grow

Summer succulents are colorful, with forms that resemble flower petals

succulent5_balcony
この多肉植物は花びらみたいです。まんなかのは、手触りが柔らかいです。

WIth enough sunlight, succulents are very easy to grow. They are slow-growing, and look good year-round. I like how some have petal-like forms, others are red, and still others soft to touch. I’ve paired them with hand-made ceramics with geometic patterns.

succulent1_balcony   succulent4_balcony

Giant sidewalk weed is as tall as the shop behind it. Anyone know what it is?

giant_weed_sidewalk_shop_yoyogi_uehara

不便なところなのに、この背の高い雑草がお店の前に育っています。店のオーナは気にしていないようです。誰かこの植物の名前を知っていますか。

It seems that the shop owner has long accommodated herself and her shop to the annual giant weed that ‘s growing just in front. The leaves are enormous. What is this summer weed?

UPDATE: Thanks to my smart readers, I’ve learned it’s called キリ (kiri) in Japanese and Paulownia tomentosa in Latin.

This lovely shiso plant is growing in a small crack in the sidewalk

shiso_sidewalk_4seasongarden_nakano
駅の途中にある小さな庭はいつの季節でも楽しいですが、そばの舗装の亀裂からシソが育っています。おいしそうです。

The four seasons micro garden I often pass on the way to the station has a new summer addition. Shiso is growing from a crack. Almost all the other plants are in pots, so I wonder if this was planted or just sprung up naturally. It looks delicious!

Snap pea seedlings grow in biodegradable paper starter pots

snap_peas_nakano_balcony

小さなプランターにスナックエンドウの種をまきました。このプランターは土のなかで生物分解します。環境にいいです。苗が大きくなったら、ベランダの庭全体に植える予定です。

When the seedlings get a little bigger, I’ll plant them everywhere on the balcony garden.

Mechanical claw gobbles up Showa history

日本語では「パワーショベル」と言いますね。昭和時代の家にさようなら。

Living in Tokyo you become used to the continual process of demolition and new construction. Not the ten or twenty year boom and bust cycles I’ve seen in San Francisco and New York City. Even in the perpetually shrinking Japanese economy, Tokyo continues to morph and grow. The photo is from the demolition of a post-war Showa house in Nakano, a residential neighborhood. It will undoubtedly be replaced with a multi-unit structure made of pre-fab materials and slightly customized, standard layouts.

Closer to my house, I’ve seen the local liquor seller vacate his main storefront, which was replaced by a brand new 7-Eleven in less than four weeks. I watched the incredibly fast work to the interior, modernizing a 1970s storefront into the faceless, placeless space of a convenience store. They also installed enormous heating and cooling structures on the roof. I was glad to see that the liquor store owner has retained an adjacent, closet-sized space for his liquor sales. He seems to enjoy interacting with the neighbors.

A very intricate weed grows on the concrete banks of the Shibuya River

渋谷川の端に、複雑な雑草を見ました。汚いところで、こんなきれいな植物が育ちます。

Next to crumbling concrete, trash, and a drainage pipe, I saw this beautiful weed with red and green flowers on the hard edge of the Shibuya River.

Small corn field in Setagaya

世田谷の畑でトウモロコシが育っています。農大に行く途中は、住宅が多いです。

To get to Nodai, I bike along a long and straight road covering an old water pipe. Last time I saw this small corn field in Setagaya, surrounded by various types of dense housing.

Balcony green pepper. It’s miniature perfection.

きれいなピーマンがゆっくりと育っています。たぶん、そのまま、小さいのを食べたほうがいいかもしれません。

This green pepper is growing slowly. Maybe I should just eat it now as a miniature vegetable?

Snap peas are surprisingly easy to grow in Tokyo winter

スナックエンドウは東京のベランダに育ちやすいです。つるは上に育つので、小さいスペースでも大丈夫ですね。冬に植えて、今食べられます。

I am surprised more people aren’t growing snap peas on Tokyo balconies. Because they’re climbers, they take up very little room. I planted them in winter, and now they are ready to eat!

Please contribute to Tokyo Local Fruit study

東京の地元で出来た果物を食べたり、育てたり、分け合ったりしていますか。地元で取れた、非商業の果物に関する話を集めています。あなたの話を聞かせてください。

アンケート:http://bit.ly/yVlIOI

Do you eat, grow, or share local fruit in Tokyo? We are collecting stories about Tokyo local, or non-commercial, fruit. Please share yours.

Survey: http://bit.ly/yVlIOI

Image: Jess Mantell. Project partners: Jess Mantell and Chris Berthelsen.

Hardy salvia

最近ベランダの植木鉢の土が弱くなっていると思っています。ところが、悪い状況なのに、サルビアはいつも大きくなって、咲いてくれるので、大好きです。ひょろっとしていて、根から新芽が出ます。たくましくて、美しい植物が好きです。

Recently I have been thinking that the soil in my balcony container garden must be getting depleted. That’s another reason I love my two salvia plants: continually growing, blooming, getting leggy, and sending out new growth from the roots. A flowering plant that loves sub-optimum conditions is a joy.

Valued by US preppies, hosta seems ignored in Tokyo

ホスタはアジアの植物だけど、アメリカではもっと人気。アメリカ人にとって、ホスタは上品な輸入品の高価な気分があります。東京の中では、あまりそう見えないですが。育てやすいし、素敵だと思います。

Although hosta is an Asian plant, it’s more popular in America. For Americans, hostal is a very elegant import and expensive feeling. I associate it with upper class neighborhoods in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. You hardly see it in Tokyo. It’s easy to grow and very attractive I think.

Mukuge blooms along the streets in August

8月はあまり花が咲きません。多分、暑すぎるからです。けれども、東京の歩道で、ムクゲは育ちやすいです。明るい色と江戸文化との関係に興味があります。

August has more foliage than flowers, and it seems that few can bear the unrelenting heat. That’s what’s so wonderful about “Mukuge” (ムクゲ) a Japanese hibiscus that grows easily on Tokyo city sidewalks. I like the wild colors that make the city more spectacular, and Mukuge forms part of the Aoi (アオイ)family of flowers associated with the Edo shogunate.

Photo of Omeikaido Dori sidewalk, across from Sanshinomori Park in Higashi Koenji 蚕糸の森 公園、東高円寺。A small sign says that it was planted in March, 2010 with support from KDDI.

Edoble brings people together to eat free food growing in Tokyo

東京の「エドブル」は人を集めて、無料で料理を作ったり、食べたりします。
ハッサクという果物が食べられることを知っていますか? 区役所の公務員と一緒にハッサクを廃校になった中学校で収穫しました。先月、20人が集まって、ハッサクを切って、皮や種や膜を取って、マーマレードを作りました。もっとエドブルの料理パーティーに参加したい。

Through this blog, I was contacted by Edoble, whose tag line is “free food everywhere, in Tokyo.” Last month Edoble organized a hassaku marmelade party at a small shoutengai in Nakano, not far from where I live.

Edoble’s founder Jess Mantell is a Canadian designer, doctoral student, city explorer, and community organizer. As you can see from the poster above, she’s a great illustrator, too. At Keio University, she previously led a team that created an iPhone app that tracks movement across Tokyo with city sounds.

Edoble’s hassaku marmalade making event was great fun. Hassaku is a citrus tree that I often see growing in older gardens in Tokyo. The tree is very robust, and the fruits bright orange and large starting in winter. Seeing them makes me feel like there’s a bit of Florida or Southern California in Tokyo. But everyone had told me that the fruit is inedible. Jess’ idea was to bring people together to harvest and prepare hassaku.

It seems that if you pick the fruit at different times, the taste changes. Jess spotted mature hassaku trees in an abandoned city middle school near her house in south Nakano. She asked permission from the ward office to harvest the fruit in the spring, and several city workers unlocked the gate and joined her in collecting and sharing the fruit. That alone is pretty cool.

In June, Edoble hosted a marmalade party as a public event at a small space that is shared by the shoutengai association. On June 11, about twenty people very rapidly peeled the fruit, eliminated the membrane, put the seeds and membrane into a cheese cloth, and then boiled everything in four large pots. It was fun to see the amazing knife skills, particularly the older women and one young nursery school chef. We even got some help from some neighborhood kids.

The workshop was super-inspiring. It is great to realize how much food is growing in Tokyo, and that we can join with our neighbors in collecting and preparing super local food. Edoble’s accomplishment was in bringing together residents and local government, children and seniors, mostly Japanese and a few foreigners, mostly women and a few men.

Edoble reminds me that cities can grow a lot more of their own food, and that residents enjoy opportunities to work together and share food. Urban foraging is low cost and high return.

My first Tokyo balcony blueberry

はじめてのブルーベリーです。ベランダで育っています。去年も今年も、東京のあちこちでブルーベリーが売られているのを見ました。

This is my first balcony blueberry. Since last year, I have noticed more blueberry plants for sale in Tokyo, from home centers to neighborhood flower and plant shops. I am eager to see how easy it is to grow them in Tokyo, especially in my balcony container garden.