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Summer Balcony Details: Sunflower sprouts in ceramic pot

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真夏の暑さが終わりましたが、これから夏のベランダのクローズアップの写真のシリーズをお見せします。写真は全部フィルムです。小さいスペースなのに楽しいです。これは種子から育てたヨーロッパのミニヒマワリです。

This is the start of my summer balcony details series. A close look at some of the flowers, foliage and edibles of summer. First, a pot of micro-sunflowers, grown from Hiyoko’s seeds from Europe. The leaves looks so fresh.

Air plants in small containers sit on widow box

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窓際においたベンチの上の小さな植木鉢の中で、エアプラントが元気そうです。右は、手仕事屋久家でぼくが作った盆栽の植木鉢です。左は、衆生の猫の絵です。

Easy to move around, the tiny scale of air plants are a perfect fit for a Tokyo apartment. I made the bonsai pots on the right at Kuge Crafts. The cat drawing on the left is by Shu.

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Is kanamemochi Tokyo’s best hedge?

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普通の植物が好きで、いつも近所の庭に注目しています。東京で簡単に育つカナメモチという木は一番好きな垣根です。春に赤色の若葉が出て、きれいです。植木鉢でも地面でも、速く大きくなります。僕のベランダに一つあって、手仕事屋久家の庭にもあります。

Unlike real horticulturalists, I enjoy planting common plants that I’ve seen in my neighbors’ gardens. This year I am convinced that Kanamemochi (Photina) is Tokyo’s best hedge. In spring the new leaves are a beautiful deep red color. Whether in a pot or in the ground, this member of the rose family, related to apple trees, grows quickly, thickly, and can be shaped easily. I have one hiding my washing machine and providing evergreen privacy between my kitchen and the neighbors outside my window. I also planted one at Kuge Crafts in order to provide separation from a pesky neighbor. Very quickly, that single plant is growing wide and creating a living fence.

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Up-potting radish seedlings, with some thyme on the corners

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冬の暖かい昼に、ラディッシュの苗を大きい植木鉢に入れました。角に、タイムが二つ種類あります。

I took advantage of a warm winter day to up-pot the radishes into a one big rectangular pot. The larger plants on the ends are two types of thyme. Despite the cold temperatures, they’re growing a little every day.

Mini red pepper grown on balcony and set in bonsai pot

この赤唐辛子は大きくてならなかったけれど、盆栽の植木鉢に、サイズは完璧です。

I was a little sad that this red pepper never grew past mini-size. But its the perfect size for this bonsai pot that I also use for air plants.

Dahlia in ceramic pot from Shiho

エアコンの上に、オレンジ色のダリアが咲いています。史火陶芸教室で作った植木鉢です。

Resting on the air conditioner is this orange dahlia in a ceramic pot made at Shiho.

Sidewalk garden made with huge soup pots. A lovely green spot in a heavily paved area in Shibaura.

芝浦の歩道で、大鍋の中にしっかりした庭が育っている様子が好きです。

I love how this mature garden is growing in soup pots on the sidewalk in Shibaura.

Plum bonsai in tiny but abundant home garden

梅の木の盆栽が小さくて豊富な庭に置かれました。中野駅の途中にあります。植木屋さんは季節と植物をよく知っています。植物が植木鉢で育っているので、いろいろな楽しみのために移動しやすいです。

This plum bonsai is part of a tiny but incredibly abundant garden also on the way to Nakano station. This gardener clearly knows about plants and seasons. Because almost all his plants are in pots, they can be moved around for maximum enjoyment.

Air plants in bonsai pots

エアプラントと盆栽の陶芸の組み合わせ はどうでしょう? 史火陶芸教室の展示会のために、いろいろ盆栽用の陶芸を準備しました。不思議な組み合わせですけど、エアプラントの形と遠い起源を考えると楽しいです。さらに取り出しやすいので、鉢をよく見ることができます。

Preparing for the Shiho student show last month, I wondered how to show off the bonsai pots I made this year. I tried one with only gravel, and another with a tiny succulent. My favorite is perhaps the oddest combination: air plants. I like their shapes and their distant origins in a different climate. And I like how you can easily take them out and examine the pot. What do you think about this combination?

More balcony garden layers: flower, herb, ceramic flowerpot, houseplant

ベランダは小さいから、植物は皆、隣り合わせになっています。この写真には、室内用植物も二年目の一年草もバジルも素人の作った陶芸の植木鉢があります。こんな風に、組み合わせっているのが好きです。

The small size of my balcony garden means that each plant is always juxtaposed with others. In the center is a pink flower from an annual that’s lasted two years already and whose name I’ve forgotten. It’s in a white ceramic pot I made, and next to the basil I’ve been eating all summer. The broad leaf is a bird of paradise houseplant that is spending some time outdoors after becoming an ant magnet.

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.

Making bonsai pots at Shiho

史火の教室で盆栽用の植木鉢を作っています。

In the aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear crisis, it seems many have retreated into their homes and offices. Now more than ever is the time to go outside, interact with neighbors, and support your local small businesses in Tokyo: restaurants, vegetable shops, artisans, and creative studios.

I started making a series of bonsai pots at the ceramic studio Shiho. Here’s the basic process:

Step 1: Create shapes. Form clay into a block, slice off slabs, place slabs around molds covered in cheese cloth, remove, and let sit to harden.

Step 2 (between 2 days and 2 weeks after creating shapes): Trim the tops and sides. Add holes and channels for drainage. Carve name in bottom.

Step 3: First firing.

Step 4: Add glaze. I will leave each pot partly unglazed to show off the clay.

Step 5: Second firing.

The whole process may take 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the studio’s firing schedule and my free time.

Okra is a popular alley plant

This is the second okra plant I have spotted along the small street leading from my apartment to the JR station. I was impressed with how beautiful its flower is. In the background is a climbing bitter melon vine, and a dog house. The “yard” is paved, so all the plants are in pots.