Balinese style gardens which refer to the Balinese traditional garden concepts have been popular not only in Bali, but also in other areas in Indonesia, even in some other countries. In my personal opinion, Balinese style gardens are the most common garden styles in resort areas, especially in the ethnic and exotic theme resorts. I often looked at the phenomenon in most resort places bringing ethnic and exotic themes, there are many obvious elements referring to the Balinese style garden concepts (whether the gardens fully implement the Balinese traditional garden concepts or merely imitate some parts of the visual forms). However, do all those who enjoy the beauty of Balinese style gardens comprehend regarding the plants’ philosophical meanings becoming the soft element of Balinese gardens? Not necessarily. Most people may merely enjoy Balinese gardens in the visual aesthetic aspects, and yet, in fact, they do not comprehend the real concepts and philosophical meanings of Balinese style gardens they see and enjoy.
Whereas, Balinese style gardens which actually refer to the Balinese traditional garden concepts are far beyond than just a beautiful visual presence to the eyes. Speaking about designing Balinese style gardens based on the original concepts of Balinese traditional gardens, a landscape architect should thoroughly consider three main elements of Balinese traditional gardens, namely Satyam (truths), Siwam (purities, glories, and hygiene), and Sundaram (beauty and harmonies). Furthermore, there are four components to be considered, namely:
(1) Ardha Chandra (the crescent): the form of the hard and aesthetic elements;
(2) Kayu Kasta Gumani: the elements forming the life-giving plants. These components were the seeds of Panca Wriksa concepts (the five life-giving trees), namely Ficus, Bodhi, Banana, Fishtail Palm, and Tiger’s Claw trees. According to the sources of Puranas, Panca Wriksa originally came from the vegetations growing in the Garden of Nandhana (the Palace of Indraloka) consisting of Wandira (Ficus), Parijataka (Tiger’s Claw Tree), Dewandaru (Harichandanaka), Kalpataru, and Vilva (Maja);
(3) Tirta Kamandalu: the water elements creating coolness elements, both in human’s life and the natural environments; and
(4) Goddess Lakshmi: the beauty elements referring to the terms of harmonies, peace, and environments.
Hence, Balinese style landscapes have grand philosophical concepts (from soft to hard elements) creating the integrated constellation between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Now, let’s discuss regarding the soft elements of Balinese gardens, namely all plants used in Balinese traditional gardens, from the front yards of the entrance areas (angkul-angkul) to the natah areas (the inner courtyard).
(1) Ficus Trees (Ficus Benjamina L.), provide shade to the environment and have the symbolic significance to provide peace of life. However, Ficus trees should not be planted in the natah areas (the inner courtyard) because in the conception of the Balinese traditional gardens, Ficus trees are believed to be the most favorite dwelling place of Satan Banaspati which adversely affect the home’s occupants.
(2) Bodhi/Ancak Trees (Hemandia pellata) have religious functions as a meditation place to invoke life and peace from God.
(3) Banana Trees (Musa sapientum L.) are food-producing trees giving life to human beings.
(4) Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis) trees have religious and symbolic functions as a place to obtain inspirations and advices.
(5) Drymophloeus Palm (Drymophloeus ovilivacouncis Mart). A kind of palms that in religious and magical aspects serves as a place to worship and praise God.
(6) Cactus (Pachycereus Sp) trees. In Balinese traditional garden concepts, they are considered as the reinforcement plants to repel the malevolent beings and believed to counteract the evil intentions. Therefore the plants are usually planted in the right side before the entrance gate. They can also be planted in the courtyard next to the main entrance of the house or around the kitchen.
(7) Tiger’s Claw/Indian Coral/Sunshine trees (Erythrina variegata). The Red flowering trees are also believed to counteract the evil intentions and refuse the malicious (evil) people from entering the house. Hence, the plants are usually planted in the left side before the entrance gate paired with Cactus.
(8) Rhapis Palm (Raphis excelsa) trees are believed to destroy the stronger negative forces. They are usually planted after the entrance of the yard.
(9) Moringa Trees (Moringa oleifera). In the Balinese traditional garden concepts, the small ovoid-leaved trees are used as the last deterrent to evil intentions. They are usually planted next to the kitchen.
(10) White Frangipani (Plumeria acuminata) and Sudamala/ Red Frangipani (Plumeria rubra) trees. Both types of these plants have the philosophical meanings to cleanse and purify everyone who will enter into the main area of the dwelling or into the sacred areas. Hence, both of these plants are usually planted in the main entrance.
(11) Seligi/ Phyllanthus (Phyllanthus buxifolius Muell. Arg) trees. The plants that in Indonesian traditional medicines are often used to treat dislocated joints are believed for refusing and eliminating all forms of evil thoughts. So, only well-thought people can enter the house. The plants are usually planted at the main entrance areas.
(12) Ceylon Ironwood/Indian Rose Chestnut/Cobra’s Saffron (Mesua Ferrea L.) trees. The woody trees that are classified into the group of the Garcinieae tribe are believed to be the darling tree of the deities because they have the whitest, clean, and cold auras. They are usually planted inside of the main yard, after the main entrance.
(13) The scented flowering plants like Roses, Frangipani, Ylang-ylang, Tiger’s Claw, Gardenia (Cape jasmine), etc. are also the kinds of plants that are commonly planted in the yard areas of Balinese houses, from the entrance areas of the front yard (angkul-angkul) to the natah areas (the inner courtyard). They are believed to spread purities and beauty. The aroma of these flowers are believed to be able to assist increasing worshipers concentration when they worship God. They are often planted around the sacred worship buildings and are used as one of the main completenesses in some religious ceremonies in Bali.
(14) Fruit trees such as Mangosteen, Star Fruit, etc. are the excellent plants species to be planted in the yard adjacent to the kitchen and in the outside of natah as well.
(15) Medori Flower/ White Widuri (Calotropis gigantea) plants. The big shrubs with flowers layered wax that can be white or purple-colored flowers (the flowers used in Balinese traditional garden styles are the white-colored ones). In Balinese traditional cultures, they are the symbol of Sang Hyang Iswara (the ruler of Purwa/ the God of east direction). They are planted in the east side of yards.
(16) White Lotus (Nymphaea lotus) and Moon Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. “Bulan”) plants. These plants are also the symbol of Sang Hyang Iswara, thus they are planted in the eastern part of the yard area.
(17) Areca Nut Tree (Areca catechu) trees. In the relief of the Sukuh temple in Java, they are depicted to be planted in the middle of the Pasetran Gondomayit* area, the reign palace of Goddess Durga (the goddess of the death). While in Balinese traditional cultures, they are the symbol of Sang Hyang Brahma (the ruler of Daksana/the God of south direction). Hence, the trees are planted in the southern part of the yard area. (*Note: Pasetran Gondomayit is derived from an ancient Javanese term which means “corpses-smelling lands”.)
(18) Red Lotus (Nymphaea rubra) flowers. The flowers, for both Hindu and Buddhist believers, are known as one of the sacred flowers. In Balinese traditional cultures, they are also the symbol of Sang Hyang Brahma. Therefore the flowers are planted in the southern part of the yard area. In addition, Shrimp Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. “Udang”) trees are also planted in the southern part of the yard area.
(19) Chinese Perfume trees (Aglaia odorata Lour), Gading Coconut trees (Cocos nucifera L. varieties eburnea) and Yellow Lotus flowers (Nymphaea mexicana) are the symbol of Lord Mahadev, the ruler of Pascima (the God of westerly direction). Hence, these plants are planted in the western part of the yard area.
(20) Butterfly Pea/Asian Pigeonwings (Clitoria ternatea), Gadang Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. “Gadang”) and the Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) are the symbol of Sang Hyang Vishnu, the ruler of Uttara (the God of north direction). Accordingly, these plants are planted in the northern part of the yard area.
(21) Pancawarna Lotus Flower (five-colored lotus) and Sudamala Coconut are the representation of Lord Shiva. Thus, they are planted in the middle of the yard area.
(22) Ratna flowers or Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa L.) flowers. The beautiful flowers have purplish-pink rounded flower forms. In the story of Adiparwa, the flowers were used as the primary tool to create the form of a beautiful princess named Tilotama. The princess then assigned to seduce two gigantic twins whom were meditating in order to be able to conquer and rule over the heaven of the deities. The flowers functionate as one of the aesthetic elements in the yard areas. They are also one of the main flowers used in many religious ceremonies in Bali. Moreover, they can also be used as herbal medicinal plants to treat various diseases, such as tuberculosis, asthma, dysentery, itching, fever, headache, and so on.
The plants that should not be planted in the natah areas (the inner courtyard).
Based on Balinese traditional landscape concepts, the segmented stem plants such as Coconut (Cocos nucifera), Castor (Ricinus communis), Sugar Cane (Saccharum sp.), Bamboo (Bambusoideae), etc. have the philosophical meanings of fragmenting or discontinuing both sustenance and life. Thus, they are not planted in the natah area.
Other plants functioning in the symbolic and religious aspects for worshipping God are usually planted based on the directions as follows:
(1) The plants that are often planted in the eastern part of the yard area: Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana), Star Gooseberry (Phyllanthus acidus Skeels), Durian (Durio zibethinus Mere), and White Jade Orchid Tree (Magnolia alba).
(2) The plants that are often planted in the southern part of the yard area: Corn (Zea mays L), Salak (Salacca edulis BL), Betel Nut (Areca catechu L), Mangosteen (Garcinia mangosta L.), Red Rose (Rosa hybrida), Ixora (Ixora javanica), Oleander (Nerium oleander), and Zinnia (Zinnia elegans).
(3) The plants that are often planted in the western part of the yard area: Coconut (Cocos nucifera L), Corn (Zea mays L.), Langsat (Lansium domesticum Jack), Champak (Michelia champaca), Yellow Flower, and Allamanda (Allamanda cathartica ).
(4) The plants that are often planted in the northern part of the yard area: Sorghum (Sorghum vulgare Pers), Mangosteen (Garcinia mangosta L), Pangium / Kepayang / Keluwak (Pangium edule Reinw), Mango (Mangifera indica), and Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata).
Gelebet, I Nyoman. Dkk. Arsitektur Tradisional Daerah Bali. Denpasar. Departemen P dan K. 1986.