Checking up on the two gardens I helped plant at Shibaura House, it was delightful to see the first baby bitter melon, called goya in Japanese. I think the staff were concerned that it was growing slowly, so it was exciting to first see the yellow flowers, and then to find the first vegetable! I was also thrilled to see the vines just starting to be visible from the sidewalk outside Shibaura House.
Shibaura House’s second floor has a balcony with a curving staircase. My idea was to cover the staircase railing and protective wire fence with a combination of morning glory and goya for summer. There were also some passion flower seeds, but I guess they did not sprout.
Rainy season has been oddly long this summer. It’s usually over by the end of June, but this year shows no sign of ending yet. Given the intense summer heat in Tokyo, I am certain that this staircase will fill out nicely in the next weeks.
Directly across from the University of Tokyo, I was delighted to see this green awning of bitter melon (also known as goya) growing up the guard rail and then over the sidewalk. The restaurant owner or manager is using a very narrow space to grow the vegetable, and then extending it with simple nets into a canopy. Once across the sidewalk, the goya forms a very tidy green curtain for the second floor window, providing some shade in this hot and humid summer.
With @luismendo visiting from Amsterdam, my Tokyo DIY Gardening pal Chris and I took him on a tour of Harajuku backstreets looking at gardens, eating tonkatsu, and stopping for some excellent cold coffee.
Harajuku is fun because the residential area has houses and gardens from all or almost all the past eight decades. The Harajuku gardens that appeal to me are similar to ones elsewhere in Tokyo for their simplicity and easy adaptation to urban life. Some results are clearly unintentional.
My photos include a three story garden of ivy and bamboo that covers one house and provides a buffer with its neighbor, a sleek concrete building’s balcony green curtains that are just starting to fill out on two floors, a blue flowering vine that somehow became a giant bush, a tiny entrance garden outside a pre-war house that has been converted into the very elegant Omotesando Coffee.
We also explored the enormous Danchi that between 246 road and Harajuku. This sprawling bauhaus-like public housing project has a wonderfully chaotic and varied set of gardens created by generations of residents. In July, we spotted lots of tomatoes, vertical bitter melon, and these purple gloves on top of an ad hoc garden support.
My local flower and plant store was marketing bitter melon plants as “super eco.” Claims include that it is fast growing, requires no pesticide, provides shade, the vegetable is full of Vitamin C and beta-carotine, and that it absorbs carbon dioxide. Most home vegetables and vines would offer the same benefits, no? I wonder if this eco marketing is helpful or misleading.