Hamarikyu is an elaborate garden between the office towers of Shiodome and the harbor full of warehouses, garbage incinerators, and the massive immigration office with no cellphone coverage. Inside the garden, you can learn how the Emperor created a special landscape to facilitate duck hunting that used decoy ducks, falcons, and nets. But on the edges of the garden, you can see the messy metropolis with its relentless accumulation of transportation, commerce, and recently new luxury residential development. I like how on the city side, the stone-lined canal has been preserved, and on the harbor side, an older looking flood gate still regulates the garden’s pond.
I have this red coleus plant that got leggy, so I cut it back and rooted the extra pieces. Now I am hoping to make a half dozen starter plants using the coconut soil that comes wrapped in string nets. I recycled two containers to hold the starter plants.
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.
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.
Our balcony jasmine just started blooming this weekend. It’s early, isn’t it? The balcony is already filling up with this sweet scent.
This potted jasmine is growing behind the washing machine and up onto the net that will again support our summer green curtain. It hardly went dormant in the winter.
I planted this jasmine last year in a fairly small pot. While I thought it might bloom last year, it never did. It can be hard to know how long to wait when a plant doesn’t grow well at first, especially if you have a limited space like an apartment balcony. This time, I am glad I was patient.
You can grow peas in Tokyo during the fall!
On Linus Yng’s architectural bike tour, we stopped to see Atelier Tekuto’s futuristic house (see previous post). The houses across both small streets have fantastic curbside gardens. I realized by looking at one of them that Tokyo gardeners grow climbing peas in fall. How cool!
This gardener must really like peas, because there are eight different pots with plants climbing onto this one net. I wonder if they are different types of peas (snap, shell, and other types). When I visited the garden store this week, I bought a simple four-pack of peas to try on my balcony.
I took this photo a month ago, and our balcony garden is now even more lush. It’s amazing how much incredible heat and daily watering can increase bio-mass!
It’s amazing what you can fit in a sunny narrow space. I have six mini-watermelons ripening on the railing and green net, three Saipan lemons, two types of morning glory, the 5bai midori satoyama boxes bushing out, cucumbers still flowering and creating fast food, and some random flowers including mini-sunflowers, abutilon, and Suntory hybrids ミリオンベル (million bell) and アズーロコンパクト. Plus there’s basil, parsley, and thyme, all of which I put into my bolognese pasta lunch today.
The floor area is full with just enough room to walk through for watering. The vertical space is about half full with the net and some additional twine. I like how the old washing machine is nearly hidden by plants.
Some failures included corn, with tiny ears that formed and then turned brown. The rose which was so outrageously pumped up when purchased has hardly bloomed since. The incredible heat this month killed my first bonsai, a Japanese maple (もみじ) in a tiny pot.
Some surprises included the late growing bitter melon (ゴーヤー) now shooting up. I planted last year’s seed in April, and it hardly grew until about three weeks ago. Now it’s two meters tall, and perhaps will produce a few vegetables before typhoon season. Bitter melon tastes great with ground pork!
My friend Matthew, who now works at Sinajina, pruned my pine bonsai. Apparently now is the time to start thinking about shaping it and preparing it to look its most beautiful for the new year. I wonder how to keep my tiny garden green during winter.
I have experimented with all sorts of summer vegetables and fruit this year. The cucumbers grow incredibly fast (maybe 2 weeks from tiny shape to full size salad material). And like the watermelon, the vines grow easily up the railing and onto the green curtain net, providing a lot of shade. More slow growing, I harvest three eggplants.
My watermelon plant has produced an enormous amount of growth in just two months on the balcony. It was very easy to train the vines onto the metal rod balcony. Now there are two fruits the size of oranges. I love the shape of the leaves, and am looking forward to having a watermelon party when they are ripe.
There are many previous posts about my balcony garden. It is approximately 1 meter by 6 meters, and includes the air conditioner, washer dryer, clothes line, a small stand, and about 100 plants. In addition to the permanent railing, we recently installed a summer green curtain net for extra shade and cooling.
Last week, on October 7, I took a friend by the Suginami Ward office to see their giant green curtain. Unfortunately, the workers were in the final stages of removing it: sweeping up, saving the net for next year, cleaning the planter boxes (which last winter they filled with pansies), collecting the information signs.
It seemed a little early, until the next day when I realized what chaos Typhoon #18 would have caused. Our balcony garden suffered some damage to our green curtain, which is a mere 2 meters by 4 meters. I can only imagine how the wind would pull on Suginami Ward office’s seven story green curtain, and deposit leaves and vines in all directions. I wonder if a typhoon had come in September, if they would have dismantled it beforehand.
It’s sad to realize that fall has most definitely replaced summer. I wonder if the vines will be composted? Suginami is one of Tokyo’s few wards with residential composting, so I hope so!