Cultivating Wabi Sabi in the Garden

Cultivating Wabi Sabi in the Garden

Master gardener Brianne Dela Cruz guides us through the principles of Wabi Sabi with Niwaki tools in tow.

Words and photography by Brianne Dela Cruz of Gather & Grow

I learned my first lessons in cultivating mindfulness and wabi sabi in the garden of a zen buddhist monastery. During my student residency, I spent hours—in the morning and afternoon—inside the temple, deep in meditation. Throughout the day, I worked in the kitchen and garden. The monks joined students in the garden to lead our working sessions. Our work outside the temple was just as important and meditative as our work inside the temple—for gardening is simply a moving meditation. 

 Niwaki Garden Snips

With each moment in the garden being a meditative experience, the tool one uses becomes an intimate extension of the body. 

In the garden, we were discouraged from chatting and guided to move with mindfulness, breathe with intention and observe with non-judgmental awareness as we worked. It was through this practice of weeding with my hori hori among the veggies and pruning the roses in full bloom, that I began to understand how to cultivate a wabi sabi outlook. There was a wise rhythm to our work. We cleaned our well-used tools after every use to show respect. We weeded beds, but the space wasn’t overly manicured. We let the roses lose their petals over freshly mowed grass, and appreciated nature's kiss of imperfection after a long day’s work.


Niwaki Fujimaki Rattan Secateurs and Rattan Snips

This experience changed the way I worked in nature and greatly influenced my worldview for the better. Cultivating wabi sabi invites greater ease and joy from simple moments. I no longer view yard work as a chore, but an opportunity to still my mind, move my body, and connect to nature on a deeper level.

Lessons of Wabi Sabi

Wabi sabi is a view of finding beauty in imperfection. It’s an aesthetic that captures the essence of embracing things that are imperfect, impermanent and incomplete—just as they are manifested in nature. In cultivating a wabi sabi world view, we find beauty in the transience of life and appreciate an aesthetic that reveals the patina of a life well lived. Cultivating wabi sabi is to stay near to nature and find calm among the chaos. 

Niwaki Sentei Ikebana, Sentei Garden Scissors and Mini Secateurs

5 Tips for Cultivating Wabi Sabi & Mindfulness in the Garden

1. Cherish the blooms, then embrace the passing of life.

2. Keep a tidy space, but allow some areas to grow a bit wild.

3. Mindfully tend your tools and appreciate the aesthetic of your well-used companion.

4. Stay present in your body and breathe as you work.

5. Observe your thoughts like you observe a bee dancing from one flower to another—with curiosity and neutrality.

How to Use Niwaki Garden Tools Garden Snips

Shears featuring a long pointed blade are designed to clip young stems that are 3 mm or smaller. This is the perfect tool to prune green foliage in tight spaces, such as tender herbs, tomatoes and small flower heads.













With each moment in the garden being a meditative experience, the tool one uses becomes an intimate extension of the body. As we garden, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of trimming and digging that becomes so intuitive, our thoughts settle and we become one with nature. Tools that aren’t right for the job become a distraction. Finding a tool that we connect with helps us step into that meditative space and connect to our garden.