Gardeners, rejoice! The battle for beautifully manicured lawns, year-round healthy blooms, and dust-free furniture is a thing of the past. The trend of wabi-sabi – applicable in both indoor and outdoor spaces – celebrates the imperfections and impermanence of nature: grass that grows at will, weeds sprouting in the yard, flowers that blossom then wilt, seats sporting sun-bleached patches – all part of reality for homeowners and gardeners alike, especially in the harsh UAE climate.

The concept of wabi-sabi celebrates the natural weathering and aging of materials like wood, stone and metal. Instead of viewing something as old, like this dilapidated wheelbarrow, turn it into a pretty floral feature.

While it’s tempting to simply abandon your garden to the forces of nature, you should put a little effort into producing this “devil-may-care” look. Create an organic looking outdoor space with these top tips for landscaping and accessorising through upcycling, rustic furniture and natural materials for a garden that looks fashionably dishevelled.

This cosy corner embraces aged metals and untreated wood – with wabi-sabi there’s no need to repaint and keep things looking new!

Wabi-sabi ideology

In Japan, wabi translates to mean “a philosophy” while sabi is “the aesthetic”. The idea of wabi-sabi has changed over many centuries. Traditionally thought to reference a reclusive person living away from society, in the 14th century writings tell us that this solitary figure turned into a wise man free from social pretentions, living in harmony with nature. Today, this simple, quiet way of life embraces rustic minimalism and uncomplicated aesthetics. These days, the world view of the term centres on accepting organic changes, the temporariness of natural forms, and the beautification of weather-beaten, aging objects.

Naturally hewn stone creates a tranquil water feature.

Aging beauties

The growing popularity of wabi-sabi is a reflection of society’s desire to preserve the world through sustainable, eco-friendly practices. It draws upon our prevalent awareness of the importance of recycling and upcycling, giving pre-loved items a new purpose in a similar or different environment.

Old floorboards remade into a table top is a rustic approach.

Transform broken garden equipment, such as holey watering cans, and old boots and shoes, into flowerpots with character. Embrace the aging process of metals by creating focal points of rusted equipment; prop old hoes, rakes, shears and trowels against a garden wall and let the grass and vines tangle around them, creating a carefully construed vignette of stylish abandonment. 

Rusted watering cans create unique hanging baskets.

Transient lifecycles

Embrace the ebb and flow of the seasons, and the way that life blossoms and fades in your flowerbeds – with the assurance that the coolness of winter will revive your blooms once again. Wabi-sabi teaches us to find peace with the natural cycle of life and death, of constant change and temporary entities. It also encourages gardeners to find beauty when the blossoms have wilted and our gardens are not looking their best during the hot summer.

This terrace maintains a consistent weathered aesthetic across its furniture and boards.

Enjoy the different colours that dried leaves bring, and look for plants that will thrive in the heat. Plant natives and allow them to pollenate and grow naturally and randomly, rather than planting seedlings in precise places and pruning them into shape.  

Terrariums are a great way to bring garden scenes indoors.

Natural takeover

The “sabi” (the aesthetics) of wabi-sabi looks for asymmetry, simplicity, restraint and quietness. Allow your existing purchases to blend into their natural environment: let the sun bleach wooden furniture and for the paint to peel; enjoy the greening of a stone water fountain, and the reddening of weathered metal; avoid replacing chipped patio tiles and filling cracks. Allow grass to grow over stepping stones, for shrubs to break the boundaries of their beds, and for vines to wrap around walls. What might seem to be a lack of maintenance is actually an appreciation of the elements at work.

Wabi-sabi can also be sophisticated; this patio mixes natural wood and rusted details with high-quality upholstery. With fountain features, allow the water to naturally tarnish and green the stones.


Read more in Gardens:

Beautiful ways to create a Thai paradise in your garden

Simple lighting tricks that will transform your garden

Top 5 plants that thrive in UAE gardens

Read more from the rest of InsideOut:

This family created a holiday-at-home feel with their beachy, relaxed villa in the heart of Dubai

10 Stylish updates to transform your home this summer

Escape to Polynesia without leaving Dubai with this characterful family-friendly retreat