Thirty seven years. That’s how long we were married. After the fees are paid, the tears are dried, the garden will still be there. And the weeds. And goodness gracious, do they grow. Normal life starts again and now there’s only one person responsible for the garden and its maintenance. That’s when I discovered Japandi and introduced it to my home. 

Japandi is a design trend combining Scandinavian aesthetics with Japanese style sensibilities. It may seem confusing at first glance, but it starts making a lot of sense once you understand the roots of this nouvelle mode.

The popularity of the Scandinavian style hygge is due to its emphasis on warmth (figuratively and physically), cozy feelings, comfortable furniture, and overall convivial atmosphere. A hygge home entices you to find joy in everyday moments, by yourself or with loved ones. You surround yourself with soothing things and take pleasure in being in your home. It’s particularly appropriate in our Colorado winters when we take out our furry blankets in front of the crackling fire.

Japanese wabi-sabi encourages us to appreciate beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a calming amalgamation of rustic simplicity, quiet beauty, understated elegance, and respect for older elements. You surround yourself with natural objects that bring you joy in their simple being. Your surroundings are intentionally created with care, and emphasis is given to authentic craftsmanship. There is no stressful clutter and your eyes rest on ultimate beauty everywhere you look. 

Japandi design seamlessly embraces the minimalist tendencies of both Scandinavian and Japanese styles. I find Japandi to be particularly interesting in an outdoor environment, as a complete opposite to the traditional English gardens. My husband loved meandering paths in the garden, perennials beds within curving lines, and a pond where koi raced to him at feeding times. That aesthetic required maintenance, but offered a lot of visual pleasure and old-world companionship.

The garden is mine only now and needed an overall refurbishing. Designing a garden and working in it is also very therapeutic and should be recommended by lawyers. The garden is going to be for me! It will reflect what I need, want, and desire at this point in my life. No swing set, no large terrace for entertaining, no fire place, no pond. I want to enjoy my garden on the weekends and in the evenings with a glass of wine, my dogs, and my cat – and not be forced to dead-head perennials.

The Japandi concept encompasses all the elements to transform my garden into a blissful space, as Franco Bertoni describes so well: “Take everything to its essential quality and achieve simplicity.”

How do you translate this feeling into the garden?

I spent hours gazing at an empty and desolate garden, picturing myself in spaces that would bring me joy and pleasure. I had to concentrate on personal and human needs, away from preconceived notions of what a backyard or a front yard “should” look like to imitate magazine pictures. I was at the center of the design, based on different times of days, seasons and moods. I watched the moon rise and the sun go down, listened to bored dogs barking and neighbors living their lives. And, little by little, the garden appeared in my mind, then on paper.

 I am going to have a perfectly imperfect garden! 

The east-facing front yard is the perfect location for my love of shade plants. I find their textures, foliage, dainty blooms, and colors so elegant yet understated. Lawn be gone, to be replaced by a soft shade garden with plenty of space between each plant to let them reveal their size and splendor with no competition from over-planting. The magnificent rocks formerly used in the pond have found a new age of glory in the hell strip, as backdrops to the hostas and heucheras. Small granite chips cover the soil and keep the weeds down. There is no irrigation system and no weed barrier fabric. My relaxing time is spent watering in the early morning or late evening, touching base with the growth of each plant; removing weeds is almost a meditative activity that keeps me grounded. The sound of a cast stone fountain is the background to neighborly conversations and early cocktails on the bench. The typical foundation plantings gave way to a row of blue containers making a simple, clean, and subtly colorful accent. Each new season is an excuse to change their content and plant something that makes me happy. 

The north side of the house is where a gift to myself is ready to surprise me each early spring: a row of Lily of the Valley! I can smell the bouquets I will assemble and offer to friends as good luck for the rest of the year.

The west backyard is going to show the authentic me. Very few and highly curated plants will take their place to transform the garden into a cozy space with many independent nooks for different activities and times of day. Large rock groupings left over from the pond will anchor the spaces and define comfortable areas. The important factors for each are how functional and usable they will be through ease of access, orientation, and how they promote the desired lifestyle full or serenity and connection with nature. Rows of grasses and Black Knight Spireas give a modern vibe to the garden, and a fountain is the coup de coeur appreciated not only for the sound but also for the clean and pure lines of its design. Large containers planted with perennials add contrasting colors within the stone groupings and the small gravel brings back memories of French parks. Each element has its purpose, complementing the overall design for long term enjoyment.

Each phase of life could use a different garden, as we may outgrow its original intent ourselves. Young families have functional reasons to have lawns and young professionals may need the space to entertain and have fun parties. At this point, I want a garden that is simple, elegant, authentic, and all mine. It will accompany me for many years to come.