green curtain

Even dormant, green curtain provides an extra wall for small apartment living

green_curtain_winter_dormant_nakano_home
冬のあいだも、グリーンカーテンは自然な仕切りになって、目を楽しませてくれます。

This small green curtain on the balcony, even when dormant, creates an extra space in our tiny apartment by setting a porous garden edge.  This living curtain provides some privacy and some charm. Soon it will be leafing out.

Snowfall behind the dormant green curtain

snow_green_curtain_nakano
先月、雪がたくさん降りました。外に人が少なかったから、都市が静かになった。

A heavy snowfall last month briefly slowed down the city and produced an unusual quiet. I loved seeing how fast it accumulated.

Suginami ward’s giant green curtain shows positive activity by local government

今年の杉並区役所のグリーンカーテンはすてきです。

When people ask me about positive government action for urban nature, I always point to the Suginami ward’s giant green curtain. This massive screen of vines rises each summer on their eight story ward office next to the Minami Asagaya station on the Marunouchi subway line. It has inspired local residents to create their own balcony green curtains, inserted a huge green space that occupies very little square footage on the ground, and demonstrated that their old office building can be energy saving, attractive, and full of life.

Can you spot the tiny cucumber taking shape?

小さいキュウリが見えますか。グリーンカーテンにぴったりの植物だと思います。

Cucumbers grow quickly, and they are easy to attach to the green curtain.

Another view of balcony morning glory

琉球のアサガオは生き生きとしています。

This angle gives you a good sense of the balcony green curtain. By now, it’s very thick and composed of several vines. The Okinawa morning glory is the most vigorous.

Morning glory on green curtain, with cityscape in background

最近、たくさんフィルムの写真をとっています。マクロレンズを使うと、ベランダのジャングルで特定の要素が見えます。これは、琉球アサガオです。背景に、都庁やハイヤットやオペシティがあります。ところで、「シティ」という日本語の発音はとても変です。

Recently I am taking a lot of film photos, and recently I bought a macro lens which allows me to focus on specific elements of the jungle that my balcony is becoming. This is Okinawa morning glory, the mainstay of our green curtain.

In the background you can see the twin towers of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Hyatt hotel from Lost in Translation, and the Opera City building. The last building always makes me laugh because the Japanese pronunciation is “opera shitty.”

Thick green curtain covers balcony in summer

このベランダの中は、ジャングルみたいです。夏のグリーンカーテンがバルコニー全体を覆っています。

It must feel like a jungle in this Shinjuku Gyoen-mae apartment balcony. The sheer coverage, in height and width, is impressive. Below is what the balcony looks like in context.

Morning glory adds natural curtain to balcony apartment

毎年この琉球アサガオは狭いベランダにきれいな色と影を作ってくれます。プライベートな空間ができます。

In mid-summer, the morning glory provides color, shade, and privacy on my one meter wide (3 feet) apartment balcony. The smaller jasmine leaves provide a nice contrast. Also on my green curtain are Edo morning glory (vs the Okinawa one above) and cucumber.

Roses bloom early on balcony. Along with jasmine, first to bloom on green curtain

毎年、グリーンカーテンにバラとジャスミンが最初に咲きます。庭の背景は建物の森みたいです。

I like the city backdrop to my balcony green curtain. The rose and jasmine are the first to bloom.

Simple filler plant chosen for leaf color is on creepy edge of bio-tech and urban garden marketing

色がおしゃれなので、最近この濃い葉の植物を買いました。ラベルにはおかしなマーケティング戦術が見えます。前には、「テラス・ブロンズ」という名前しかありません。色はブロンズというより、もっと紫に近いです。さらに、グリーンカーテンにと書いてありますが、この植物は登らないで、しだれます。サントリー製品で、無断で商品として使えません。ヒルガオとアサガオに関係します。
I bought this dark leafed plant as filler and good contrast in leaf color.
When I brought it home from Shimachu, our home center, I realized that the front label doesn’t even mention a horticultural name. It’s simply called “terrace bronze,” and it’s marketed as a balcony plant in their “terrace series.” Oddly, they even suggest it as a “green curtain” plant, although it would make a better weeping wall cover than climber.
On the label’s flip side, the tag explains how Suntory reserves all rights to this species, including any future plants. Kind of scary, no?

Perfect morning glory green curtain covers the entire balcony

この朝顔のグリーンカーテンはベランダをずっと覆っています。ちょっとうらやましいです。古い建物だけど、生き生きとしています。

This morning glory green curtain covers the entire balcony in a 1970s apartment building. I am envious of how vigorous and full this vertical garden became. It seems that all the apartments have nets, perhaps to deter birds, yet few are so well used.

Chaotic summer balcony provides some shade

晩夏のベランダの庭は混沌としています。いろいろな多年草と一年生植物、花と野菜でいっぱいです。夏草と常緑草で出来ているグリーンカーテンで、アパートの中を涼しくしています。この長くて狭いバルコニーのスペースにはエアコンと洗濯機と物干しロープもあります。

The balcony garden in late summer is chaotic. A variety of perennials and annuals, flowers and vegetables, seasonal and year-round plants form a green curtain that provides some shade and cooling for the apartment. The long and narrow space also includes the air conditioner, washing machine, and clothes line.

Summer of green walls on mid-rise offices and retail buildings

節電のために、この夏は東京のどこでもグリーン・ウォール「垂直の庭」が作られています。混雑して、背が高い都市では、垂直の表面のほうが屋根より多いです。まず、杉並区役所とマンションのベランダでグリーン・カーテンが作られました。今、事務所や店の建物で、グリーン・ウォ―ルを作りはじめました。夏にグリーン・カーテンはヒートアイランド現象の緩和のために良くて、一年中、グーリン・ウォールは庭や農園や生息地を提供します。この写真を芝公園、新宿御苑前、大井町、大門で撮りました。

Spurred by the energy crisis post-Fukushima, there’s been a notable increase in the number of mid-rise office and retail buildings with green walls. In an over-built city, vertical surfaces are the largest potential area for gardening, farming, and habitat creation.

Tokyo has far more vertical surfaces than roof areas, and we are only at the very beginning of creating an urban forest.

I have been following this topic for a while, and have watched this idea spread from notable public spaces like Suginami’s ward office (world’s largest green curtain) to apartment balconies, flower shops, and now commercial and retail spaces. This wide distribution across Tokyo and across building types is very exciting to see.

Some questions I have include:

  • What types of plants can be grown vertically and for what functions: aesthetics, habitat, scent, seasonal change, food?
  • How can green walls enhance innovative architecture and place-making?
  • How can vertical and roof gardens connect buildings, neighbors, and wildlife?
  • What is the impact on heat island effect, global competitiveness, and quality of life?

The answers will come from experimentation and diffusion. The photos, from top to bottom, are four green walls I’ve recently seen:

1. Hasegawa Green Building in Shiba Koen

2. Office mid-rise in Shinjuku Gyoen-mae (2 photos). The company that created and maintains this green wall is called Ishikatsu Exterior (石勝イクステリア).

3. Oimachi retail building near station.

4. Daimon office building.

Creative use of sidewalk to grow bitter melon awning

東大の前のレストランはゴーヤを育てています。歩道と車道のあいだの狭いスペースに植わっていて、夏のグリーン・テントのようになっています。一度、ゴーヤが歩道を越えれば、二階の窓のグリーンカーテンになります。ほとんどスペースのないところで、食べ物と日陰を提供します。

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.