Near our apartment is this older house with a deciduous tree that fills out in the summer. I love the bunches of light green pods it produces. Sadly there are not enough old houses or old trees in Tokyo. When you see this combination in Tokyo, it’s at once nostalgic and perhaps futuristic.
Ever resourceful Jason at Flora Grubb Gardens identified it by photo as a Firmiana simplex, Chinese parasol tree in English or aogiri (アオギリ) in Japanese. A quick visit to Wikipedia taught me that it’s an ornamental tree related to cacao. It’s within the same plant family as cotton, okra, hibiscus, and abutilon.
In spring the sustainability director of ARUP showed me the incredible designs for Inujima Art Project, and I had known immediately that I wanted to visit and see it for myself. In an earlier post, I discussed its zero energy use through a creative natural cooling, heating and lighting system, and its wastewater recycling program.
Also listed was the the architecture by Sambuichi Hiroshi, art by Yanagi Yukinori using elements from Mishima Yukio’s house and writings, and the benefactor Fukutake Soichiro, Benesse‘s owner and the creator of nearby Naoshima, another island in the Seto Inland Sea.
Visiting Inujima on a beautiful fall day in October and spending the night in a school house closed many years ago and converted into a hostel was an incredible experience combining nature, recent history, art, and questions about Japan’s industrial past and its 21st century future.
Inujima in the early 20th century was a small island with over 3,000 inhabitants in the early 20th century. In a brief period of ten years, Inujima was the site of a massive seirenshou, or copper refinery, placed in the Seto Inland Sea to keep the intense pollution away from Japan’s population centers. With the collapse of copper prices after only ten years, the refinery closed and the island entered a long period of decline.
Today there are approximately 50 residents, with an average age of 70 or more. The chimney built just before the refinery closed now serves as an integral part of the zero emissions temperature system in the new museum structure. Earlier chimneys had less structural integrity, and large parts of the refinery, including its original power station, are now being reclaimed by thick forest.
After the jump, a discussion of the art work and the island today.
One of my favorite nurseries anywhere, Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco, just announced the opening of a floral store within the store, the Cutting Garden. Susie Nadler will be featuring plants from FGG’s farm and other California growers, using unusual local plants like proteas to create unexpected and wonderful bouquets. I have seen Susie’s flower arranging, and know she’s talented.
I also like the idea of a flower store that feels like it is gathering plants from its own “cutting garden.” It is far more ecological than the supermarket-style florists brining agri-chemical roses from other continents. And it may inspire some customers to grow the plants that they admire in the arrangements.
I love the description of some of the plant material they will be using: “otherworldly palm fruits and flowers; California pepper berry branches, with their spicy pink pods; delicate tree fern fronds with coyly curled tips.”
Definitely worth checking out! Here’s some fall bouquets.
San Francisco palm expert Jason Dewees, of Flora Grubb Gardens, recently visited Tokyo, the Seto Inland Sea and Yakushima, and documented his horticultural findings on the International Palm Society’s travel forum. Together we created Palm Sundae several years ago in Northern California. Above is one of his photos.
Packed with photos, Jason’s post is an expert traveler’s guide to urban trees and plants with a palm focus, as well as Seto Inland Sea palms and exotic plants found on Yakushima, Japan’s wettest place whose high mountains feature ancient Cryptomeria trees (commonly called cedar in English and sugi in Japanese). In Tokyo, Jason identified two main types of palm trees: Trachycarpus fortunei, self-seeding in roadside plant beds, in small parks, as well as in the wooded areas of Meiji Jingu, and Tracheycarpus wagnerianus in residential gardens. Trachycarpus fortunei is known in Japanese as shuro (シュロ, 棕櫚), and has been used for many traditional crafts including paper making and brooms. Jason also discovered and photographed in Tokyo potted and in the ground Rhapis palms, both common and unusual.