I love this winter scene of rampant white camellia and tall native palms, with plenty of dead fronds still attached to the crown. The wild landscape makes the house cozy and bright in the cold weather.
This celosia flower (セロシ in Japanese) is so saturated that the color seems unreal. I also like how its leaves have red veins. Here’s what it looks like in portrait view.
I like the idea of using balcony plants indoors. This mint and bright flower are from my cutting garden.
The ceramic vase was made by a friend and fellow student at Shiho ceramic studio, the glass one picked up at a Pennsylvania thrift store.
This winter seems to never end. So I biked over to the local home center recently, and loaded up on bright flowers including daffodils, tulips, stock, and this amazing lupinus. I am familiar with it as a very handsome deep blue flowering perennial, native to North America, that becomes a bush. I’d never seen it in candy colors and bred for maximum floral display. It’s at once familiar, odd, and just the right antidote for more cold days.
I love how these traditional Japanese pines in Shinjuku Gyoen are so meticulously pruned. On this clear winter day, I love how you can see the pine needles accumulating against the brown lawn. Three ladders, red traffic safety cones, helmets, and no doubt some great pruning shears.
I like this before and after photo set. It shows an apartment building green space that sits between the ten story building and its two story neighbors, homes and a plumbing supply business. It borders a small street that is mostly pedestrian.
The garden has a mix of flowering vines, bushes, bulbs, and a row of pine trees that were probably planted 35 or 40 years ago. The utility pole support is borrowed infrastructure for training a vine upwards.
The photo above was taken October 24, 2011, and the one below November 23, 2011. Above you can see all the fullness of summer: lush foliage, pink and red flowers at every height level, a blurring of the boundary with the neighbor’s garden.
A month later, the 3 story tree has been heavily pruned, which lets light in during the cold months. All the plants have been cut back, and you can see the wall separating the properties.
The maintenance is a mix of semi-professional gardeners hired by the apartment building and a retired couple living in the garden apartment. Although far more restrained in winter, the garden continues to bloom in every month, no doubt because of their efforts.
I love these bright red spider lilies, called higanbana in Japanese. They bloom in September with tall stalks, bright flowers, and no leaves. They come back each year along this pedestrian path, and the flower lasts only a week or so. Last year, too, I saw them everywhere in Tokyo. I like how they mark the turn of season.
These bright flowers have popped up all around my apartment building. They look like spring bulbs but they bloom in early September, with the petals closing at night. I like how they are next to the Joystep, the ubiquitous Tokyo contraption for turning a sidewalk curb into a ramp.
Recently a mejiro bird has been visiting our apartment balcony early in the morning. The mejiro is tiny, bright green, and sports a white ring around its eyes. This bird is particularly attracted to nectar, and seems to enjoy the pink camellia outside our kitchen. What great company to have during breakfast!
Tokyo’s mild winter is amazing. All these photos of winter flowers are from yesterday, January 20, 2010. Ranging from natural to forced, outdoors to indoors, the flowers include early plum blossom along an urban path to a red tulip in a sidewalk garden, to a mini daffodil at home.
Starting a week ago, this plum tree along a walking path to Nakano JR station began opening its petals. The tree extends from a private garden into a public path. After November and December’s camellias (and my balcony pink camellia is still blooming), the winter plums suggest that there is no month in Tokyo without flowers blooming naturally. My husband saw bright green mejiro birds in the tree later that day.
I also noticed these bright red tulips in a Nakano sidewalk garden that I often pass. It’s the garden that was growing rice in styrofoam containers last year. The gardener has planted some bulbs, but she’s also added some hothouse-forced bulbs to her charming public garden. Because frost is so rare, the tulips can thrive even in mid-winter.
I also saw another neighbor cutting roses from her sidewalk garden. Pansies are also common in winter.
Lastly, inspired by all this winter color, I bought some mini-daffodils for my home. Indoors, they go from bud to bloom incredibly fast. The bright yellow cheers up the apartment and fools me into thinking that spring is not so far away.
New Year’s Day in Tokyo, and there’s a bright blue sky and view of Mount Fuji from the balcony. The southern exposure and high floor make it feel balmy during mid-day. You can see in the full photo below that I have planted winter kale, lavender, hibiscus, geranium, and something that looks like salvia but isn’t.
Less famous than spring cherry blossom viewing or fall maple viewing, the Aoyama ginkos draw a crowd to see the gorgeous double allée of ginkos turning bright yellow. Last weekend was probably the peak days, with just the right balance of leaves still on the trees and enough on the ground for children to toss into the air.
As dusk approached, the leaves became even paler and more luminous. It’s wonderful to see how Tokyo residents appreciate well-cared for trees and join together in public to share this seasonal moment.
The ginko tree street is officially called Icho Namiki Meijijingu Gaien. Below is an image from the Tokyo Gymnasium looking out to Gaien Nishi Dori.
On a cold and wet fall day, the bright yellow ginkos at Waseda University animate the sky. Like cherry blossoms, ginko’s fall foliage is dramatic and brief.