jungle

It’s a small jungle in summer on my Tokyo balcony garden

94790013
夏はベランダの植物がみんな大きくなります。緑の葉が多いので、ジャングルがみたいです。

In summer, lush foliage dominates my balcony garden. The morning glory curtain continues to bloom facing the sun, but inside there’s a cacophony of leaf shape and color tone, including olive, fig, and camellia. With so much new growth, you can hardly see the narrow wood path.

The top two photos face west and east. The lowest photo also faces east, and shows the layering of shoulder high and knee high plants. The grass plant in the white ceramic has some red leaves, which make a dynamic accent to the many shades of green.

94790014 94790015

The view from the kitchen out to the balcony and the city. A floating sky jungle makes me feel at home.

IMG_0721
台所から見えるベランダの庭と都市の景色は、空を流れているジャングルみたいです。植物のおかげで、くつろげます。

Our kitchen has sliding glass doors that open out to the balcony. By early summer, the green curtain and shrubs have filled out, providing some privacy and the feeling of a floating sky jungle. The plants make me feel at home.

Pink flowers provide pop of color on balcony jungle

日本語で、「pop of color」という表現をどのように言うのでしょうか。このベランダにはたくさんのピンクの花が長い間咲いています。

These dry pink flowers last for weeks and weeks. I forgot the name already, but I like this type of flower that provides a pop of color against the many types of green leaves in the garden.

Potted camellia brightens concrete patio dead space

普通だけれどもたくましい椿は、コンクリートのテラスに命を与えます。だれがそこに置いて、剪定しているのでしょうか。

I like how this very common and hardy camellia brings some life to a concrete patio in a Nakano back street. I wonder who placed it there and keeps it well pruned.

I can easily  imagine a jungle growing between these older commercial buildings, a living food alley with scent and maybe a small creek bed. As it is now, this space between buildings functions as a giant chute for capturing rainwater, which then travels many kilometers and must be processed, alongside sewage, before being released into Tokyo Bay.

At least someone working or living there is decorating and enjoying the space.

Old landscape thrives on its own and with some pruning by neighbors

私のアパートの近くにきれいな木造の家があります。自然と近所の人たちのおかげで、この景色は元気です。

Just three days after the earthquake and radiation leakage, I noticed the very elderly security guard at the supermarket loading area applying a pruning saw to a tree across the alley. The tree was part of the landscape outside a beautiful abandoned wood house. The guard did a skillful pruning job. It seemed a strange gesture given the uncertainties and shortages at the time.

The wood house is one of the few pre-war structures nearby, and whatever plants are in front survive because they are extremely hardy and suited to Tokyo’s climate. Once the potted tree had been pruned back, I could see clearly that the pot was split down the middle, the roots circumventing the asphalt, and the tree naturalized in the city. The abandoned house and garden are a small neighborhood treasure. I also love the thick row of ferns, the multi-level racks with potted plants, and how the front entrance has turned into a small jungle.

Elegant Nezu Museum garden

The Nezu Museum and its gorgeous Japanese garden are a just short walk from the Nishi Azabu Juban wildness, the Kakuremino bar, and lush sidewalk garden. Many people come to the newly rebuilt Nezu Museum for its exquisite collection of pre-modern art, or the new building designed by Kuma Kengo. I am a huge fan of its garden that combines tea houses and paths in a setting that seems ancient, slightly overgrown, bigger than its footprint, and entirely removed from city life.

When I visited recently, just before closing time towards the end of a long, hot summer, I was enchanted by how the light struck this worn boat, the plants growing in its bow, and the illusion of minimal human habitation in an endless jungle. I was also surprised to see Japanese maple leaves already turning red, despite the temperature being above 32 celcius (90 fahrenheit) for many weeks.

Taken together, these four posts about Nishi Azabu Juban speak to the wide range of nature in the city: professional and amateur gardens, single plants and total environments, built and wild, public and gated, destinations and everyday experiences. Plants grow wild even in the densest cities, but how we choose to nurture them provides endlessly varied results. I am inspired by the full range of possibilities.

Maximizing floral impact

Maximizing floral impact, spring

This small house on a typical Nakano side street is over-flowing with plant life. The owner is clearly maximizing space with hundreds of potted plants on the top, the inside and the outside of the cinderblock wall. Using every centimeter of space, the effect is dazzling from all angles. And somehow, there is still room for a cat to take a nap on the wall.

Below is a view of the front entrance. It is a floral jungle that shelters the home and delights passers-by.

Maximizing floral impact, spring

Even the steps on the side of the building, leading to an upstairs apartment, have been intensively planted.

Maximizing floral impact, spring