If you look carefully, you can see there are five different palm trees in this photograph.
San Francisco is often windy and cool. Despite the fact that palms thrive in many cool climates, somehow seeing them gives us the illusion of being somewhere warmer and exotic.
Beyond my garden, the old car dealership and repair shop have been torn down and replaced with luxury housing and a Whole Foods. The top floor apartments will rent for over $8,000 per month.
In the heat of August, who can resist a visit to the ocean? Despite the on-going revelations about nuclear leaks, the ocean is irresistible. This is Onjuku in lower Chiba. Below is the river that passes near the station. The tall skinny palms remind me of California.
I love this winter scene of rampant white camellia and tall native palms, with plenty of dead fronds still attached to the crown. The wild landscape makes the house cozy and bright in the cold weather.
Before I moved to Tokyo four years ago, I grew cold weather palm trees in San Francisco. On a recent visit, it was great to see the trees getting larger. Above is a pritchardia minor from high altitude Hawaii. Below is the far more common queen palm, a native of South America that has been deemed invasive in Florida and Queensland.
I found this lane when biking home from Koenji. I felt like I was in a small town, many decades ago.
I love the semi-wild shuro palm, and how it pops up unexpectedly in Tokyo gardens. This is at the “forest house” in Nakano, looking up towards the sky. Utility lines are also a common Tokyo landscape element.
Winter provides a glimpse into this small Showa-era garden. Close to the house is a plum tree in bloom. Bordering the new development are evergreen plants including bamboo and the shuro palm.
I love how this sad parking lot palm tree looks especially desolate in snow. Leap Day, 2012.
Lone palm looks radiant in twilight. I had to stop my bike to take this photo. Gaien-Nishi Dori between Aoyama and Jingu-mae.
Update: Identified by @jasondewees as Washingtonia, or Mexican fan palm. This tall skinny palm also grows well in San Francisco (and possibly LA, too).
Japanese garden maintenance is precise and skilled, even in public facilities. Because of this, I was all the more surprised and delighted to see a self-sown shuro palm disrupting this heavily manicured and idealized landscape behind the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The azaleas on the slope are pruned to suggest waves, and the trees pruned as if they were posh poodles.
Maybe because it’s a palm tree, this intruder is allowed to thrive.
I was captivated by this narrow green space between residences in Omotesando. The places between spaces have a tremendous appeal in dense Tokyo. This tiny space supports 15 meter tall bamboo, a tree shedding its leaves for winter, and the ubiquitous shuro palm tree that self-seeds throughout Tokyo.
On Japan’s Culture Day, the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo opened the doors to its magnificent ambassador’s residence and garden. Hundreds of locals took advantage of this rare inside look. It reminded me that many of Tokyo’s greatest green spaces are in private hands or inaccessible to the public like the Imperial Palace.
It’s fantastic that the Netherlands embassy opens their diplomatic outpost to the public twice a year. The house was initially designed in the 1880s and rebuilt after the 1923 earthquake. Although some say the style is “colonial,” the building reminds me of upper class residences in the United State’s northeast. From some angles, I could imagine Gatsby throwing a large garden party.
The garden is a fantastic mix of towering pines and other trees, a pleasantly irregular lawn, and a mix of traditional Japanese garden plants with plenty of imports like roses. Within this well maintained garden, I was pleased to see Tokyo’s native palm tree, the shuro, which easily self-sows and carries a history of being used for centuries in domestic life, as brooms, roofing, and sandals.
The visit also reminded me of the centuries of Dutch-Japanese history. This year I visited Dejima in Nagasaki, the sole foreign trading post during the centuries when Japan remained otherwise closed to the world. The visit conjured scenes of trading ships, cultural emissaries, and globalization in its earlier stages.
My favorite Kichijoji plant store is moving soon. I have long admired the owner’s meticulous sidewalk garden, full of surprises. Here are perfect grapes, two of which we have just eaten. The garden is a long narrow strip with some more plants in a light well and the stairway to the lower level entrance.
I like the mix of exotics like grapes, with traditional Japanese plants like pine and raphis palm, plus ferns, cactuses, and so many more plant types. The incredible variety of plants and the impeccable maintenance show off the gardener’s skills and wide interests.
More photos after the jump.
Recently, my mother-in-law surprised me by telling me that she attributes her garden’s explosive growth this spring to the Tohoku earthquake on March 11.
I was surprised, too, by its mega-growth: the hydrangea are enormous, once small variegated vines are sprawling, the self-sown shuro palm is pushing lots of new leaves. The growth is all the more suprising since the garden is very shaded, particularly after the plum and persimmon trees leaf out in April. I inquired about fertilizer use, but m-i-l insists that she adds nothing more than frequent watering when there’s no rain.
I love how her recent attachment to gardening have transformed a rarely used place into a great addition to her home and pottery studio.
This small garden includes the fruit trees that pre-date the studio, volunteer plants like the palm tree, and more recent garden plants. The sour plum tree produce thousands of tiny fruits that m-i-l makes into a home-made jam.
From Shiho blog.
This parking lot palm tree has so few leaves yet so many flowers. No wonder the shuro palm tree spreads so easily in Tokyo.