The Art of Wabi-Sabi
When it comes to gardening, I am more of a let it do what it wants kind of gardener than one that constantly attends to my plants. I have recently found out that that is not such a bad thing. Unwins likes to know what the coming trends for 2018 are and I am in luck with the latest trend of Wabi-Sabi. It doesn’t require money, training or any special skills so anyone can have a go. This trend promotes creating a calming and tranquil space of relaxation, where you can appreciate the forms and changes of the natural landscape.
What is Wabi-Sabi?
It emerged in the 15th century as a reaction to the lavishness, ornamentation and rich materials that were becoming popular at the time. It is an ancient Japanese philosophy that focuses on accepting the imperfect and transient nature of life. According to Japanese legend, a young man named Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the elaborate set of customs known as the Way of Tea. He went to a tea-master Takeeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend the garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, then scrutinised the immaculate garden. Before presenting his work to his master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to spill randomly onto the ground.
It teaches you to accept the imperfect and transient nature of life. There is no Western definition for Wabi-Sabi but Leonard Cohen, author of Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers, tried unsuccessfully to discover a precise definition when researching for his book. He eventually coined his own definition – Wabi-Sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring and monumental.
Wabi-Sabi in your garden
The words have evolved in meaning over many centuries but in the simplest of terms Wabi describes a way of life that is simple, unmaterialistic, humble and considered, while Sabi describes the idea of transient beauty, something that shows its age and represents the passing of time. When you put them together it implies being in a simple state of living, appreciating the beauty of evolution and change. One way of bringing this into the garden is by designing it in a way that represents a journey, by having a path as a main feature, the traveller can be taken through a variety of sensorial experiences, full of plants and objects that will change colour and texture over time as the seasons change and the elements are allowed to go to work on them.
Wabi-Sabi gardening allows the gardener and visitors the chance to explore the beautiful ways in which nature changes the landscape. One of my favourite ways to achieve this is to plant perennials as they are a great way for you to explore the natural changes in your garden. Some of my favourites are:
- Lavender Hidcote Blue with its stunning mauve flowers and beautiful scent
- Sweet Violet Viola Odorata with their delicate blooms and parma-violet scent
- Hellebore Lily give a sophisticated air with their many petals
- Meconopsis Lingholm because it is reliable and a stunning blue
- Echinacea Hot Papaya as it is bright and unusual
All of these flowers will add colour, texture and scent to your garden. In order to connect to a Wabi-Sabi garden, walk through yours at different times of day in a meditative mood. Are there any parts that feel calm to you? Are you drawn to a particular spot? Can you introduce a feature there? Why not find a feature such as a stone that can gather moss or a metal object that will rust in the rain.
Is Wabi-Sabi for you?
It will take a mind that is quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness in your garden and willingness to accept things as they are. The idea of this style of garden and the reason it is the trend for 2018 is to create calming and tranquil spaces for you to relax in. This experience in your garden can free us from the kind of thinking that sometimes can lead to stress and unhappiness. In creating this space you can reduce the activity in your conscious mind for a while and in the fast paced world we live in, everyone needs their calm and quiet space.
Keep an eye on the Unwins website for more information on Wabi-Sabi.
By Jemma Cox