wabi sabi gardens


The intention of wabi sabi gardens its to create a place where we can remain in the present, living life through our senses and enjoying every moment. The idea is that wabi sabi gardens will help us to connect to nature through sounds, smells, sight, touch and taste. Such an, in the moment, experience can free us from the thinking that sometimes leads to stress and unhappiness. To reduce all the activity from our conscious mind for a while can ultimately open us up to uniquely meditative, tranquil and freeing experiences.

One way to create such a garden is to explore wabi sabi.

wabi sabi

The words wabi and sabi have evolved in meaning over many centuries. Wabi describes a way of life that is simple, un-materialistic, humble, appreciative, considered. A wabi person would be happy with very little and content within him or herself, someone who has transcended the need for material wealth to define him or herself. Sabi describes the idea of transient beauty. Something that shows its age, that imparts something of its life has sabi. This could be the patina of an old leather jacket, weathered stone or seasoned wood. Sabi represents the passing of time. When put together wabi sabi implies being in a simple state of living, appreciating the beauty of evolution and change.


A common metaphor in Zen is that of a path representing our journey through life. A wabi sabi gardens can be designed so it represents a journey. The main feature of such a garden can therefore be a path that takes the traveller through a variety of sensorial experiences.

connecting to wabi sabi gardens

Walk through your garden at different times of the day in a tranquil, meditative mood paying attention to your emotions. Be aware of any parts of your garden that feel calmer. Remember places you would want to spend more time. Try this over a period of several days to see if you are consistently attracted to the same place. When you feel happy you have found a tranquil spot look to see if you can introduce a wabi sabi feature here.

simple projects

Clear an open space and then place an interesting feature in this space so it stands out in a captivating and interesting way. You will need a space of one square meter or yard, or more. Look to see if you can introduce an interesting path to this site, a path that would gently guide you to a meditative experience.

Clear out the space you have. You can cover the area with gravel or mulch. This becomes your canvas for your wabi sabi feature. Traditionally a large stone was used as the focal point. This would be a stone taken in its natural condition. This requires you to spend time looking in the wilds for a stone that would help you feel tranquil and meditative. If you use gravel as your background this can also be the place you rake your gravel into interesting patterns.

Ideally such a stone would have a shape, colour and texture that holds your interest. If you manage to drag such a stone out of a river it will also an interesting pattern of wear. Similarly soft stones may weather in a fascinating way if they have been exposed to the elements. When you get the stone into your garden, move it until you find a position and stance that feels natural to you.

Resist any temptation to place your stone right in the centre of your space or to set it in any contrived manner. If you find it difficult to find one large stone you could consider arranging several stones in a spontaneous pile.

As an alternative to a stone you might consider a large piece of wood. Scour beaches for a captivating large piece of driftwood. Driftwood can pick up a fascinating texture and shape and will hopefully provide something to meditate on in your garden.

Another option would be to find an interesting piece of rusting metal and bring that back to be your feature. If the metal is thin enough you will be able to witness parts of it rust away leaving interesting holes.

Part of the wabi sabi tradition is to consider how you want to approach your feature. What experiences could you or your guests enjoy on the way to help you reach the best emotional state to meditate on your feature. In your design of the path you will need to think about the route the path takes, the size of the path and the materials you use for the surface.

A winding path would add a sense of mystery and perhaps surprise when you reach your feature. To use wabi sabi thinking the path would be made up of weathered and seasoned materials such as old broken flag stones, aged wooden railway sleepers or a mixture of different left over paving stones.

From a wabi sabi perspective there is no need to make the path continuous or to use the same materials along the path. You could simply place a few stones to step on and leave grass between and you might find it more interesting to change the material according to the emotion you want to bring to the surface. For example a soft path made from mulch though a wooded section, hard stones in an open environment and wood to slow you down as you approach your feature.

Consider different smells you could experience on the journey to your feature. Lavender, sage, roses would add to our ability to connect to our sense of smell. Various herbs, such as mint, fruits or vegetables would provide the opportunity to taste a part of the garden.

Try to work with your garden in a way that you leave your options for the future open. By keeping everything flexible and avoiding costly fixed items you will be able to experiment and change your garden from one year to the next if you feel like it. In this spirit it is easier to work intuitively as there is not the same pressure to avoid making a mistake. With this attitude you can follow your heart in the knowledge that you can always change anything you do not like.

Book an online or in person feng shui consultation with Simon for your home or garden to create the ultimate supportive space to relax and enjoy yourself.