Friday, October 26, 2007

Happy hour station platform garden, for commuters.

illustration by Cecilia
Click Here for Japanese translation by Mariko Umezawa

Permaculture gardening is for everybody, suited Japanese salarymen included. Even non-cooks can take pleasure in growing their own 'Sipping Garden'. The idea is this: passengers will congregate here because is is shady. They will linger becuase it is fragrant. Then maybe, they will get inspired to grow their own flavored lemonade at home. Or possibly something stronger...

The main feature will be a curtain of hops that creates shade during the blazing summer months. Hops grow quickly, have a nice honey fragrance, and the flowers that dangle so gracefully - the hops - are used for bittering beer. Even if you aren't inspired to start brewing your own beer just yet, its nice to know where beer comes from.

We will try 3 or so varieties of hops, planted to grow along ropes, and see which ones we like best, and which ones like living on station platforms. Then we can confidently plant hops to cover the whole platform wall, for next year's garden. More green, less grey. To learn the details of being a successful beer gardener, click on the link above.

Blending hop vines with other vines will make things more interesting, and is insurance in case of failure- at least something will survive and look nice. I've chosen a blue, yellow and green theme, so here are some blue clemantis. Passion fruit vines also provides shade, blue flowers, but are edible as well, so lets try it. I don't know why Ive never seen it here in Japan though....?
You stir its juicy golden flesh into drinks, or onto your yogurt for balcony garden breakfast, one every morning in the summer. The roots need cool and fertility, so a big planter pot is essential.
Cecilia at the Tage Andersen exhibition, Rosenberg Palace, Denmark

photo from

barley photo from

Barley looks fluffy and pretty, and recalls trips to the countryside. Then you eat it, and it makes you beautiful. Search Google for barley recipes. There is a special drink the English make from barley...I will tell you later.

beer photo from beer haiku daily

If beer encorages haiku, and haiku is about savoring what you have got, then its all Permaculture. Click the link above for some nice poems.

Salted edamame are eaten along with beer, as a happy-hour snack. Easy to grow at home, and they put nitrogen in the soil, enriching it for the next plant.
The edamame will grow up the station wall in the afternoon sun, or maybe they will join the hops on the rope trellis, to get the morning sun too. The warm wall might make them more productive. Lets try and see. Here is a nice trellis from trellink.

Star-shaped Borage flowers are edible. They are lovely in salads, or floating in fruit punch. You can put one each in icecubes, to entertain yourself. They attract and feed bees. If you want to put honey in your lemonade, its a nice gesture to thank the bees by leaving out some food for them. If one of the gardening team gets big ideas about bee-keeping, we may soon be able to eat Tokyo Station flavored Urban honey.
lemons are evergreen, so beautiful all year round, and gifting us with useful lemons most days of the year. The blossoms in spring may cause commuters to miss their trains, as they linger in the clouds of fragrance.

Barley can be used with your lemons to make lemon barely water, the traditional summer drink that gives Wimbeldon tennis players their stamina. After boiling barley, you are left with cloudy barley water, like soba-yu*You mix in some sugar and lemon, maybe lemon zest, and then chill.
*water from cooking noodles, that the Japanese then flavor with the remains of their soba sauce, and drink

Over winter, the lemon, the rosemary, and maybe the lavender will still be vivid and green(or blue green). We can let the others die down, to grow again next spring - they are all perennial.
Each day you pick one lemon, mix its juice with honey (melted in warm water) and cold water and put it in your cute drinking flask. This could save the world from having to create and process 365 disposable plastic bottles each year. An. infusion of lavender makes it special, but don't overdo the lavender.

'At arms reach' was Coca-Cola's slogan, and that is why they are found in every corner of the globe. If we have nice things growing at arms reach, things to harvest, squeeze, blend and infuse, and if we prepare ahead so there is always a bottle ready-to-go waiting in the fridge, we wont need Colca Cola. We won't be making any rubbish to put in the recycling bin.
Gardens against Global Warming!

"You can solve all the problems of the world in a garden. But people don't know that, and it makes them very insecure"
Geoff Lawton

I'd like to put the stories of these plants, and how to grow and use them, onto little signs, to be read while waiting for the train. Maybe local schoolchildren can draw them. I would like to have chairs placed as close to the garden as possible, to enjoy its shade and fragrance. Curved benches would be nice. The tiny curved fence is to hide plastic pots, rather than buying matching ones, which could be heavy or expensive. The fence could be twigs and twine, or even corrugated iron.
Do me!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

permaculture edible water garden for station platforms

Wetland garden for station platforms. This garden invites passengers to scoop water for the plants while they wait for their train: people are part of the design. Every plant has two or more funcions, naturally. Try and guess

This plant has dreamy fluffy leaves, delicious stems to eat, and lives for 20 years.
There are so many enchanting groundcover plants with blue flowers, and this garden is elevates them to a few centemeters from the eyes of passers-by, for full appreciation. Trailing varieties protect pots from direct sun on blazing days, and they act as a living mulch, keeping water in, keeping weeds down.
These tiny fanflowers would work too. Thankyou asymptotia
Bullrushes purify pondwater, and their reeds can be dried and used to make ...
Tivoli gardens
...a thached roof for your duck.
a van gough chair

This plant is beautiful beautiful. Like most things in this garden, it will be gone over winter, but its bulb will lay in wait. We can cover the soil with some clover-like plant for winter. That will modestly cover the bare soil, and act as green manure, to be tilled under in spring.

Could we have fish in the pond? Since water will be circulated, oxygenated, they will be clean and happy, and make the garden even more interactive. Maybe with a mesh just under the waters surface, to prevent escape.

Lotus: enjoy the fragrance and flowers, maybe choose a variety which you can eat once the leaves die down in winter. they seem very quick-growing, and will make a big impact.

Taro for eating, and looking good: loves water
purple taro

All these plants rely on very fertile, well-drained soil, so we need to get started now, creating wormcast from kitchen scraps, in time for the spring.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Station Platform Gardens - contageous permaculture

Starting with the cute little Otemachi line, that wends through prosperous, old communities of inner Tokyo, the plan is to create paradise on train platforms.
illustration by Cecilia
We start by showing off our skills creating small, semi self-contained potted gardens and edge gardens. The idea is that if what we create is alluring enough, and acheiveable enough, the commuters who pass by day after day will get the idea to copy it themselves, so the greening of Tokyo spreads by itself.
Tivoli Amusement Park, Copenhagen
We will choose plants, objects that perform not just One, not just Two, but Three functions: this makes them valuable enough to be really worth caring for and investing in. This purple eggplant gives surprise, beauty, and eventually deliciousness. The herbs below utilize empty space, confuse pests with their fragrance, and help reduce evaporation and weeds from the soil.
The basket stops teenagers (sorry guys) from sitting, stubbing ciggies, or other acts of just not noticing.

Gibili museum, Tokyo
As well as intimate Zone one Useful-to-Humans Gardens, there will be Zone 5 gardens, grasses, reeds and plants native to the neighborhood, that will give the ladybugs and lizards back their homes. Zone 5 gardens let the evolution of nature continue, and are a way to give back a little to the earth, who has given us everything we have

Garden of Eden, Albert Park
Gardens would catch their own water...
...and store it in a way so it stays fresh and lively: here it is becoming oxygenated, humidifying the surrounding plants, creating lovely music and ions to wash the spirits of tired old us.
Plants in baskets, old packing boxes, Cecilia's balcony

Cecilia in Santa Monica.
Pots can be anything that holds soil and drains water: recycled pipe Maybe old tofu-making barrels, baby prams, bathtubs... Please post any good ideas below
Creating the most edifying station garden used to be the cause of wars between stationmasters, all trying to win the competitions set up by their Rail Companies. Look at this lovely man, so proud.

I wonder if the presence of a loved station garden discourages graffiti?

Kagoshima tram line
The presence of a large swath of green, giving shade and evaporative cooling, will certainaly discourage CO2 emissions. Tokyo summers are becoming so hot, that nobody needs convincing global warming is a problem: they will jump at any doable solution.

My favourite solution is worm farming, rather than burning of kitchen scraps. Saves the precious fossil fuel to be used on a higher purpose, returns nutrients to the ground, and reminds us that there is no 'rubbish' in nature, just a good thing in the wrong place.

Maybe being given a worm farm for free would be one of the incentives to commit to the platform garden volunteer team. People with no sun at home can just make worm castings (fertilizer), and bring it to 'their' garden on the station. Any more ideas for encouraging volunteer station gardeners? Please post.
some stations could have more formal gardens.
Vanilla bean plant
But I think the desirable qualities for plants are: rare varieties, clambering, fragrant, fast growing, perennial, edible.
Passion fruit vines probably fulfill more functions than any other plant, climbing up trellises to create shade, fruit, beautiful flowers. I wonder if they will look straggly in winter? They need big pots of soil, and lots of worm castings.
Station gardens could be the closest brush with nature for the day, for many a weary Tokyoite
Bourage: edible, fast-growing from seed, and Blue!

Flowering onion. Admire, then eat.

Angels Trumpet, for shade and fragrance.

Because this project could be largely self-sustaining, and the environmental benefits so attractive, it will most likely be able to win grants, especially as a cross-cultural Australia/Japan project. Since it already has strong financial support from the Tokyu railway company, the chances of winning more support increase.
Below are bodies who's criteria for funding we meet:

If you know of any more, please post below, or e-mail me.
Of course the more station garden pictures we see, the more inspired and hopeful we will be: please send.