I love this Okinawa morning glory that I’ve been growing on my balcony for years. Even after a hard trim last fall, it’s back and blooming every morning. The flowers are brilliant against the grey sky.
From my kitchen desk, I can see this lovely decorative pepper, that has purple fruits and flowers at the same time.
Omiya Hachiman shrine is near where my husband grew up in Suginami ward. It’s also next to a beautiful green corridor that follows the Zenpukuji river. I love the elegant building, and all the decorations including the purple cloth with Edo crests, the red and white stripes, the rope and lightning bolts, and the big lanterns.
I picked up three short kikyou plants at the home center, without knowing much about them. Later I learned that kikyou, also known as bellflower, are one of Japan’s seven fall flowers (yet oddly active in summer). Kikyou is also related to campanula, which spread rapidly in my shady San Francisco garden with abundant purple flowers.
In the (film) photo background, you can see the sprouts of New York tomatoes that I grew from seeds. I’ve shared the seedlings with many friends already.
I also discovered these cool black and white Japanese crests (kamon) based on kikyou. (Source: Wikipedia).
Still more indoor plant portrait photography.
Another plant that usually lives outside in the balcony garden, decorative cabbage is great for winter color. I also like how the purple leaves and mini trunk combine with the flower design of the ceramic. In San Francisco, raccoons ate our decorative cabbage the first night we brought them home. The next day two raccoons knocked on the backdoor with a hungry look on their faces.
I love how the purple berries pop against the light green foliage. This hardy shrub is a classic fall marker, and a reference to the female novelist of the thousand year old Tale of Genji. Unlike my balcony specimen, which dropped its berries while still green, this one outside Shiho ceramic studio looks fantastic. It’s growing in a 5bai midori, the modular urban satoyama box.
I bought the first box two years ago, and the second last year. They really thrive on this north-facing sidewalk and draw attention to the studio and store. If you click on Shiho’s website, you can see on the home page how small the first one was. It just needs lots of water, and very occasional pruning. There are so many local species that each season has something special and evocative of the Japanese landscape.
My mint is suddenly full of purple flowers. And in the late afternoon sunlight, the leaves turn gold and red. It’s a fall moment.
I love having herbs on my city balcony: for cooking, for scent, and for variety. Mint is ridiculously easy to grow, and I hope the seeds travel and plant themselves somewhere nearby.
There is something very pleasing about the small berries on Murasaki shikibu, named after the author and heroine of the famous 11 century novel The Tale of the Genji. Here they are still green, but soon they’ll turn purple.
With @luismendo visiting from Amsterdam, my Tokyo DIY Gardening pal Chris and I took him on a tour of Harajuku backstreets looking at gardens, eating tonkatsu, and stopping for some excellent cold coffee.
Harajuku is fun because the residential area has houses and gardens from all or almost all the past eight decades. The Harajuku gardens that appeal to me are similar to ones elsewhere in Tokyo for their simplicity and easy adaptation to urban life. Some results are clearly unintentional.
My photos include a three story garden of ivy and bamboo that covers one house and provides a buffer with its neighbor, a sleek concrete building’s balcony green curtains that are just starting to fill out on two floors, a blue flowering vine that somehow became a giant bush, a tiny entrance garden outside a pre-war house that has been converted into the very elegant Omotesando Coffee.
We also explored the enormous Danchi that between 246 road and Harajuku. This sprawling bauhaus-like public housing project has a wonderfully chaotic and varied set of gardens created by generations of residents. In July, we spotted lots of tomatoes, vertical bitter melon, and these purple gloves on top of an ad hoc garden support.
Coming out of the Todaimae station on my way to teach at the University of Tokyo, this tree full of giant purple flowers makes me very happy.
If you blink, you would miss the brief bloom of these lovely purple bulbs. There’s a large patch of them along the entrance to my apartment building. The flowers are very delicate, and the leaves plentiful and verdant. I don’t know their name, but they seem to be very resilient. The entrance garden is divided between professionally trimmed hedges on the left and this large area on the right cultivated by residents and nature.
Update: Horticulturalist Jason wrote to tell me that it’s Bletilla, the easiest ground orchid to grow. It’s native to East Asia. The large patch in front of my apartment seems to require very little care. In Japanese, it’s simply called “purple orchid,” シラン。