The year is not quite done but predictions for the big garden trends of 2018 are already in print. Most seem to me to be a re-packaging of what we are already doing – except for the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi, which has crept into articles this year and is clearly going to make an impact in 2018.
So what is it? The concept of Wabi-sabi is considered a difficult one for those brought up in the western tradition to truly grasp – but let’s have a go anyway. It stems from the Buddhist teaching of the philosophy of the three marks of existence: impermanence – suffering – emptiness or absence of self nature. In aesthetics this has been distilled as a world view which accepts transience and imperfection. It is useful to contrast that with our own western aesthetic which is based on our Greek and Roman heritage which celebrated monumentality, symmetry and perfection. We have added another layer to this in our contemporary consumer culture which values celebrity, expensiveness and trendiness.
In short Wabi-sabi could be expressed as an acceptance of the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. That does not mean a garden like the one above is a fine example of Wabi-sabi – remember, this is an aesthetic!
It is more about natural processes which contain an inherent beauty like the moss growing on the rocks above. The key here is balancing nature and nurture, embracing Wabi-sabi into your garden life will encourage you to reflect on the beauty of your garden’s natural imperfections.
This does not mean going all Japanese in your garden in terms of style but enjoying simplicity and things like overgrown perennials, moss-covered stones, rusty iron gates and weathered pots.
It will be interesting to see how this concept will be treated in the garden world next year – commercialising an anti commercial aesthetic. Meanwhile the thing to take from this is that our gardens are living things whose whole life cycle brings joy.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas and here’s to another wondrous garden year starting in January.
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