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Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: 7 Wabi Gardens

6/15/2011 12:00:00 AM


Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailThe  wabi-sabi garden doesn’t demand an English garden’s formal precision and prissy styling. Plants are chosen because they belong in that garden, in that climate, and they’re allowed to strut their stuff if they’re considerate of the plants around them. They dance naturally with and around the stones and pebbles used to create winding paths and delineations, the rusty iron gate beckoning entrance, the trellis teasing vines up its length. Both plants and guests are encouraged to meander and explore, as long as they’re considerate. A garden’s paths may lead to nowhere, and it might be more beautiful in January than it is in June. (A stroll through the dead winter garden, with its sculptural bare branches, brittle seedpods, and stark, naked plants, is a fine way to cultivate wabi.)

These are a few of my favorite wabi-sabi gardens, places to meditate on nature’s infinite and perfect imperfection.

 bingham garden 

Vermont’s Two Scottie Farm was once a dilapidated, abandoned property in complete disrepair. Diana Bingham rehabbed the 45-acre property, following her dream: “healthy forests, managed fields, a flock of sheep, loving canines and a community of likeminded people.” Photo by Michael Shopenn 

cenac bottle fence 

Madeleine Cenac’s Louisiana garden makes use of tricks—such as this bottle wall—that have been passed down through generations. Photo by Philip Gould 

cox garden  

In Arizona, this garden makes use of native plants and recycled concrete walls to create private yet open spaces for enjoying the wildlife. Photo by Michael Shopenn 

laud garden  

In this Montana rooftop garden, Mary Laud and James Boyes did their best not to disturb any of their neighbors—including the area’s local birds, deer and black bears. They tucked their garden into its surroundings thanks to local stone and a living roof that blends into the mountainous terrain near Glacier National Park. Photo by Michael Shopenn 

hecht vine and dine garden  

In what she calls the Garden of Vine and Dine, California landscape designer Alma Hecht emphasizes enjoyment of food and wine by incorporating allium-flower motifs in statuary and a pergola. Photo by Barbara Bourne 

whitehead elniski solar panels and chives  

In Chicago, Frances Whitehead and Jim Elniski grow chives and other fruits and vegetables on their roof alongside the solar panels. Photo by Barry Rustin 


 Jill Nokes’s Austin garden is an enchanting tribute to the south Texas folk garden tradition.  Photo by Paul Bardagjy 

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