Walking at night in Chiyoda after a meeting at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Chris and I found an amazingly dense and mature sidewalk garden that seems to be tended by a sushi restaurant. The planting is amazingly thick, creating a green wall between the sidewalk and the large boulevard in front of the restaurant. I like how the owners felt they could own this space and sacrifice some pedestrian space to make the small area around them so much nicer.
There’s a variety of trees and bushes and small plants in recycled pots and layered on cinder blocks (called “breeze blocks” by the New Zealanders) and other found stuff including beer crates, wood, bricks, and blocks. There’s even two plastic pots hanging from a ginko street tree that are currently empty. Makes me want to contribute something!
Most people think of Harajuku as being either luxury fashion or teen hipsters. But plenty of Harajuku is comprised of small streets, old houses, and long-term residents. I like how this garden is created entirely from flower pots lifted just off the street and hanging from the cinder block wall. That’s a lot of flowers for one tiny space.
I take care of my relatives ceramic studio garden. Last year’s 5bai midori “satoyama unit,” installed during a fall typhoon, is coming back with lots of new growth. This photo shows off the yellow flowers “yamabuki”, a vigorous Japanese shrub. Sometimes you see white flowers, or multi-petalled yellow ones.
Shiho ceramic studio‘s back yard is a small l-shape raised beds. Much of it is shaded by persimmon and plum trees and the neighbors’ homes. The garden includes a volunteer shurro palm tree (しゅろ, 棕櫚) and a Japanese herb called sanshou (サンショウ) that traveled from the neighboring store’s bicycle parking lot.
A lot of what I planted at the end of last year has come back, including hydrangea, lilies of the valley, hostas, rosemary, jasmine, and a lantern flower vine that almost fully covers the chain link fence. And the giant cymbidium orchid has been blooming through April. It’s great to hear that the ceramic teachers and students are enjoying the garden.
I think the eight bags of compost helped a lot in improving the soil and make this shade garden thrive.
One plant that didn’t survive the Tokyo winter is a plant commonly called “purple princess” in San Francisco. To fill the gap left by the plant and my hope for it growing large fast and covering the cinder block wall. I brought over a kanamemochi shrub: a quick growing and very popular Tokyo shrub with distinctive red, new spring leaves. I also planted a yuzu lemon tree and a white single petal yamabuki.
Old Tokyo neighborhoods like Zoushigaya are full of plant lovers who manage to create gardens where there is almost no space. This type of passion for gardening cannot be replicated by large scale developers. What is amazing is the ingenuity and sheer variety of plants grown by residents.
Above there are five or more plants growing vertically along a narrow path that would otherwise be a grim cinder block and metal siding wall between properties. The gardener seems to have used large blue laundry clips to espalier these hardy plants.
To the left you can see how a corner garden softens the edge of the street and marks the change of seasons. Just as the house reveals that the structure has been added to over time, you can see a mix of mature plants, including raphis palms, with recently bought annuals. Again, all sorts of readily at hand materials are recycled into the garden, including astroturf, cinder blocks, and the red folding chair.
While I like the chaos of this garden, the one below shows how you can have a no flower, more traditional looking Japanese garden growing in the intermediate space between residence and street. The trees look mature and regularly trimmed.
The last images show the beauty of a single plant that has found its way through one of a series of regularly placed holes in a cement wall. I think it’s very pleasing to see a hardy plant bringing life to a hard surface. I wonder if this effect of private public space blurring was intentional or accidental?