I’ve posted photos and written about this flower wall garden for The Plant, a visually stunning semi-annual magazine about urban nature. Even in winter, the garden is so colorful. Really, it is one of Nakano’s most incredible personal gardens, with hundreds of flowers covering the three story facade.
On a wet morning, the balcony foliage forms a mini jungle between apartment and city.
I like how the misters on these giant green columns benefit the plants and overheated people below. There’s also a lovely effect of plants and mist against early 20th century brick, preserved as part of the Marunouchi Brick Square development by Mitsubishi.
This simple pink flower thrives in a former non-space on a typical mid-rise office building. Last summer I posted a photo showing the full 5 story, vertical garden column on this mid-rise Shinjuku Gyoenmae office building.
Recently I passed by and was drawn to this beautiful pink flower with lush leaves repeating themselves all the way up.
This morning glory green curtain covers the entire balcony in a 1970s apartment building. I am envious of how vigorous and full this vertical garden became. It seems that all the apartments have nets, perhaps to deter birds, yet few are so well used.
Recently I have been drinking coffee at Bear Pond on the street that connects Miyashita Park and Aoyama. On these hot days, it’s great to look up and see a vertical forest on this 10 story mid-rise that combines retail, gallery, and office space. It’s easy to miss this from Meiji Dori, but you can see it easily from the Bear Pond coffee shop. it must be great to work surrounded by thick trees and natural light. It also looks like you can walk between the top three levels.
I am so impressed with the utter simplicity of this residential garden. Using practically no space, this vertical garden consists mostly of one well trimmed magnolia tree and a vine that screen the home. I don’t know whether credit should go to the rain-soaked climate or a smart home-owner. This house shows what’s possible in terms of ample plant growth in the most minimal of urban spaces. With more of these gardens, Tokyo would see lower summer temperatures, more wildlife, and a great quality of urban life.
Set off from the main street in Aoyama (246), Kaza Hana is one of my favorite Tokyo flower and garden design stores. I love how they have transformed the exterior of the shop into an incredibly dense and complex vertical garden. It’s a great place for lunch or coffee, or to pick up a gift. Or just admire the amazing wall gardens and displays.
When I was there, I bought a bouquet of moss-like carnations called テマリソウ (temarisou) as an office gift for Tokyo Art Beat. I hadn’t seen this bloom sold before, and it seems to have recently been introduced to European florists by Dutch plant breeder Hilverda Green Trick Carnation as Dianthus barbatus “Green Trick.”
Related: see photos and story from last year’s visit.
Since I have been taking an intensive Japanese language course in Shibuya, I have gotten to explore some of the back areas of Shibuya. Away from the massive crossing that is world famous (called a “scramble” in Japanese), and away from the crazy teen fashion, Shibuya is full of offices and even quiet residential neighborhoods.
I often pass the front of this bland and typical office tower. Recently, I was walking in the back alley, and realized that the entire rear facade is planted. I’ll have to go back some more to see if the wall of green grows thicker. It seems like a simple yet impressive structure for transforming the dead vertical space, and providing a beautiful garden for the office workers and neighbors. Well done!
Our balcony jasmine just started blooming this weekend. It’s early, isn’t it? The balcony is already filling up with this sweet scent.
This potted jasmine is growing behind the washing machine and up onto the net that will again support our summer green curtain. It hardly went dormant in the winter.
I planted this jasmine last year in a fairly small pot. While I thought it might bloom last year, it never did. It can be hard to know how long to wait when a plant doesn’t grow well at first, especially if you have a limited space like an apartment balcony. This time, I am glad I was patient.
Last week I made a quick curry rice lunch using Muji curry plus a store-bought tomato and home-grown snow peas. Snow peas are now my favorite Tokyo winter plant: decorative, edible, fast-growing, and vertical.
I got inspired by seeing a neighbor’s garden in November, buying starter plants, and watching them grow, and finally eating them. There’s at least a few more lunches ripening just outside my high-rise kitchen.
Update: Digging in the canvas pot that holds one of the peas, I came across the nursery tag. Apparently the two varieties are called キヌサヤエンドウ and ゆうさや。
Recently, Mukunoki Ayumi gave me a tour of Kuboco, the construction and roof garden company where she works in Shitamachi. She graduated from Nodai, where I am a research fellow. The meeting took place thanks to Edgy Japan‘s Yanigasawa Hiroki. I immediately recognized the building when I spotted the incredible wisteria that is trellised across one building and climbs to the top of the adjoining 8 story building, where it provides rooftop shade on a trellis structure. Mukunoki-san told me that the vine is just eight years old and very vigorous!
Kuboco designs roof gardens and vertical gardens for commercial and retail buildings as well as residences. Since they are a construction company, they are able to combine garden design and maintenance with structural engineering, water-proofing, and retrofitting trellises for vines and vertical gardens onto older buildings.
Mukunoki-san reports seeing a shift from roof lawns to vegetables in Tokyo. She attributes this to customers wanting less maintenance and greater value from their outdoor spaces. Kabuco has roof gardens on both of its buildings, one a more social space and the other full of experiments with soil depth and new vegetables. Kuboco is very hands-on in providing advice about how to build roof gardens and what to grow. Mukunoki-san explained that last summer she grew tumeric because one of her clients wanted to grow it. On my visit, I saw blueberries, carrots, onions, parsley and other food on their demonstration gardens, and admired how they are testing out what can grow in 5, 10, 20, and 25 cm deep soil boxes. And for a while Kuboco’s roof garden provides fresh vegetables to a local onigiri restaurant.
She also introduced me to the Japanese term for “local food”: 地産地消 (chisanchishou, locally produced and locally consumed, with the first and third kanji being the word soil).
The 8 year old wisteria looks like it’s been on this building for much longer. It blooms best when trained horizontally.
I would love to try blueberries, too. It would be so satisfying to eat fresh blueberries, rather than the supermarket ones that have travelled from as far as Chile.
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.
Liquor shop’s green wall captures attention at JR station in Nishi Ogikubo.
I like this green wall surrounding the Dila liquor shop as you exit the Nishi Ogikubo JR station. It brightens up the station entrance and draws attention to the shop. It looks like the same type of wall system and plants that Marui uses inside its Shinjuku san-chome store and in the basement near the subway.
I hope this trend catches on, and more commercial spaces see the benefits of green walls. It would be great to see a greater variety of plants, rainwater catchment and re-use, and habitat creation. For now, any green wall catches attention, but perhaps soon there will be more experimentation and creativity.
At Tokyo’s Design Touch, I came across Britta Riley’s WindowFarm. It’s a vertical hydroponic system for growing vegetables in apartment windows. I like the idea that city people can grow their own food, that vertical urban space can be better used, and the premise of R&D-I-Y (do it yourself R&D), where customers use web “crowdsourcing” to contribute new ideas about the product.
WindowFarm has appeared at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Venice Biennial, and even Martha Stewart’s TV show. The installation I saw really showed off how space-efficient the system is. The parts I am less keen on include the hydroponic system and the pump. The idea of using chemicals and electricity, to me, seems contrary to simplicity and nature. However, I know that many people are strong believers in hydroponic farming.
What do you think? Would you install this system in your home? Could it be done with soil instead of hydroponics? What do you think of creating an online community to support micro-urban farming?
WindowFarm also reminds me of one of the first images from Tokyo Green Space: the “pet bottle” (Japan’s name for disposable beverage containers) supporting a plant in Metro station men’s room. That installation was entirely no-tech, and yet both rely on this ubiquitous and wasteful bottle that we can’t seem to live without.