Do you prefer straight lines, perfect, polished surfaces, sleek technology, and absolute symmetry? Or, do those things feel cold, impersonal, and unnatural to you? If you find most modern design to be overly rigid, and prefer a more wild, natural design theme, you might be a fan of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi… Without even knowing it!
Wabi-sabi is difficult to define or explain to Westerners, because it is more than a single art form. It’s more a way of thinking about or seeing the world, and finding beauty in the imperfections. The wabi-sabi mindset favors earthiness, weathered materials, muted beauty, and the natural aging process. It is genuine and organic, in direct opposition to the shiny, plastic, artificial, perfectly uncluttered design so common these days.
Clearly, it would be simple to adopt a wabi-sabi mindset with regard to your landscaping. This is great news for more hands-off gardeners, and those who don’t want to spend hours per day obsessing over each leaf and every blade of grass!
Since the philosophy embraces the natural cycle of growth, death, decay, and rebirth, those with a wabi-sabi view of the world will enjoy observing all stages of life in their gardens. This doesn’t mean that you completely “let it all go”; rather, that you choose your plantings thoughtfully, provide for their water and soil needs, and then relax to enjoy the process. Wabi-sabi is the perfect balance of nature and nurture.
Take a moment to survey your garden right now. Are a few perennials overgrown, perhaps in a state that makes you want to cut them back? “Enthusiastic” and “abundant” would be another way to view them. They’re beautiful that way!
Is moss growing over your stone walkway? Perhaps leave it alone and let nature blur those once-strict edges.
Rusted iron gates, a weathered pot or two, a vine climbing happily throughout your shrubs…. These are all nature’s whimsical, magical gifts. They don’t need to be thrown away or replaced; their rustic beauty represents the full cycle of life.
Perhaps the best part of wabi-sabi is that it encourages you to let go of control, to let go of perfection, and to be at peace with yourself and your surroundings. Embrace it, and perhaps you will see your landscape with new eyes.