Relax in your garden

Wabi-Sabi: Creating the Perfectly Imperfect Garden

Gardeners and homeowners alike strive for the perfect garden and landscape.  As a result, our quest to have the perfect plant or perfectly weeded landscape quickly becomes overwhelming and often deters us from spending more time outside.  But, what if I told you that ‘perfect’ is a thing of the past?  Something we can put behind us to focus on, you know, reality?


Let’s face it, nothing in life is perfect.  Plants live and plants die, they look gorgeous one day and struggle the next.  The reality of gardening is that it’s perfectly imperfect.


Wabi-sabi is finding beauty in age

Find beauty in the life cycle of plants.


For all those homeowners and gardeners who struggle to keep your landscape looking like it belongs in a magazine – you can stop now.  It’s time to take a step back and breathe.  Set aside the obligations of creating a perfect garden and live in reality.

Let me introduce you to a term that is taking the gardening community by storm this year and just happens to be one of the top gardening trends of 2018.



Nature takes what was is hers

Wabi-sabi once described a hermit living alone in the woods.


Wabi-sabi is not easily definable and is difficult to translate.  Wabi once referenced the loneliness of living in nature while Sabi translated to ‘chill’, ‘lean’, or ‘withered’.  Wabi-sabi often referred to an old and lonely hermit living away from societal pressures.

However, by the 14th century, the despondent meaning of wabi-sabi began to change.  The, once lonely, hermit turned into a wise man freed from pretentious Japanese society.  A man who chooses to look past excessive possessions and wealth and live in harmony with nature and all its beautiful imperfections.

Today, wabi (a philosophy) and sabi (the aesthetic) typically refer to a rustic simplicity and quietness in life.  It appreciates the beauty that comes with age.


Nature is beautiful with all its imperfections.

Plants provide beauty even to the end.


So what does that have to do with gardening?

Imperfect Plants – Wabi-sabi allows you to free yourself from the struggles of perfection.  It finds beauty in the transience of every living plant but, with the understanding that it will return the following spring, allows peace with natural events.


Aging stone.

Allow natural materials to age.


In the Garden:

  • Plant natives and allow them to self-seed and grow naturally as opposed to being controlled by our gardening ideals.
  • Leave seed pods through winter for wildlife to feed on and enjoy.
  • Don’t view insects, disease or death of a plant as failure but instead as a part of the natural life cycle.
  • Enjoy the weeds in our lawns.  Dandelion and clover are both tremendous food sources for bees.


Wood rots naturally.

Enjoy natural elements like this simple wood bench in your garden.


Imperfect Design – Some aesthetics of wabi-sabi include asymmetry, simplicity, and modesty.  It allows mistakes and imperfections and creates sustainable gardens that are one with the existing, native landscape.

The use of natural materials such as wood, metal, or stone is part of the wabi-sabi concept.  Allowing these elements to age naturally does not show a lack of maintenance, but instead shows an appreciation of the nature of these materials.


Rusting metal.

Wabi-sabi has a great appreciation for the process of aging.


In the Garden:

  • Use natural materials in your garden and allow them to age and become one with your garden.
  • Repurpose old objects – use an old gate as a trellis or a metal container as a planter.
  • Create gardens that appear to be one with the nature that surrounds them.
  • Choose the right plant for your area so you can enjoy its natural form without excessive pruning.
  • Create sustainable lawns by growing native grasses and sedges instead of the non-native grasses that make up todays lawns.


Nature overtaking man-made structure

Building with natural stone allows nature and progress to blend seamlessly.


Nature’s grandeur will always surpass our human attempts at perfection.  By following the practices of wabi-sabi, we are allowed the freedom from every self-imposed expectation.  This gives us the spectacular opportunity to create the perfectly imperfect garden.



Garden Trends 2018  – Garden Media

Wabi-sabi – Wikipedia

Wabi-Sabi and Understanding Japan