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Seeing Beauty in the Natural Cycle of Life

For Christmas, my father, asked me to pick out a piece of art from his studio to take home to add to my collection of all things "Karlton Allsup, the potter." I was conflicted between two pieces: one, a pristine turquoise and white plate that was perfectly symmetrical with not a flaw in sight; and another plate, with muted green, blue and gold coloring, brandishing odd adornments and bumpy and cracked edges. He chose the latter for me, saying it was a better representation of his art.

My father has always been a man of abstract simplicity. A man who finds an old piece of wood as his fireplace mantle, places a very worn cutting board on the kitchen wall, grows beets in a bag of soil and makes walkways out of rubble from a burned-down house.

He is the embodiment of a new garden trending in the United States called Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi is not a gardening style, but rather a way of life stemming from Japanese culture.

According to the Japanese architect Tado, "Wabi Sabi is the Japanese view of life that embraces a simple aesthetic that grows stronger as inessentials are eliminated and trimmed away." In other words, it is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and incompleteness, acceptance of the natural cycle of growth, decay and death, and holding onto only things that have true meaning.

So what do an old country boy and Japanese gardening trend have in common? They both revel in the imperfect and cherish what most people dismiss.

This principle can be applied to gardening by embracing the cracks in the sidewalk, paint peeling off of an old door or a rusty tool lying out of place. The gardening trend uses natural materials that are vulnerable to weathering, cracking and peeling. The color palette contains muted and dim browns, blacks, grays, earthy greens and rust. It celebrates the flower with brown edges, the asymmetrical heirloom vegetable and the old farm plow used as a trellis.

The plants chosen belong to the landscape and therefore thrive. Native flowering shrubs and perennials are used with minimal use of the perfect green lawn and non-natives. It is the exact opposite of the pristine formal English garden, but is not without order and cleanliness.

Try growing native prairie plants like wild indigo, coreopsis, little bluestem, flowering spurge, butterfly weed, blazing star and monarda and letting the seed heads form for added beauty and food for wildlife. Do not cut down until early spring so that you can enjoy the beauty of naked stems and withered leaves in winter landscape.