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.