One of the newest trends in wood, seen in accent furniture, kitchen products and decorative accessories over the past year or so is Shou Sugi Ban. This ancient Japanese technique involves charring, cooling, cleaning and finishing with natural oils as a way to preserve wood. This process results in a textural character and a deep, rich black.
At the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show, this look was alluded to in the Gold Medal and Best In Show garden designed by Andy Sturgeon and called the M&S Garden. Inspired by a visit to South Australia’s beaches, where low tides reveal dark, almost blackened rock, Sturgeon recalled this beach-scape with burned logs within a wild forest landscape.
In addition to evoking Australia’s unique black rocks, the combination of charred timbers and a seemingly haphazard arrangement of plants highlights the way in which nature can regenerate after catastrophic fires.
As wildfires become an increasing menace worldwide, including in the UK, Greece, Portugal, Canada, the US (most notably in California), and of course, Australia, finding beauty in regenerating trees and plants will provide people with a sense of optimism as Mother Earth restores herself. Sturgeon’s garden gives us all a window into what this will look like.