fragrant

What fruit is in season in Japan’s winter? Fragrant yuzu.

yuzu_inseason_farmersmarket

日本の冬は、どんなフルーツがシーズンでしょう? 良い香りのユズです。レモネードやドレッシングやお風呂に使います。特別な味と香りがします。

There’s giant ones and small ones at this Aoyama UNU farmers market stall. It’s good for lemonade, salad dressing, and bath water.

Fragrant paperbush (mitsumata) in Omotesando back street

表参道 で、ミツマタという木をはじめて見ました。裸の枝に、香り高い花がたくさん咲いていました。木の持ち主が説明してくれました。五百年前に中国から輸入されて、ミツマタは、和紙を作るために使用されます。

I was admiring this fragrant tree with poofy balls of yellow and white flowers on bare branches. It’s in a shallow residential garden near Omotesando Koffee. Luckily, the owner came by as I was photographing, and explained that it’s called mitsumata, because of its three branch structure.

Later, I learned it’s called paperbush in English, and it’s known for producing high quality paper, once used for Japanese bank notes. The Kew Botanic Garden website says that it originates in China and has been cultivated in Japan and Korea since the 16th century. It’s also used in Chinese medicine.

In the photo below, you can see how the newer residential styles, with sleek concrete facades, close the house from the street, and very often include no plants at all. A sad contrast for garden lovers.

Planted mint on balcony during nuke crisis

切り花としてもらったミントが根をのばして、育ちました。ミントの強い匂いはぼくたちを放射能から守ってくれるでしょうか。

Two weeks after the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear crisis, I looked at the thick roots growing at the base of the mint cuttings, and wondered what to do. I waited several days.

The first week, the Fukushima nuclear plant’s reactors, 220 kilometers to the north, had a series of spectacular hydrogen explosions. The second week the reactors assumed the role of toxic volcanoes, venting and spraying. The third week, we mostly hear about leakage and contamination into the land and sea.

In the second week, fearful of the rain, I harvested all of my snap and snow peas. In retrospect, this seems unduly cautious. Until now there’s been no evidence of dangerous radiation levels in Tokyo, so I finally decided to plant the mint in the balcony garden.

I considered making one giant clump, but then decided it might be more fun and more fragrant to spread it around the length of the garden. Since it’s a small garden, I need to combine ornament, scent and function. Wondering if I should make mint tea, or mojitos when they bush out?

realized that the mint cuttings were getting thick with roots sitting in the glass of water in the kitchen.

Fragrant Winter Daphne (ジンチョウゲ) is everywhere in Tokyo

まだ冬なのに、東京のどこにもジンチョウゲがすてきな匂いをさせています。

Everywhere I walk in Tokyo, I notice the incredible scent of Winter Daphne (daphne odora, or ジンチョウゲ). Beginning in late February, between plum and cherry blossom seasons, this compact bush with glossy leaves produces hundreds and thousands of red flower buds that open pink and release a mesmerizing scent. It must be easy to grow since I’ve seen it planted in front of offices and houses. The photo above is from the new Nakano Marui department store, which has created a very lovely garden and mid-block pathway that I will write about soon.


Have you smelled kinmokusei?

I just returned from a ten day trip to Europe for the Gardens and Publics conference in Metz, France. Fall is one of the best seasons in Tokyo: still warm with a slow progression to winter. I was surprised to see leaves already turning colors and falling off the trees in the Netherlands and France. One amazing fall flower is the very fragrant kinmokusei (キンモクセイ), known in Latin as Osmanthus fragrans. A friend took these photos on his cellphone.