recycled

Reusing old wood to build a new fence

reclaimed_wood_fence_clintonpark
古い木材を使って新しい塀を作りました。古い木造の感じがいいでしょう?

I’ve been wanting to rebuild my small back fence, and wondered about using recycled wood. Then I realized that I could reuse some of the old fence. Thanks to Kap, my amazing gardener, for rebuilding the fence using old materials turned from vertical planks to horizontal orientation.

Simple materials make an inviting restaurant garden facing the sidewalk

簡単な材料でおしゃれな入り口が作られて、小さなレストランの庭は、通行人が交流できる場所になっています。

It’s lovely to see these flowers outside a small neighborhood restaurant. The set-up could not be simpler: easily re-blooming perennials. a liquor crate, recycled wood. A simple gesture communicates to the street and offers a chance for interaction with pedestrians.

Readers, I know the orange flower is clivia. What is the smaller salmon colored flower? I have grown both in San Francisco.

Update: Thanks to Jason Dewees, the salmon colored flower has been identified as Freesia (Lapeirousia) laxa.

Succulents in rusty recycled cans

かっこいい多肉植物はリサイクルしたビンの中で育っています。道路の前で、こんなにきれいなものは、世界でも、東京だけで見れます。

I love these succulents hanging on a Shibuya railing. The cans seem recycled, and I love how weathered they look. That these gorgeous plants are facing the street is yet another only-in-Tokyo street beauty.


More flowers in transit bathroom

These flowers were discovered in Odakyu’s Shinjuku station’s mens room. Like the two liter bottle with ivy in JR Metro, these flowers seem to be the spontaneous result of a caretaker eager to bring life into this drab interior space. My traveling companion wonders if the flowers aren’t recycled from bouquets that passengers have discarded at the station.

Zoushigaya micro-gardens (part 3)

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?

Residential rice harvest

Neighbor harvests rice

One of my neighbors tends an interesting garden on the edge of a small street leading to the JR station. I previously blogged about her spring peonies and her use of recycled containers for growing rice. On October 13, I stopped in front of the rice plants and was surprised how dry the soil was. Within minutes, my neighbor came out and told me that she was going to harvest the rice. It did not take long.

Residential rice harvest on pavement

Next time I see her, I have to ask her how it tasted.

French countryside in Ginza

Ginza pastry shop looks like French countryside

Walking in Tokyo always provides new discoveries. In Ginza, where global brands are housed in tall ultra-contemporary mid-rises, there are still small alleys and two story buildings. I was astounded to stumble upon this bakery housed in what seems the perfect simulation of the French countryside.

When Japanese set out to evoke a foreign scene, it is amazing how many details they add to create the perfect illusion. This bakery, Patisserie Qu’il fait bon, achieves its look with a simple two story structure with plentiful casement windows, a cobblestone driveway, and just slightly excessive exterior lighting. But perhaps even more effective is the landscaping: many layers of plants, all in pots, much like the humble gardens created by older ladies in countless residential streets. What makes this landscape at once bold and persuasive are the many layers, variety of colors that harmonize with the paint trim, and the assortment of metal and recycle wood plants with objects such as a rusted chair, a clock, some farm house wheels, and other bric-a-brac. I like how artfully “untamed” the landscape appears, despite being meticulously staged and styled.

Patisserie Qu'il fait bon

Nodai Trip (part 5): Medical Herbman Cafe Project

Medical Herbman Cafe Project at Niigata Triennial

The Medical Herbman Cafe Project was one of the most inspiring landscape interventions we saw at the Niigata Art Triennial. Placed next to the school that had been closed less than 20 years after opening, the Medical Herbman Cafe Project consists of two elements: a mobile cafe that folds up into a container that fits on the back of a truck, and a herb garden planted in the shape of a person. The whole project is meant to be portable and sustainable.

Niigata Medical Herbman Cafe Project sign

The garden is organized so that the plants are grown along the body part that are most helped by each herb. The cafe serves over 20 varieties of herbal teas and cookies. I tried oubako tea and azami (thistle) cookie. The aesthetics of the cafe is recycled wood and rustic chic, with one room serving food and another providing seating and event space. Small plants were growing in white gardening gloves.

Medical Herbman Cafe Project

The Medical Herbman Cafe Project is powerful because it goes beyond a momentary appreciation of nature for city tourists, and promotes a healing connection between plants and people, countryside and city. I had mixed feelings that the Niigata Art Triennial benefits from the over-abundance of abandoned property in the countryside, and provides tourists and locals with a brief experience of rural experience and tourist commerce.

If the Obuse building restoration shows the relevance of old buildings and agricultural traditions from chestnuts to sake, the Medical Herbman Cafe Project suggest that rural knowledge of herbs has a place in the daily life of our urbanized world. It would be cool to see Medical Herbman Cafe Project set up in a city, perhaps using a school yard, land temporarily empty during development, or a public park like Shinjuku Goen or Yoyogi.

The menu below and the photo of the cafe above come from the Medical Herbman Cafe Project website. Although the site text is mostly in Japanese, the design and images will appeal to non-Japanese readers, too.

Medical Herbman Cafe Project menu

Continue reading

Woolly Pocket Garden at Flora Grubb Gardens

Wooly Pocket Garden at Flora Grub Gardens

My favorite San Francisco garden store, Flora Grubb Gardens, has an installation of a new vertical garden from Woolly Pocket Garden. It’s a modular system for green walls using a simple pocket design. The pockets are a breathable felt made from recycled plastic bottles, and the vertical gardens can be easily installed indoors or outdoors.

Wooly Pocket Garden

And here’s an image of a “green ledge” above a storefront  in San Francisco’s Mission District (taken by Leanne Waldal).

Green ledge San Francisco Mission DistrictGreen ledge SF Mission

Volunteer seats at bus stop

Volunteer seats at bus stop

At many Tokyo bus stops, one can see old seats that have been anonymously contributed to the city scape. Sometimes you see old office chairs that swivel, or recycled dining room chairs. Some weather the rain better than others.

Certainly these volunteer seats provide more function than beauty to the street. A city-funded program would be more consistent and attractive. Still, the care that someone has taken to provide a public amenity where none existed is remarkable. 

Like public greening, volunteer seats at bus stops blur the line between public and private space, and between municipal and volunteer street creation. It shows how city residents cultivate their environment, provide for their neighbors, and make small improvements.