In May, I went to the “home center” (Nakano Shimachu) and bought the most expensive rose (about US$ 30). It’s name is L’Espoir, or Hope. It scores a perfect 5 in every attribute: grows well in pots, size of flower, scent, bloom frequency, and ease of growing. It’s also dedicated to the Tohoku March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
I am generally skeptical of industrial gardening, but I gave Hope a try. It turned out great on the 10th floor balcony. It may not have grown that tall, but it required no pesticide and bloomed often. I love the scent. To me, scent is essential in roses.
This year’s green curtain is filling in. Already leafing out are the perennial Okinawa morning glory, jasmine, and a pink rose. The kanamemochi (photina) bush is about 1.5 meters tall, and brings the garden right up to the sliding glass kitchen doors.
This rose pops on the balcony garden. When buying roses, I always make sure they are fragrant.
I found this lane when biking home from Koenji. I felt like I was in a small town, many decades ago.
I like the city backdrop to my balcony green curtain. The rose and jasmine are the first to bloom.
Using balcony plants, I created this small arrangement in a ceramic vase I made at Shiho. This pink rose has a good scent, and i added rosemary for additional scent and its mix of hard needles and curvy stems.
I love this outpouring of pink roses extending from the second floor of the house out into the small street.
In my balcony garden, I like juxtaposing plants that evoke different places. Here is a late-blooming pink rose, originally from Asia yet cultivated extensively in Europe, along with fujibakama, one of Japan’s seven fall flowers. Mixing forms, colors, and histories make even the smallest garden fun.
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.
I have seen some lovely roses walking in Tokyo recently. The red one above is from the border between Sakuragaoka 桜丘町 and Uguisudani 鶯谷町, a leafy upscale neighborhood ten minutes from the world famous Shibuya pedestrian crossing (called scramble, スクランブル in Japanese). I like how this red rose has escaped a private garden and is now attaching itself to the street mirror meant to prevent collisions.
The yellow rose is from a house in Nakano, near a pedestrian walkway built on an old creek. I wish all roses had fragrance, but whenever you see roses, it is hard not to feel cheerful.
One office tower’s vertical garden brings new life to Tokyo’s business district.
Pasona’s headquarter’s vertical garden is filling out and bringing new life to the crowded office streetscape between Nishonbashi and Tokyo Station. The lushly planted wall includes many traditional Japanese garden plants and imports such as blueberry bushes. I like how it contrasts with the surrounding office towers, from the 1980s to recent years, and demonstrates that the potential for office wall gardens to benefit everyone inside and outside the building.
It’s amazing how much the garden has grown since I last visited Pasona in May. I am very excited to see this corporate garden become a landmark in the Yaesu district. It would be great for Mori or Mitsubishi to follow this example and experiment with vertical gardens and wildlife habitats on much taller Tokyo buildings. I also hope that Pasona continues to innovate with its urban landscape. Sidewalk gardens? More fruit trees? Butterfly hatcheries? Honeybees? Falcon’s nests?
Below are some details photos, including leaves that have turned red this fall, and some late-in-the-year pink roses.
This Shinjuku ni-chome sidewalk garden is exceptional in its size, care, and labeling. The gardener lives in a former shop in an old building on what is now a busy entertainment district. From the sidewalk, you can see what appears to be merchandise, t-shirts and a few dress shirts, in the front room open to the street.
The gardener and his wife are often visible in the inner room which is partly visible. This type of retail/residential architecture is very Tokyo mid-century, and there are examples in many neighborhoods of former shop owners living in these spaces, some with remnants of their former businesses.
What I love about this sidewalk garden is the gardener’s obvious care and attention to creating a display of many plants. Nearly all of the pots rests on stools or low tables, with the highest ones closest to the road and the lower ones facing pedestrians on the sidewalk.
I am also amazed that the plants are all labeled, even the most obvious ones such as “rose” (バラ). I asked the older man why he labeled them, and he said that people often ask him and he doesn’t always remember the plant name.
The other amazing thing about the garden is just how big it is. There is easily more than one hundred plants. In addition to cover five meters or more in front of his building and his neighbors, he also expanded to an equally large area across the street. He is often outside watering and taking care of the plants.
I admire this gardener’s love for plants, his colonizing public space, and adding beauty in a crowded neighborhood.
I took this photo a month ago, and our balcony garden is now even more lush. It’s amazing how much incredible heat and daily watering can increase bio-mass!
It’s amazing what you can fit in a sunny narrow space. I have six mini-watermelons ripening on the railing and green net, three Saipan lemons, two types of morning glory, the 5bai midori satoyama boxes bushing out, cucumbers still flowering and creating fast food, and some random flowers including mini-sunflowers, abutilon, and Suntory hybrids ミリオンベル (million bell) and アズーロコンパクト. Plus there’s basil, parsley, and thyme, all of which I put into my bolognese pasta lunch today.
The floor area is full with just enough room to walk through for watering. The vertical space is about half full with the net and some additional twine. I like how the old washing machine is nearly hidden by plants.
Some failures included corn, with tiny ears that formed and then turned brown. The rose which was so outrageously pumped up when purchased has hardly bloomed since. The incredible heat this month killed my first bonsai, a Japanese maple (もみじ) in a tiny pot.
Some surprises included the late growing bitter melon (ゴーヤー) now shooting up. I planted last year’s seed in April, and it hardly grew until about three weeks ago. Now it’s two meters tall, and perhaps will produce a few vegetables before typhoon season. Bitter melon tastes great with ground pork!
My friend Matthew, who now works at Sinajina, pruned my pine bonsai. Apparently now is the time to start thinking about shaping it and preparing it to look its most beautiful for the new year. I wonder how to keep my tiny garden green during winter.
Thanks to the 30 people who participated in the Tokyo DIY Gardening workshop last night at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. We created an enormous collage map and shared interesting stories and images of Tokyo’s wonderful green spaces, existing and imagined. A big thanks to Chris Berthelsen for conceiving, preparing and motivating this participatory project. We’ll digitize the 4 meter by 2 meter map and post about it soon.
This post is about park signage, with images of hand-drawn and printed signs outside the 3331 Arts Chiyoda park. Alongside a lawn and some shade trees, the front park includes a rose garden with several varieties. I found it interesting that the map of the rose types was so ad hoc and temporary: written on paper and affixed with metal clips.
This very informal sign contrasts with a more typical sign found in Tokyo parks. Using child-like manga, the sign details the many forbidden activities.
Perhaps the most interesting warning is 「他人の迷惑になる行為はやめましょう」。Let’s not do anything that will disturb other people, below an image of baseball players. I am struck by how the image is so specific and the warning is so open to any interpretation. It invites the reader to imagine just how many possible actions could bother other people.