Sunday, May 23, 2010

Help Cecilia with ideas for Creating an Enchanted Edible Artists Garden

Here is my 'discussion opening' draft drawing for the enchanting garden we will create together. Have a go yourself. Click the photo below, trace its bones on your laptop, and fill it in with the pathways and flowers and waterways you'd like.
Things to think about:

Its heavy and dominating, but its interesting. What would you do?

Retaining walls
Because I want a '3D' garden you can go hiking in, with heaped up earth, I've put these old railway sleepers in, staggered, to keep up the earth.
It reminds me of my dear Melbourne garden, loved and lost.
Its a bit of a barrier though. Maybe a two-tier stepped front wall would be better.
We need to use up the grey fireplace stones, but because they have that penetentiary feel, Ive said -'go to the side of the garden', but maybe that's a waste. Ideas?

This land gets morning sun, dappled light thought he tall oliander which I will thin out.
The color theme is blue, mauve and soft pinky-orange.
Content theme is edibles and beautifuls.

Being an edible garden, we must create a special, private place for Daku to tend to his constitutionals. Hint - his legs are very short. This may be a useful fact.
Under Asaba's Garden Bridge by Helana

Wouldn't it be nice rending all the floor, tiles included, with a tamped-earth like cement mix, colored the warm tones of the main house. Student's dads can help. We can re-paint the white house while we are at it. White sparkles in Greece, but always moulders in Japan.
Do you know who can take charge here?
I want to enliven and open up the up the drain canals, semi-filling them with stepping stones and potted water-plants, so that children don't fall in.

When It rains in Japan, its a deluge.
Dance and other performances are held here, so they need covering sometimes.
Id love to have goldfish, but how to keep them from being flushed away?

Asaba-san emerging from her gallery to the courtyard.

The Giraffe-like pattern in the doors and peep holes is one we might see popping up again and again, it the stepping stone shapes we use, cutouts for backlighting, and maybe even the shapes of hand-made, wall-mounted seedling pots.

Helana and Mum Miki have a go designing

We can do whatever we like. We just have to think it up first, gather enough desire, then find all the things were are missing, and put them in.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Go wild decluttering - Permaculture makeover in the jungles of Shibuya

My current design challenge: Permaculture makeover of RuuRuu and Q's vast garden, rich in self-sewn trees.

Shibuya Crossing by Altus

Its an 8 minute walk from Shibuya Crossing. Which kinda makes me wonder how my life got to be this interesting. Right now we are gathering designers to attend weekly creation planning parties, so if you are in Tokyo, Come.

Our first task, as always, is to define 'Zone One', then give it back its power.
Zone One is that that area that is just a hands-reach away from where you spend time, and here you place things that need your attention, things that are in danger of being forgotten, put off, and whithering.
Here I put my seedlings, my hand sewing, and my grant applications (with a helpful pen). Here is where I realized my Japanese text book should be, and the result is that an indolent, not-very-bright lady like me has a job writing magazine articles in Japan, and an international life.

This zone, like a lively river, needs to be in constant motion. If you don't tend to the task this week, you probably won't next week either.
The power of Zone One dissapears if its clogged with 'non-active' objects - magazines you will not read, , tools that you left in the rain, the half-dead aloe vera plant you could use, but never will.
This is when we start telling painful truths, and send things to the bin or to Zones 2 or 3 or4 for infrequent use or storage.
Mui the artist and aspiring Pirate of Creativity, with Dad Q and participant Sofuku

So I call out 'I need somebody who is overly kind', and give her the secateurs, with instructions to send a misplaced plant to its next life, via the compost heap. Some people generously see the value in everything, every broken down crummy object. I love these people, but don't want to spend time in their gardens.

Every plant and object got scruinized and we got the owners to get into a conversation, somthing like this:

Do we still love each other, take care of each other?
Are you being your most useful self like this, or better off composted?
How about a nice, peaceful holiday in storage, till you are wanted?

The presentation workshop was 'Breathing life into interiors: Permaculture for a Clear, Motivating Home'. We looked at all the clever passive gadgets and customs in David Holmgren's Ingenious home. We Looked at my Beautiful home in Canning St, and the Permaculture design tricks that made it work so well, that attracted the very people who made it beautiful.
Then we looked at how we can use Zoneing and other Permaculture tricks to get us to succeed in three things:
One lovely, challenging thing to achieve in the next 2 months
One lovely, challenging thing to create in the next two years
One stubborn problem we will finally dissolve

Sofuku got me into her 'hug the earth' project.
She photographed me hugging her beachball of Mother Earth, and then gave me the chance to write Her a letter. All these years I've been standing on her, made up of nothing but her, and I've never yet had a chat with her like this. Thank-you Sofuku, for giving me a chance to talk to my Mum.

Mui and RuuRuu at afternoon tea, pondering what nook of their palatial home to Permaculturalize next. With her Parisian Hat Parade coming up in the Autum, she is going to need all the support her ordely, richly creative house can give her.

We are Family - diverse, unique, connected. Handmade pots for amazing balcony landscapes

I found these hand-made pots while editing the mob of unloved ragamuffin potplants downstairs, and hauled then up to my new treasure trove balcony garden here at my new home in Asaba Art Square.

Collections of unrelated plants in unrelated pots all have a predictable character. Like a random elevator full of customers, just tolerating each other. 'What are you guys doing together?" I want to ask.

When the plants, the pots are diverse yet related, the chemistry kicks in, and love happens.
The same pink in the stem of one plant is peeping through the glaze of its neighbors pot. The frill of one leaf is repeated in the undulating edges of another pot.
Balcony Garden Jazz.

I saw these beautiful pots by new friend Mika Noguchi at the Tokyo Design Festival, Big Site.
What flowers go here? Round blue cornflowers? Hosta-like leaves, repeating the striped fin shape? The starburst shapes of onion and garlic flowers?
I'd love to give it a try.

And look what I found at another stall, knit by Hitomicro. She can hang on the wall, or over my knees while I sit and sip something pastel-colored, watching the jasmine-scented spring breeze play with my garden. What an adorable family.

What would I plant in Mika's pots?
Precious amazing round flowers, such as:

Hepatica wildflowers

Fin-like Hosta leaves from Lets Go Gardening

Go big: Blue Allium from Brooke house

This could be such a gorgeous garden. Plan for it to attract butterflies, Persian cats and an Italian pastry cooks, and life will be beautiful

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What would you do with this? Doorstep Garden Design Challenge

Design Challenge: Make this flotsam garden into something enchanting.

Design information:
Exclusive Tokyo neighborhood
Gets full morning sun, very hot in summer.
Neighbouring dog contribution issues.
Beside the front door of the owners home-office. She writes passionate and beautiful books on edible gardens, but her enthusiasm for eating from this particular gutter-garden is not high.
Ower recently pulled out the mint, saying 'Its creepy'.

What first aid would you give?

What would your first planting scheme be?

With an unlimited budget, what would you create?
Think about low-med-high plants, colors, lighting, water features, compost, seasonal changes.

Double-click this to open large,
trace gently on paper over your computer screen,
fill in with drawings of something cool.

Looking forward to your comments, sketches or mails before next Wednesday ( May 19th) to

Planting day is the week after. If she makes your design, of course you will get a present - shes Japanese.

Here what the Joneses did.
I'm impressed at how they created another world, a foresty world, with just two plants. These two greens are not your average green. I'd never put them together, but don't they look a striking couple.
The whole thing tinkles with movement when there is a breeze, a lively garden. No soil for the mutts to go fossiciking in. Poor doggies, what will they do when we've finished?
A solution Here creates a problem Over There, and thats life. Keeps us save-the-worlders from getting uppity.

The edge between real and not - balcony gardens of Omotesando, Tokyo

From this Rabbit hole in the lobby, you can peep down to the tea party in the basement,
and if you are brave, join in.

I set out for a play-date with the writer Holly Horiguchi, to my favorite nook of Tokyo - the back streets of Omotesando.
This place of tiny, transient dreams is probably responsible for this whole 'Edge Garden' addiction.
This high-rent area has the Dior and Chanel brigade, but unlike Ginza, is a meadow of these tiny, creative shops, conceived and created by real people, for the joy of making their vision real.
For a season, at least.

Galactic gardens, serenely defying gravity, earthquakes and other disasters.

Snails as natural janitors, cleaning up after your tea party, shiny-clean.

A plume of something enchanting.
Cconstellations of cheerful yellow flowers in misty green.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Decluttering & Balcony garden Workshop on Asaba's Bridge -

This weekends permaculture workshop theme was 'Breathing life into interiors'. We looked at ways we could use garden ideas such as Zones to create spaces that motivate us to action, making the life we want.

Lunch in Asaba-san's back garden. Well, the temple at the back of her back garden.

Asaba-sans gallery is a comfey space for presentations

And the deck joining her house to mine a wonderfully cluttered target for our new decluttering skills.

The people who attended all have big dreams. I hope my Permaculture can get them that much closer.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Being a generator of Surprise - dandelions and wildflowers come to visit

I was on the run for three days, from one Permaculture Presentation to another, sleeping all over the place.
Look what welcomed my worn out old self back for the last event - A vase of wildflowers on the breakfast table on my deck. Clover, self-seeded poppies, erigeron.
I knew it wouldn't have been Asaba-san - she loves and accepts everything, and you can't co-ordinate without 'ordaning' that some things belong, and some don't. "I'm like a man", she says "no sense of style".

"Yoko-san!" I guessed.

Then I walked into my room - drying dandelions at my window. With Yoko's fingerprints all over them.

I remembered one of the books she wrote and illustrated. I saw it 11 years ago, when I last visited her as a Servas traveler. It was called something like 'Come on!". A mother is getting her child to hurry hurry, put on shoes, put on coat, run up the hill to see - a sunset.

The whole world alive in vivid orange and mysterious mauve.

Yoko is rough in conversation, not Japanese at all.
But a Master of generating delicately dramatic surprises.

Yoko from Kunitachi, at Cecilia's
post-Permaculture presentation party #2

Designing and carrying out an act of surprise is one of the ultimate freedoms, Ive just realized. Nothing remiss about not giving them, completly not required.

But Yoko, I want the new me to be like you, a richer giver of surprises.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Carefully Fermented Strawberries to fizz up your life

I woke up early on my first Monday(late April) at RuuRuu and Q's legendary Den of Creativity in Shibuya.
In walks Mrs Natural Bakery, Amy-san, with the Jar of fizzy strawberries in her hand.
Yesterday at my Permaculture after-party she tried to explain how she used strawberry and other fruit cultures instead of yeast, but I just couldn't get it.
Now I see.

Amy and Ruu Ruu prepare welcome party food, with city-delivered veggies grown by their organic farming mates.
Declutterers heaven (my sideline. I'm just lying in wait).

It works like this. You sterilize the jar with boiling water, preventing mould and not-good microbes from spoiling the batch.
You then fill the jar with fruit, and some cooled, once boiled water, to the rim. The good microbes go to work, and in a few days, you get this fizzy, CO2 filled 'vitamin water'.

You can drink it, and become as bright sparky as Asaba-san and her mate, my host Ruu Ruu

Or you can use it to make your bread rise, as Mrs Baker does.
The bread was lovely and light, but with no trace of strawberry taste.


I once grew hanging basket strawberries on my balcony, their fragrance was intense, and kind of drove me crazy. They were safe from marauding snails up there, but the birds had a great party, till I decided to wrap them all in misty bridal tulle. They succeeded because I planted them in 100% home grown compost, made with lots of woody material - forest fruits are in their element in a fungi-rich forest-floor style compost.
And I am back in my element, surrounded by the dreamiest, go-getter Japanese.

Weed cuisine at Asaba's Art Studio

Dandilion, doku-haku (poison-out), and other culinary weeds from my new neighbourhood mountain

Asaba-san goes to bed after midnight, then gets up all perky for her 5am morning walk. She and Daku the Dog took me out for second walkies, later that first morning, weedspotting.

This weed is exclusive to this mountain, the locals go to some trouble to protect it. By eating it and keeping it in our minds. The leaves are fragrant, and good in tempura - important information for what will follow later in the day.

Lucky for Duku the dog, the mountain is a very short one. And only five minutes walk from home.

Asaba-san sparkling as usual

Cobra weed

Asaba art school is downstairs. Its where children beg their parents to take them after school, a kind of inventor club where children are important, and life is full of surprises.
Including making weed tempura.
Including meeting your first ever forigner. A fluffy one.

Children's Inventor Club. Illustration by Cecilia Macaulay

Armed, but not dangeous. The children are actually having fun here. They are hand-making odon noodles, to be boiled and eaten with a thin stock soup and tempura. Basically playdough, with a little less salt, and a handfull of chopped weeds for color.

The sun came out, the weeds marvelous, and the children brought me bowl after bowl of crispy hot tempura and chewy ropey noodles. It was my first day of spring, and I was happy.