often buried just beneath the soil or laid out in a grid. Quartz also reportedly helps tomato plants resist pests and disease, such as blight. Clear Quartz is a hard stone which can take sun and water, but in the garden it is advisable to limit its sun exposure about two hours a day, and to avoid the hot midday sun. Dark coloured quartz easily loses its colour within a few minutes of midday sun exposure. Rose Quartz fades under sunlight, but quartz originating from Brazil fades the most, so be sure to trace the origin of your pink quartz before you keep it out in the sun. Smoky Quartz loses its colour to become grey or brown in sunlight. When kept in a glass case, smoky quartz will not lose colour as the glass blocks UV light. 

Citrine is a yellow variety of quartz, with its tones of yellow, gold and orange, symbolizing the healing energies of the sun. It can be outside in the rain, but should be placed in the garden away from strong sunlight. Citrine is available as clusters, large or small singular pieces, or chips. In the garden it promotes happiness and dispels negativity and toxins, while adding a cheery, yellow accent to beds or containers.

Tree Agate Picture courtesy Jovan J - see his flickr linkTree Agate Picture courtesy Jovan J - see his flickr linkTree Agate  Agate is the name given to numerous varieties of banded Chalcedony, a mineral of the Quartz family. Dendritic Agate, sometimes called Tree Agate, is not banded, and therefore not strictly an Agate in scientific terms but is included in the Agate family. It gets its name from a Greek word meaning tree-like. These Agates are usually colourless, white, or grey, and have tree or fern-like inclusions of iron or manganese, called dendrites. Less common are green Tree Agates with white dendrites. In the garden Tree Agate creates calming, harmonious energies that drown out negativity, making it perfect in meditation, Zen, or mandala gardens. Use tree agate in your garden to activate the energy of growth with positivity, and because perseverance and fortitude are attributes of tree agate, it is the perfect crystal for flowers or plants growing in difficult conditions. Tree agate can be placed in the sun and is not affected by water.

Moss Agate is a light green coloured stone that is beautiful whether it’s polished or not, and is available in large or very small pieces. Known today as “the gardener’s stone,” and in ancient times as “the gardener’s talisman,” Moss Agate promotes a connection to the earth and has grounding energies. It also adds balance and promotes health and vitality in the garden. Moss Agate will beautify any part of the garden, and small polished pieces or chips make wonderful accents in everything from cacti and succulent gardens, to fairy gardens and meditation or Zen gardens. It can be placed in the sun and is not affected by water.

Rhyolite is a volcanic rock similar in its chemistry to granite. It is silica-rich, giving it a light range of colours, usually pink or grey, and often with banding throughout. Because rhyolite is found in different regions of the world, it is a colourful gemstone with many variations, streaks, and blotches of orange, gold, green, grey, brown, and others. In the garden, rhyolite adds energies of fortitude, perseverance and balance, making it a great crystal for those gardens that have to combat with severe or shifting climates. Rhyolite is sometimes used to produce crushed stone and can be used in place of gravel, making it perfect mulch for succulent gardens, Zen gardens, herb gardens etc., including any plants which must flourish in even the harshest conditions. Rhyolite can be placed in the sun and is not affected by water.

Green Calcite. Picture courtesy David Lofink - see his flickr pageGreen Calcite. Picture courtesy David Lofink - see his flickr pageGreen Calcite is light green and opaque in colour, resembling washed sea glass. Green calcite is rare in the market but there are many colour variations, like yellow, pink and blue. Green calcite supposedly communicates with plant and nature spirits, and just as the stone enables human beings to open the heart and manifest the good, mystic theory also holds that it allows plants and vegetables to produce a better yield. Unfortunately all Calcite are considered soft stones and can disintegrate if kept wet for long and they should also be protected from sunlight, but a few pieces in a dry shady area of the garden would be lovely.

Malachite is green, ranging from a pastel green, to a bright green, to an extremely dark green that is almost black, with a characteristic silky lustre when polished. Malachite represents fertility and abundance and also promotes new growth and transformation, so it is naturally good for our gardens, and large raw pieces make especially unique garden accents. Malachite has been used as a gemstone and sculptural material for thousands of years and is still popular today. It does not fade over time or when exposed to light, and although it is a relatively soft stone, it is only very slightly soluble in water, making it excellent anywhere in the garden.

Jade Originally all jade objects were thought to be made from the same material, but in 1863 a Frenchman, Alexis Damour, discovered that the material known as "Jade" could be divided into two different minerals, namely: “Jadeite” and “Nephrite.” Because these two materials can be difficult to distinguish apart, and because the name "Jade" is so entrenched in our common language, it is still widely used. Because of this diversity, although most people think of jade as a beautiful green gemstone, the material occurs in a wide variety of colours that include green, white, lavender, yellow, blue, black, red, orange, and even grey. Jade is a tough, very durable stone which can take sun and water exposure. Some specimens can be polished to a brilliant lustre to use as gemstones, talismans, and ornamental objects. The Jade crystal is a superstar in the world of crystal healing thanks to its powerful connection to the heart chakra and when it comes to bringing prosperity and abundance into your life, Jade is the ultimate good luck charm. It is sought-after for Zen gardens, and in meditation gardens it will help you to have the courage to discover your divine inner truth while discarding any negative patterns holding you back from your full potential.

 Labradorite Slab. Picture courtesy James H. - see his flickr page Labradorite Slab. Picture courtesy James H. - see his flickr pageLabradorite is an important feldspar gemstone, and is best known for its opaque variety which often displays a beautiful play of colours, which appear to move as the stone is rotated. Usually they have a dark base colour with pearly sheens of iridescent blues and greens, the colour of water, as well as yellows, reds and purples. Small to microscopic particles of colloidal copper create what is called “schiller” - the reflection of light off the copper. This type pf Labradorite with schiller is called “Sunstone.” It is reasonably hard and can take sun and water in the garden, and because its healing properties are linked with the third eye chakra, the energy field that ignites spiritual expansion and higher levels of the mind and spirit, Labradorite is great for meditation and Zen gardens.

Sunstone (see under Labradorite)

Moonstone is the popular name used for gem-quality feldspar that exhibits the phenomenon of adularescence. Adularescence is a soft glow of light that appears to float just below the surface of a polished gemstone, usually a cabochon. The name “moonstone” was given because the floating light resembles the glow of the moon through a thin cloud cover and appears to move within the stone when the gemstone is moved under the light. Moonstone occurs in a wide range of light colours including: white, grey, brown, pink, orange, green, yellow and colourless. Rarely, colourless specimens of feldspar will produce a spectacular blue adularescence. An even rarer occurrence is moonstone that exhibits a spectrum of iridescent colours. These specimens are known as “rainbow moonstone.” Moonstone is a gem that is not suitable for everyday wear because it is not extremely hard and it scratches and cleaves easily, so care must be taken when using it in the garden. Moonstone promotes fertility and health, adding the energy of peace and relaxation. As its name implies, moonstone is associated with the moon and naturally makes an excellent addition to ‘moon gardens’ and is magical at night when accentuated with landscape lighting. It can be cleaned with water but should be protected from strong sunlight.

Tiger’s-eye is generally a rich, warm brown with veins of gold and white. The streaking pattern of tiger’s eye looks like wood and can have a reflective, holographic effect in bright light. It promotes harmony and success, and in the garden it promotes strong root growth. Tiger’s-eye can be cleaned with water and will not fade in the sun.

Black Obsidian. Picture courtesy James St. John - see his flickr pageBlack Obsidian. Picture courtesy James St. John - see his flickr pageMalachite symbolises the lush and verdant hues of nature, possessing a characteristic silky lustre when polished, and a pleasant green colour that can vary, very often in the form of concentric rings, from deeper olive green to rather light green areas. Malachite can fade when exposed to extreme sunlight for a long time, but should be fine in a shady garden, and although it is a relatively soft stone, it is only very slightly soluble in water, making it good in the garden. It is a ‘must-have’ stone for city dwellers because it works to remove environmental pollution and also adds a welcome pop of colour. Green is the colour of personal growth and abundance of the spirit, so bring the wonders of nature into your garden by placing a large piece of Malachite in a prominent place like a meditation area.

Howlite is made up of hydrous calcium borate and often creates nodules that look a lot like cauliflower heads, but is most often available to collectors as an inexpensive stone, in its tumbled and polished form. Howlite is usually a white or light grey, opaque and porous stone with grey, black, or brown veining that looks much like a spider web. Howlite is great in the garden because it can take sunlight and can be cleaned in water. This powerful calming stone will help you get rid of stress and anxiety, making it ideal for meditation gardens because it also promotes serenity and helps you focus your mind. Because Howlite is soft and porous it is an excellent material for making dyed tumbled stones, but is still hard enough to accept a moderately bright polish. It is also often cut into globes or carved into fancy shapes, such as animal ornaments.

Black Obsidian is a black glass-like rock that forms as a result of volcanic lava cooling quickly, and although black is the most common colour of obsidian it can also be brown, tan, or green; and rarely, blue, red, orange, or yellow. Occasionally two colours of obsidian will be swirled together in a single specimen, like black and brown obsidian, which is called "mahogany obsidian." The colours are thought to be caused mainly by trace elements or inclusions. Most obsidian has a composition similar to rhyolite and granite. Granites and rhyolites can form from the same magma as obsidian and are often geographically associated with the obsidian. Black obsidian is powerful in many ways, and is also called “the stone of truth." It is commonly used for protection, healing, truth-telling, and Feng Shui. By stimulating and activating the root chakra, Obsidian rock helps to Crystal Ball Image by 4924546 from PixabayCrystal Ball Image by 4924546 from Pixabayharness the Earth's energy and strengthen your connection to its healing vibrations. Obsidian can be used outdoors and because it is relatively easy to carve, artists have used it to make masks, small sculptures, and figurines for thousands of years.

Crystals are fascinating and beautiful, even butterflies can’t resist them, and during the day they can often be seen sitting on their shiny reflective surfaces, warming themselves and drying the dew off their wings. The earth gives us so much, and gifting our gardens with crystals can be symbolic of the earth’s cycle of giving, so do your research and select your favourites, it will take you on an adventure into the marvellous world of crystals. Garden crystals also make unusual and thoughtful gifts which just keep on giving, so spoil yourself, a friend, and your gardens with a gift of crystals.