Friday 31 December 2010

Happy New year! and the best gardening for 2011!

One very interesting thing I discovered here in japan, is that seals are a very big thing. They are very used, mainly as signatures, but I have seen them applied in many other ways.

So, since I was trying to make an identity for my garden and the blog, of course I could not be left behind. I looked around but having them made was too expensive for me, so decided to make one myself. I browsed around some stores and they had a lot of do it yourself tools and material for making them. It was very easy and cheap enough.


My little garden in japan seals!

To make them I just printed the image and pasted to the seal rubber temporarily for reference, then I carved it with a little knife cutter. I did two of them with different designs that go together, that way I was able to have two colors on it. It takes some good alignment and to wash it every time is used, to keep the inks to stain each other. The result is a bit rough, but I like it. I already use it for the mint labels I gave away to my friends at tokyoDIYgardening.

What do you think?

Now on a different topic, how about another blog carnival for starting the year?
I think most of you are having a new year resolutions post. So I think it would be a good idea to put them together.

Just a post about what do you plan on doing at your garden this next year, maybe about one particular plant you want to have, a renovation you will do, a special patch you will grow, a new gardening technique you will give a try, or any other project you have prepared for this new year.

I think between 15 and 20 of the month will be great, what do you think? Please let me know on the comments.


Happy new year!

And so we reach the end of another year! I hope It has been a great year for everybody.

Keep posted, I have so much more planed for next year, many projects and ideas I want to try.

Happy New year, Wish you the best for 2011!

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Bauhinia blakeana ~ The Hong Kong orchid tree (香港蘭)

I am back from my trip to Hong Kong! It was a really nice trip. I got to eat a lot of great food, tour around, see a lot of things and experience a different Christmas from what I know.


Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

On my wanderings around the city I was lucky enough to find one of the Orchid trees that are the landmark of the city. The Bauhinia blakeana (Chinese: 洋紫荊) is the floral emblem of Hong Kong. It appears in Hong Kong coins, the flag, the coat of arms and it even has a statue made in its honor.


Hong Kong orchid tree

Here is a little of what I found about the tree

The Bauhinia blakeana, or Hong Kong orchid tree (香港蘭), is an evergreen tree from the genus Bauhinia, It has large thick leaves and purplish red flowers. It is very fragrant, orchid-like flowers around 10-15 cm across, and blooms from early November to the end of March. It is sterile (does not produce seed), and is a hybrid between Bauhinia variegata and Bauhinia purpurea. The tree prefers a sheltered sunny position with good soil. Propagation is done by cuttings and air-layering.

Honk Kong Flag

Hong Kong Flag

The cultivation of this tree originated in Hong Kong in 1880, intensify in 1914 with some heavy planting around the city, and then spread world wide from there. It is said that all of the cultivated trees derive from one cultivated at the Hong Kong Botanic Gardens.

It is a very beautiful tree, no wonder why they choose it as their emblem. Any landmark/emblem plants from your cities?

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Tulips Sprouting in winter!

We had a rainy and cold November here in Tokyo, but this December has been a bit more mild. This had some benefits for my little garden. For example, the seedlings are growing nicely, the strawberries got some strength and some of the flowers are forming new buttons for a winter bloom. But, the weather has caused one more surprise.


My tulips are sprouting early!

While I was watering the plants the other day, I noticed a little green head poking out of the ground . One of the tulips decided to sprout! Now, being a first time tulip grower, of course I got a bit worried. They were not supposed to come out until next year. So I went on-line and check what I could do. It seems that is not that of a big deal. It happens some times, the leafs might grow and if they are strong they can survive, or if it is too cold they will go brown. But, if everything goes ok, the bulbs will not be affected and will still grow one more time in spring and bloom nicely.

For now all I can do is cover the little green sprout and wish the cold will stop its growth. At least now I know that they did not got rotten, and they are growing down there. Patience is key, I just have to wait and hope for the best.

Also, the other day while going to the garden center I saw some very beautiful autumn tulips for sale there. I was tempted to get some, but I know I would not have the space. Maybe next year.


Autumn Tulips from japan

On a different topic. I will take a couple days for going on a short trip to Hong Kong. So I will not post any until late next week.

I hope you all have a very nice holiday. Merry Christmas!

Saturday 18 December 2010

Gardening in japan Tokyo-DIY-Gardening

Living in a far away country I have had to deal with the language barrier many times. I am still a beginner in Japanese and had much more to learn. Because of this many common activities, like going to the store or getting directions, can become a daunting task. So when I started growing my little garden in japan one of the aspects I had to consider was how to overcome all this cultural differences. I could see everywhere profs of how important and beautiful gardening is in here, they have astonishing gardens all around and a very inventive and special approach to the art of gardening. I definitely wanted to learn from them.


Spring sakura in a garden in Japan

Fortunately, gardening has become a bridge for me to reach out to the new culture. I have a lot of fun trying to communicate with people and asking them about this plant or this growing method. Some days the only time I get to speak Japanese is when I visit the garden center or a little gardening shop (not many nurseries in the middle of the city). Little by little, with very simple sentences, a lot of gestures and the occasional drawing I have gotten a small insight into Japanese gardening.


Beautiful autumn Japanese garden

However, doing things this way only allows me to see the tip of the iceberg. But, very luckily, and thanks to my blog, I have meet a lot of wonderful people here in Japan with whom there is not a language barrier problem. And also thanks to them I had gotten a much more in depth look into the Japanese gardening culture.

Two of them are Jared Braiterman and Chris Berthelsen. I had the pleasure of going with them recently for a fascinating walk around Omotesando danchi (an old neighborhood downtown Tokyo).

They have an amazing website called Tokyo-DIY-Gardening. There they have a very inspiring recompilation of stories, examples, instructions, photo essays, observations, interviews, articles and much more about urban gardening. All of it is done with a main focus in sharing and creation around low-cost, simple and easy to do ideas, mostly implemented around Tokyo.

Here is a small description of their project from them

Our Tokyo DIY Gardening project is about people having fun with nature in the city. Too many people think you need to be an expert to grow plants. We want to show that growing plants for food and decoration is easy, and that there are many ways to create space for gardens in even the densest and most crowded city. There's also something social and even magical about improving our always imperfect public spaces. 

They sometimes have activities, like a workshop at The Chiyoda arts center, where they mapped out some Tokyo and its green spaces from the personal experiences of the participants.

One more thing, on that last meeting I was lucky enough they accepted a couple of mints shoots I took from my main plants some time ago. It is great to be able to share part of my garden, It is great to see my little garden in japan growing much farther apart from the little balcony where is set. I am sure they will grow very nicely under their care.


Little mints from my garden

This has also gave me the inspiration to share much more of my little garden, I have a lot of extra seeds, plants and bulbs to give. Anyone wants some?

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Coldframe V2.0

I had been wanting to upgrade my coldbag, because even it works really nice, the little seedlings could have even more advantages. In particular I wanted something that would let more sun to the little seedlings. 


The new seedlings are doing great

So I started scavenging for materials to use. I didn't wanted to build one out of wood and glass, because my goal was keeping the portability and cheapness of the cold bag. I considered using a cardboard box, but I knew that on the first rain, or with the water pouring out from the little started planter, I would end up with a cold frame soup in no time.

Then I remembered that here, at some grocery stores, they always leave all the plastic boxes from the food, all cleaned and ready for people who need them to pick them up. So, one day I went grocery shopping, I took a small look at their little recycle corner. There I found the perfect box. It was a deep, thick expanded polystyrene box, in perfect condition.


Building the new coldframe

The build was very simple.
  1. I carved a small window on the cover of the box to leave only a frame. Being sure to leave a small edge

  2. Cut apart a transparent plastic bag to have two sheets to use as "glass".

  3. I taped one of the transparent sheets to the edge I had left and cover the hole in the frame.

  4. Turn around the lid and tape the other sheet from the inside. This will make the window a sandwich of plastic, air and plastic.

  5. Finally use little pieces of tape to cover any hole in the borders. The more airtight the better

I used two plastic sheets, one in each side of the cover. That way the insulation will be much better. The air in the middle will work as the insulator. The same way a double glass (double frame) windows work better than a single glass window. 

So far it has worked beautifully. The little seedlings growing there sprouted in no time, they have even reached the size of the ones in the coldbag already.


From back to front: Bekkana, Spinach, Komatsuna, Lettuce

The first to grow were the Bekana and the Komatsuna, then the spinach and finally the lettuce, coriander and the chives. I was surprised the chives and the lettuce sprouted, they are supposed the be past their season. They must really be very cozy and warm in there. I hope they all keep growing nicely, I will post more about how they develop later.

Now, the only setback is that the new coldframe has such a good insulation that every morning the inside screen appears all damped because of the condensation. I have to dry it a bit and clean it up so it will let the sunshine in.

I recommend anybody who wants to have a nice cheap planter at their homes to use old expanded polystyrene boxes. First, because is much better to reuse them than throw them to the garbage. Second because they are great planters. Expanded polystyrene is a great ecofriendly material, even though it certainly doesn’t look like it. It is a great insulator, and has an amazing endurance for such a light weight. It definitely won't mold and It will not degrade easily, so I can last lots of gardening seasons.


The first seedlings sprouted in 4 days

One more thing about polystyrene. It is highly recyclable, but it very hard to do it because it has to be sorted away from other materials, which is a very troublesome task. This causes a big problem because it is usually thrown with normal garbage and pollute instead of being recycled. So, if you can rescue some polystyrene from going to the dumpster, and give it some more years of use please do.

Thursday 9 December 2010

My little garden in japan December 2010

Hello everybody!
I am sorry for my little absence this past week. I suddenly got very busy with school and other things and I had to concentrate all my effort on it. It got me in the middle of the carnival, so I did not had a chance to finish seeing all the great favorite plants you input. The good news is that I am free now and I will get to see all the great post that joined. Thank you!

I am very happy! The carnival was a complete success. I did not expected more than 20 submissions , but we got almost 50. Thank you very much to everyone that participated and also to those who came for a visit to see all the great posts. I appreciate the effort, the time and the encouragement. It was great hosting and having everybody drop by here.

I think after this it would be great to have more, but first we have to come up with a new theme and date, preferably next year to have some time for the holidays and to freshen up. Maybe a new year gardening resolutions post carnival would be nice? What do you guys think, any ideas?

Thank you again, I have been enjoying blogging and meeting everybody. It has been really a blast.


My little garden in december

Ok, now for the status of my little garden lately.

  • The cold frame V2.0 is working, The sprouts are big and healthy, they will need to be taken outside soon.

  • There have been some really strong winds lately, so my flowers are a bit bald, but I am sure they will recover soon.


Winter cosmos is a bit fragile, and always get very hurt by the wind but it recovers quickly and nicely

  • The strawberries seem to have caught some strength, because all of them are developing new leaves, even the one in quarantine.

  • The globe amaranth started to dry, but it was to be expected of the annual, I am surprised it lasted so long. Other flowers are also starting to get to the end of their season, but I think they will still last a bit more.

  • The geranium are still blooming, but they don't seem to have any new buttons, so I am guessing those are their last flowers for the season.


The beautiful last geranium flowers of the season

  • The herbs are doing great too. They seem to be growing very nicely. Only the dill suffered a bit from the winds because it one of the tallest. It was swinging so hard that I thought it will get torn away, and I put it in. I think that save it and it didn't got any real damage.

  • The grapevine, the maple and the blueberries started to drop the leafs, I think winter is finally coming.

  • All the rest of the plants seem to be doing great.


The stock still has beautiful flowers

I have been a bit stingy on water for them because I don't want to have any powdery mildew like last year, but they seem to be happy even so.

How about you? how is your garden lately?

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