By Lily Elliott
Japanese legend tells of a young man, Sen no Rikyū, who in learning the elaborate set of customs known as the ‘Way of Tea’, went to his tea-master, Takeno Jōō, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend a garden. Rikyū cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect. Before presenting his work to the master, he contemplated the immaculate garden and then shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to fall randomly onto the raked ground. To this day, Rikyū is revered as one who embodies the spirit of wabi-sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfection, joy in the unexpected, profundity in the cycles of nature and revering authenticity above all.
Wabi-sabi takes the peddle off perfection and celebrates the imperfections that make up everyday life. It’s less of a curated, picture-perfect effect and something that everyone can get behind. Here’s how to put the principles of wabi-sabi gardening into practice in your own green space.
Wabi-sabi gardening is about appreciating nature, so be mindful of the materials you select for your pot stand or planter box. Natural options like terracotta, wood and stone that age and develop a patina over time are good options. Rough textures, minimally processed goods and subtle hues also align with the wabi-sabi way.
Plant to nourish, Not impress
Plant packets of easy-growing, nourishing herbs and edible flower seeds. If you’re still finding your way around growing from seed, you’ll be surprised how simple and rewarding it is.
Explore the Handmade
Homemade objects – whether the genius of a skilled artisan or your own creation – bring a personal touch that can transform a space. While handcrafted urns and custom furniture are excellent additions, incorporating your own ceramic planter or wooden water bowl will make your space feel instantly more intimate.
Let flowers fall
Practising wabi-sabi gardening means that impermanence is part of what makes plants intriguing. Welcome transience by allowing living things to fade, grassy seed heads to be exposed and blooms to gently wilt and fall.
Pass on surplus plants, herbs and flowers to a neighbour or friend. This will create more space for your garden to thrive. Get rid of superfluous pots and garden objects that clutter your space, allowing those that really matter to stand out.