Checking up on the two gardens I helped plant at Shibaura House, it was delightful to see the first baby bitter melon, called goya in Japanese. I think the staff were concerned that it was growing slowly, so it was exciting to first see the yellow flowers, and then to find the first vegetable! I was also thrilled to see the vines just starting to be visible from the sidewalk outside Shibaura House.
Shibaura House’s second floor has a balcony with a curving staircase. My idea was to cover the staircase railing and protective wire fence with a combination of morning glory and goya for summer. There were also some passion flower seeds, but I guess they did not sprout.
Rainy season has been oddly long this summer. It’s usually over by the end of June, but this year shows no sign of ending yet. Given the intense summer heat in Tokyo, I am certain that this staircase will fill out nicely in the next weeks.
Directly across from the University of Tokyo, I was delighted to see this green awning of bitter melon (also known as goya) growing up the guard rail and then over the sidewalk. The restaurant owner or manager is using a very narrow space to grow the vegetable, and then extending it with simple nets into a canopy. Once across the sidewalk, the goya forms a very tidy green curtain for the second floor window, providing some shade in this hot and humid summer.
With @luismendo visiting from Amsterdam, my Tokyo DIY Gardening pal Chris and I took him on a tour of Harajuku backstreets looking at gardens, eating tonkatsu, and stopping for some excellent cold coffee.
Harajuku is fun because the residential area has houses and gardens from all or almost all the past eight decades. The Harajuku gardens that appeal to me are similar to ones elsewhere in Tokyo for their simplicity and easy adaptation to urban life. Some results are clearly unintentional.
My photos include a three story garden of ivy and bamboo that covers one house and provides a buffer with its neighbor, a sleek concrete building’s balcony green curtains that are just starting to fill out on two floors, a blue flowering vine that somehow became a giant bush, a tiny entrance garden outside a pre-war house that has been converted into the very elegant Omotesando Coffee.
We also explored the enormous Danchi that between 246 road and Harajuku. This sprawling bauhaus-like public housing project has a wonderfully chaotic and varied set of gardens created by generations of residents. In July, we spotted lots of tomatoes, vertical bitter melon, and these purple gloves on top of an ad hoc garden support.
This small green curtain makes a nice contrast with Suginami’s giant green curtain. When I see small green curtains, mostly they are on residential balconies and small houses. This one is at a car shop across the street from a printing factory in Bunkyo ward. I love how the shop worker or manager chose to create a small green spot with bitter melons climbing up the window and to the roof. It’s great to see people make use of work time and space for some vegetable gardening.
Today’s mild typhoon is a welcome relief after more than six weeks of record-breaking heat and absolutely no rain in central Tokyo. I was getting worried about the street trees and all the “independent” plant life that survives in Tokyo without human care.
For some reason, the bitter melon I planted by seed in April only recently started climbing like crazy. Here’s an image of a baby bitter melon in the rain, with its flower still attached. Hope to eat some in a few weeks.
Did you know that Japanese typhoons are not given names like in the United States? Today’s typhoon is simply 10W.
A Sendagaya gardener is growing bitter melon on a mesh net for summer. You can see the prickly green vegetables (tastes great with ground pork). In the context photo, you can see how easy it is to grow in a small size pot on the sidewalk. I like how it covers the window, and dwarfs in size the vending machine.