Kintsugi

Kintsugi

January 21 2021

Kintsugi is a 400 year old Japanese art involving putting broken pieces of pottery back together using gold (with lacquer) to create something even more beautiful than the original. Philosophically, it speaks to repairing broken things and seeing the beauty in scars. I like to think that the gardens have mended the damaged and broken parts of me and that the scarred results are as beautiful as I can make them. I believe that a lot of hurt people have been healed by nature and particularly by creating their own gardens. It doesn’t matter if your garden contains flowers, trees, shrubs, fruits, or vegetables as long as you love it. I have gone on a lot of garden tours and everywhere I see that passion, love and pride of accomplishment. Each and every garden is a testament to the gardener’s unique vision and spirit. The garden is the gold.

Trees have an astounding ability to heal themselves and even as they lay rotting on the forest floor they enable life, with new saplings growing out of their decaying trunks. We can shape trees to our desires as in espalier (the art of growing trees in a flat plane) and we can help trees grow new leaders should the wind or snow break theirs off. You simply tie up a topmost branch in a vertical position and it will grow into a new leader. Learning to prune trees is a very valuable skill for anyone who plants one, we can remove weak areas, increase fruit production, or simply make them even more beautiful. Think bonsai.

Ancient larch trees in the forest of western Montana bear scars of fires, some set by natives. Trees can survive fires if there is not too much undergrowth or dead trees which make the fires too hot. The most beautiful display I’ve ever seen of nature’s ability to heal herself was a burned out stump about 10-12 feet high. It was completely hollow from the fire with only the outer edges intact, and a jagged top that not even a sculptor could improve. Surrounding the blackened stump was rampant new growth-young trees, ferns, shrubs, and wildflowers. There are species of plants that have adapted to colonizing burns, think of the aptly named fireweed. The three foot or so tall bright pink spikes of flowers can rapidly spread by rhizomes and seeds across a burned out forest. For this reason, fireweed may be a bit too aggressive for most gardens.

Nature heals her wounds, and she can heal ours, too, either in a garden or out in the wild. It’s all good to my mind, are we not a part of nature, also? From a favorite poem “Desiderata” I quote: “You are a child of the universe, no less that the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” Now go out and make the world more beautiful!

Fireweed, Great Willlowherb, Epilobium angustifolium.