Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hulked Out Kinmokusei

After spending a few hours at the UN University Market, we decided to walk over to Ebisu in search of ramen. Taking the backstreets as always, we found these hulked out kinmokusei in front of an old house. Two stories tall and decked out in blooms of orange and yellow, it was no surprise to see that their roots could no longer be contained.

It was remarkable, though, to see these roots still holding their soil and retaining the shape of the container. I do imagine these same roots dive under the house, too, spreading ever farther and deeper as the limited soil allows.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Another Bike Garden Blooming!

I have to say that I never suspected gardening in motorbikes would be a trend of any kind, yet this is the third garden I've seen like this. (I've spotted one recently, but heavy rains deny me the opportunity to safely photograph it.) I assumed the first bike garden was an anomaly of sorts, and expressed enormous delight at the use of old motorcycles.

Unlike the first one, this container garden doesn't showcase the bike, but rather incorporates it into the whole scene. The scooter is simply another pot-holder in a conglomeration of them spouting blooms and leaves of all types left and right. North-facing on a narrow street, this little garden must not get much light. Yet, the plants seem to be thriving and blooming right along.

Pots, a motorbike, and hanging baskets held perennials and annuals as well as a handful of succulents. It was difficult to capture the whole, but hopefully this handful of details gives an idea of the feeling. The two-story house was absolutely ringed by plants. Not many of them were tall, but their low-lying presence softened an otherwise crowded sharp-edged place. I do suspect the succulents will stay out during the winter as I've seen before, but I'll have to visit again just to be sure!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Another Morning Glory Monster!

I love taking backstreet routes for ease of travel - more bikes than cars and not even many of those - and for interest. And I'm usually returning with bike baskets overflowing that cause me to go slower than usual, so less traffic is a good thing.

On one of my regular routes for gardening supplies and just after a favorite garden spot is this workshop of sorts. I'm really not sure exactly what happens here, but the large gravel parking space in front of the metal-sided buildings makes me think it might be more industrial than not. What caught my eye this time, though, were the magnificent morning glory vines spreading over the building, it's neighbor, and the power lines. Since taking this picture, the vines have thickened and lengthened even further making the buildings and wires look as though they are simply dripping with blooms.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Morning Glory Green Curtain

This time of year morning glories, surprisingly, seem to be utterly lush. I'm not sure if it is simply the conditions of this particular year or if it is the habit of morning glories themselves. I can't say I've given them much thought up until this time. And this tangle of vines with its electric blooms was enough to not just make me think about them, but stop us on our bikes with baskets full of groceries to take a series of photos.

While it is not the largest morning glory curtain I've seen in Tokyo it is one of the most splendid. Covering a west facing window of a house on the corner of a busy street it must offer welcome shade in late summer while affording some welcome shade. (The blooming vines are traditionally used as bejeweled green curtains in Japan.) The brilliant blooms are a benefit not to be short-changed, either. Worth every moment spent making sure my overloaded bike didn't tip over!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

School Garden Vines

I'm still picking and choosing an assortment of photos from September, and wanted to share this set of a school garden. I'm a firm believer that taking random roads and turns is one of the most interesting and best ways to see Japan. (It resulted in finding a very urban kaki tree, a beautiful mailbox, and some lovely vending machines, to name just a few.) The main roads are quite handy (with various gardens of their own, too), of course, but much of life here is lived in the little streets and tucked up homes behind the quick routes.

This school garden is a good example of that. Meandering back from a nearby nursery, I noticed these vines essentially taking over a playground structure. I went around the corner to discover a fence completely covered in morning glory, goya, and gourd vines with some lovely bloomers at the bottom. (Bloomers as in flowers not lady unders.)

One of the goya had spectacularly gone to seed, and another simply looked perfect for slicing and cooking up. A giant gourd hung somberly among it's leaves, and the morning glories were fading a bit after their long days work.

According to one friend, school gardens, at least in Tokyo, are not all that unusual. At his daughter's school they garden on the roof starting in the first year with morning glories. Vegetables soon follow and in his case, a green curtain heavy with goya and gourds shaded the interior of the building during the hot part of the year. The gardens themselves are incorporated into the curriculum and the harvest into the school lunch. (Let's just say I hope to make a field trip shortly!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kaki Tied Up and Bearing Fruit

Harajuku blends the mad fashion and quirkiness of Yoyogi Park folks with the boutique-shopping-gourmet-eaters of Omotesando, with the twisting backstreets offering a taste of saneness and some quiet.

Literally just around the corner from the lovely little mailbox and prettiest traffic cone ever, was this kaki (persimmon) tree. I like to imagine it's a leftover from a farmhouse that once stood here or someone's kitchen garden from long ago. Regardless of the cramped quarters below a stairwell and next to an air-conditioning unit, some affectionate gardener has tied it back and carefully trimmed it and surely savoring it this month. (It's still green here.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blooming Backstreets of Harajuku

Out walking towards evening in the Harajuku area in mid-September we passed a number of lovely gardens on residential streets and even on shopping streets. All worthy of photos, I found this mailbox and traffic cone beautification endearingly cheerful. A recent shower perked up the colors a bit turning them into bright little jewels.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Urban Rice Field Article on greenz

While biking to Jindaiji Botanical Gardens in September we passed this urban rice field. It's only a handful of meters from a very busy intersection with Japan's version of big box stores on every corner. I wrote about it at greenz, but wanted to share the link here, too, as it was the first time I'd ever seen such a tambo (rice field).

I've been growing my own little tambo, as well. Purchased at one of those big box stores mentioned above, it's just about ready for harvest! It's been a pleasure to watch it evolve through the seasons. Hope you enjoy learning about both!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nihonbashi Park Garden and Helpful Cat

We ultimately choose side streets and byways when on one of our urban hikes. The main streets can be quite interesting, but more often than not it's the small streets that yield the most wonderful surprises. (Like vegetables!) Nihonbashi in September was no different.

After the first great garden followed by the coffee shop green curtain, we found a sweet little park with this flower garden at the entrance. Absolutely full of blooms in a vast array of pots and buzzing with bees and bumbling butterflies, I wandered about in this roughly 2m by 6m space for a good twenty minutes taking photos and savoring every color and texture. It also helped that a very friendly cat came over to act as my guide, too. I was quite grateful.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nihonbashi Green Curtain

Green curtains seem to be all the rage during the summer months here, and they make perfect sense. Some are perennial, some annual, some edible, and some ornamental, but all serve the same purpose: to provide much-desired shade from the raging heat.

While strolling in Nihonbashi and just after spotting another great sidewalk garden, we gravitated over to this big curtain. All starting from an array of small pots, these vines climbed up, over and around the structure to very effectively shade the doorway and coffee shop interior. If we'd not just had a huge lunch we would have stopped in for a cup of something at one of the cool, sunlight dappled tables inside.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

September Sidewalk Near Nihonbashi

I have to confess I've got no great excuse for not posting more here, except the usual busy-ness of life. Farming, gardening, writing, traveling, with a dash of Japanese study thrown in for good measure have kept me occupied these past months. My other blog, Popcorn Homestead, documented some of those adventures in detail, which means this one stood neglected.

Fall's arrival with cooler temperatures and a slower pace at the farm and garden opened a window of opportunity for me to sit down again and sift through any number of photos. Even though I wasn't writing much about them, gardens large and small kept appearing and I kept taking pictures. Resistance is futile.

Strolling the streets in September with one of our visitors, we came across this lovely sidewalk garden. Near the original heart of Tokyo - Nihonbashi - the neighborhood is the usual mix of old and new, but like Yanaka it retains a strong flavor of the old. This garden offered green respite splashed with bits of purple, red, orange and yellow in a bustling commercial part of town. Even though autumn had officially arrived, it was still quite warm that day. We savored our colorful time in the shade.

I'm not sure of the name of the purple flower, but it's vine ascends up the pole behind it nearly as to the top of the second story. I've been seeing them quite alot recently, and it might be a new favorite. An array of pots ran along the side, and recent work must have been underway as the yellow trowel handle illustrates. Or the gardener is like me and just leaves it there for the next workday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Garden Vending

This is not the prettiest or most exciting garden I've ever seen or documented here, but I thought it still quite irrisistible. This little grouping sat atop some vending machines next to a t-shirt shop in Waseda. A rather unlikely place, but not so unusual in many regards for Japan. A simple collection - geranium, a potted pine, and chrysanthemum greens - adding a bit of life to an otherwise nondescript alleyway.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rose Bush Takes Over House

This is another garden I have long admired as I run my regular errands. Watching it change and bloom throughout the seasons is a delight, but at this moment it is at a peak. As noted during a recent walk in Yanaka everything is in bloom at the moment, but roses seem particularly effervescent.

This two-story house has a very small footprint - houses closely abut on either side - but the climbing roses and assortment of other plants envelop it in a jungle. Every inch of space seems to have a pot with a plant or vine growing out of it. The support network - poles, netting, wire, and clips - is somewhat visible in the photos and keeps it all up and climbing. The front gate looked almost impassable with all the branches and blooms.The inside must be filled with delicious scent of the roses and feel miles away from the city life just outside the door.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roof Garden in Waseda

I spotted this garden recently from a friends balcony and had to take a picture. I usually am only able to see these while looking up from street level, so I only get a hint of color and waving tree branches. Or I see them as the train flies by and there's no chance of a photo.

This one looks quite well-established with a variety of plants. Complete with a glass greenhouse and netting to swing over the top to provide a bit of shade and protect tasty berries on what I think just might be blueberry bushes from birds, it looks like a lovely little getaway. I needed a telescope to get a REALLY good look, which would have felt a bit like being a garden stalker. (There's a good pun in there that I need to work on, I think.) These photos will have to suffice for the moment.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Miniature Oasis

This little gem of a garden is just that - little. A tiny line-up of pots with a bunny and a small stone lotus pond behind creates a lush oasis. A refreshing feast for the eyes and heart on a warm afternoon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hidden Sea Garden

On the small lane that runs between the train tracks and a main thoroughfare is a little old house. Squished now between a high rise on one side and a four-story apartment building on the other, this little garden walk leads to one of the few older homes left in the area. The variety of succulents, annuals, and perennials mixed with little statues, seashells, corals, and other garden knick-knacks collected over a lifetime means there is always something new to see.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tiered House Garden

Our neighborhood is, in its way, rather old. Settled as farmland during the Edo Period it is really only within the last thirty or forty years that development has overrun the former fields. There are still a few remnant farms, but those can really only be glimpsed in old farmhouses and a handful of old fields. Interspersed among the new apartment buildings and modern private homes are small lanes of closely constructed one story homes. Many of the residents fill every last inch of space with pots and plants, and the one pictured here today is no exception. Yesterday, in fact we spotted the owner up on a ladder watering plants on the roof over his car.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pots of Gold

I spotted this little collection of potted marigolds under the train tracks near a favorite free bike parking lot (a rarity in itself) here in Tokyo. Surrounded by cement, tarmac, cars, and gravel these little blooms absolutely lit up the space even without the late afternoon sun. Someone not only potted them up and carefully arranged them, but also put up the cones and barriers to protect them from enthusiastic pedestrians making their way to the nearby restaurants and shops. These little spots that create these unexpected moments are one of my favorite things about living in Japan.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Purple Pot Line Up

Last Spring while out running this garden veritably leaped out at me with color. The tiny space is full of pots of purple flowers that can be seen almost everywhere here. Creating a cloud of color on this corner, it's interspersed with a few tulip bulbs and other scattered blooms. It's one of a line of small garden spaces that are set back just a tiny bit from a busy intersection and two busy roadways. A tall white dogwood is just in its prime nearby, as well.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Curbside Garden Favorite

This is a garden I pass all the time as I run errands for the garden. It's quite impressive as the flower boxes are always full of blooms and blossoms. The balcony of this house is also full to the brim with pots that are absolutely overflowing. It's fun to watch it change through the seasons, too. Earlier in the year it was full of broccoli raab greens and bright yellow flowers that, along with cherries, are one of the signs that warmer and brighter days are surely on the way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rooftop Sakura

I first noticed this tree last summer when riding home from the farm. I looked up and was astonished to see a massive tree on top of the building. Last week I was even more astonished to glance up from planting and see it in its blooming glory. When I mentioned it to Shee-chan she too, marveled at it, and later told me its story.

Apparently, the tree once lived near an old house across the street from the farm. The property was sold for development and the land was being cleared to make way for the ten story apartment building that now stands there. The old woman who lived in the old house, though, could not bear to cut down the tree. So, it was transplanted (perhaps by a child of hers) to its current location to live out its days in new penthouse digs.