I spoke about “Gardening the City: Networking Small Green Spaces” at the Jardins y Publics conference last week in Metz, France. The conference brings together world leaders in botanic gardens, garden design, local governments, and tourism. It is organized by Pascal Garbe and the Conseil Général of Moselle, with support from the European Union.
The conference exceeded my imagination in terms of discussing new publics for gardens: the disabled, children, seniors, and refugees. I appreciated the outward focus beyond the walls of the garden, and the attendees were very interested to hear about Tokyo street gardens and urban wildness.
One of the most interesting and discussed talks was by Fritz Haeg, who has turned American lawns into vegetable gardens and received much attention from contemporary art museums. I am interested to read his book about this project, called Edible Estates.
Other speakers included leaders of the Barcelona, Singapore, New York and Montreal botanic gardens, Scandinavian garden designers, nonprofit community organizers, health advocates, and promoters of private gardens. Attendees included local government officials and landscape design students from this interesting area along the French, German and Luxembourg border.
The conference was an amazing experience. Further highlights included visiting the Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy, and the Centre Pompidou-Metz. Metz itself is a charming town divided between a historic French city around a very steep cathedral, and a German city built around the train station.
Summer in Shinjuku Gyoen is a wonderful escape from the crowded, hot city. The shadows seem extra dark, and the sound of the cicadas (semi, or 蝉) was loud. Click the short video below to hear the sounds of the cicadas on August 15, 2009. You can hear three of the four types of cicadas that mark early, mid and late summer in Tokyo.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of central Tokyo’s largest green spaces open to the public: 58 hectares (or 144 acress) with a 3.5 kilometer circumference. There are French, English and Japanese gardens, an expansive lawn, and 20,000 trees.
Occupying what was once the personal residence of Edo daimyo Naito Kiyonari, the garden was created during the Meiji period in 1872 to promote modern agriculture, became the Imperial Botanic Garden, burned almost completely during the Tokyo fire bombing in World War II, and later opened as a public park.
Today, in addition to serving as a popular recreation spot, particularly during hanami (cherry blossom viewing), Shinjuku Gyoen provides cuttings and seeds for buttonwoods (sycamores) and tulip trees (liriodendrons) that are later planted as roadside tree in Tokyo.