I’ve been eating balcony-harvested snap peas for the last few months. This year, I grew them from seed. They are a great choice when you have no space.
I love this ever-changing sidewalk garden in the heart of Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo’s gay neighborhood. The gardener seems to be a long time resident who used to run a shop from the first floor of his home. I love how the plants are all labeled, even simple ones likes roses. And that this dense garden exists despite the lack of space and the many people passing by at all times of night.
Plant Journal Issue #3 includes my article about flower pot gardens in Tokyo. The article also includes interviews with two Nakano gardeners who use sidewalk and wall space to create extravagant seasonal gardens shared with neighbors. You can find stores that sell the magazine worldwide, or order it online.
I love the simplicity of this window garden in an old snack near Hamamatsuchou Station, an area better known for sleek new office towers and a port. In almost no space at all, this garden has climbers like bitter melon, pink flowers, herbs, and plants trailing down. It seems like the Hiro snack bar has been long out of business, yet someone is still enjoying living upstairs.
Old Tokyo neighborhoods like Zoushigaya are full of plant lovers who manage to create gardens where there is almost no space. This type of passion for gardening cannot be replicated by large scale developers. What is amazing is the ingenuity and sheer variety of plants grown by residents.
Above there are five or more plants growing vertically along a narrow path that would otherwise be a grim cinder block and metal siding wall between properties. The gardener seems to have used large blue laundry clips to espalier these hardy plants.
To the left you can see how a corner garden softens the edge of the street and marks the change of seasons. Just as the house reveals that the structure has been added to over time, you can see a mix of mature plants, including raphis palms, with recently bought annuals. Again, all sorts of readily at hand materials are recycled into the garden, including astroturf, cinder blocks, and the red folding chair.
While I like the chaos of this garden, the one below shows how you can have a no flower, more traditional looking Japanese garden growing in the intermediate space between residence and street. The trees look mature and regularly trimmed.
The last images show the beauty of a single plant that has found its way through one of a series of regularly placed holes in a cement wall. I think it’s very pleasing to see a hardy plant bringing life to a hard surface. I wonder if this effect of private public space blurring was intentional or accidental?