Next week I am talking at Shibaura House’s Community Herb Garden talk event. Herbs can be used for flavor, food, medicine, and perfume. Even in small urban spaces, herbs are very tough and can be used in daily life. This balcony lavender attracts Tokyo butterflies.
Even on a weekday before peak cherry blossom season, Shinjuku Gyoen has plenty of photographers and people strolling around the trees. The yellow flowers in the foreground are sanshuyu, a Northeast Asian dogwood that produces cherries and is used in Chinese medicine. I like the documentation and how the pond connects the yellow and pink blossoms.
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.
Note: For the next days, I’ll post some garden pictures I took in the weeks before the earthquake. These are images from the end of winter.
Spiraea cantoniensis (コデマリ or kodemari in Japanese) makes lovely snow blossoms in winter. I like how it looks equally good as a rambling, woody bush, or as a small balcony plant.
Although this species is most diverse in East Asia, according to Wikipedia, Native Americans have used it as an aspirin-like medicine.
I have a soft spot for weeds, and this dandelion I saw found a home in a sidewalk crack in busy Yotsuya. I admire the ability of weeds to place themselves, to exist and spread despite our best attempts at organizing our environment. The dandelion is exceptional because it is at once a food, a medicine, and an important early source of nectar for honeybees. Cities need more dandelions!