22 November 2012

Wabi Sabi, or the beauty of a November garden

 It's not exactly news that November is not usually my favourite month of the year. The winding down of the outdoor gardening year, and the changes in the natural world, have conspired with my tendency to be affected by SAD. But that isn't to say I don't appreciate the beauties that this month has to offer.

 Several years ago, there was a theme-meme that went through the gardening world, about Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection, and of accepting the natural cycle of the seasons, with growth, decay, death, and rebirth. This has been a year that has certainly taught me about wabi-sabi, especially the cycles of nature.

 I think we're all trying to find a little balance in our lives, and to find beauty even in decay and death. Nature does teach us a great deal about this, if we open our eyes and hearts and really look and think at the world around us.

 This time of year has its own stirring beauty, in the whispering of drying grasses, their flowerheads catching the late season light...
 If you don't grow Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), this time of year is the perfect reason to promise yourself to plant them next spring. They are holding their flowerheads beautifully despite wind, rain, and some cold temperatures.
 Without a chaos of flowers to distract us, the bones of a garden are revealed in foliage, in evergreens, in a few leaves caught among the crowns of perennials, in a curving walkway through a display garden. (This photo was taken at Briar Patch Farm and Nursery, one of my favourite nurseries in Nova Scotia
 With their flowering finished for the year, some of the heaths and heathers are starting to take on their blazing fall and winter foliage, like this potted specimen of Calluna 'Wickware Flame'. I'm thinking eagerly about the spring, and about a heath and heather planting, you can be sure of that now that I'm on the Valley floor and on good, well-draining and acid-leaning soil!
 As the leaves drop from deciduous trees, the glory of their berries and seedheads can be revealed. This is a cultivated form of Canada holly (Ilex verticillata) but the cultivar is unknown to me.
If you're attentive, you may find native witch-hazel still blooming. Take the time to savour the delicate but sweet fragrance of its spidery blooms...
...and as days get colder and darker and winter comes closer, dream of spring and magnolias.

That's how I'm dealing with the changing of the seasons, anyway!


  1. Your words about wabi sabi are interesting, and I like the plants you photographed; the sea oats are especially pretty.

  2. Wabi Sabi does indeed describe the winter garden full of imperfection. Interesting photographs.

  3. Oh I love the "wabi sabi" concept.

    Frost on curled dead leaves is one of the most appealing images for me.

    Oh how exciting for you to have a blank slate to dream about all winter.

    And while you're waiting for spring you have that wonderful view out your window.

    Me ? My lil' semi yard backs onto FIVE other yards. Sigh ...

  4. I've come to appreciate more and more the beauty of the fading garden, too, Jodi. Your photos are a lovely reminder that even in decay there is beauty to be found.

    I haven't visited in oh so long; I hope all is well with you!

  5. A lovely tribute to Mother Nature's superior position in the universe.

    And yes, I will plant some grasses and oats to enjoy NEXT November. Thank you.

  6. I appreciate the concept of wabi-sabi. Interesting. It is good to be able to see the beauty in inperfection.

  7. Wabi-sabi is actually my personalized license plate! (wbi-sbi the best I could do within the law) I loved your pictures. Is Northern Sea Oats uh, gently invasive? I have a year old plant, that I love, but there seems to be lots of small grasslings that look like the Sea Oat. They weed out easily, but still. The prolific number of them stopped me from transplanting any to see what they grew into.

  8. I've become a fan of Northern Sea Oats after visiting a public garden this time of year the past few years. Such a great plant for interest for fall gardens.

  9. Here in Ontario we have to be content with plants that are not perfect now that we are in year three of the Pesticide and Herbicide ban. It isn't a bad thing but different. Valerie

  10. That's funny, because I just wrote my own November post about the quiet beauty of the late garden. All the while I was writing, I kept thinking about that Wabi Sabi meme that went around a few years back. Like minds.

  11. It is profound, and true - and the pictures are perfect.
    * * *
    I'm gradually letting people know I've moved my blog 'Message in a Milk Bottle' to a new URL -


    - where it is now known as M2.
    If you would like to - please do re-follow there!

  12. Jodi: it's a very cold and windy day here at the beach. But, with a wabi-sabi viewpoint, I'm drinking my morning tea, watching my ornamental grasses sway (okay, not sway, downright swirl), the continued browning of the plant material, and I'm enjoying the view enormously. Have a happy wabi-sabi day everyone. It is quite beautiful out there.

  13. I must be getting a little Wabi Sabied this year because for the first time in a long time I'm noticing all the beautiful colors around me. They seem more vivid this time for some reason. I say load up on Amaryllis and other bulbs that you can grow inside. :0) I once suffered from SAD for several years. I think I was able to link mine back to a buried memory and since I’ve realized that I’m doing much better. If it starts to get the better of you, I always have an open ear! ;0) I this may be a little too hippy-ish for you, but I find a good Reiki session does wonders for me.


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