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How Does Tokyo Make Its Space Green

We all know how important it is to have trees and plants in the cities.  They absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, filter harmful particles from the air, lower temperatures – just to name a few.  With population growth and climate change, it is more important than ever to have more trees and greenery in the city.  Tokyo, with a population of over 9 million, is one of the most populous cities in the world.  How does Tokyo make its city green?  Some observations from a recent visit provides some interesting lessons.

Create more space for plants

In big cities, every inch of land is valuable.  Everyone wants more trees and green, but where to plant them?  Well, turns out, if you can’t do it on the ground, you can do it elsewhere.  Take a look…

In an office building

In this building, you don’t see a glass wall at second and third floors, instead you see…trees!  Yes, trees, tall and dense as they block out most of the outer spaces at these floors.   Only from the 4th floor up will you see the glass walls .  This is a green building, literately. a green building 1   a green building 2

On the wall

This is a big train station, with a bullet train station inside.  The foot traffic can be heavy.  Look at this stair – the wall is completely covered by plants. a green wall under a stair Opposite the station entrance, is another wall, also covered by plants. Over the wall is a busy boulevard with heavy traffic, but you almost can not feel it, as here on this side all you feel is quiet and comfort. a green wall

On the base of a flower bed

Not just a flower bed, but one with a green “skirt”?  Nice.  Planting at the base of the flowered bed adds more plants and green to the space, enhance the view, make the air fresher and environment quieter. a green flower bed

A space of trees doubles as…

In Tokyo, trees don’t simply line the streets, they are used in quite some other ways.  Here a space with trees and plants is used as…

A rest station

This space is in front of a shopping plaza, just off a busy boulevard in Ginza, Tokyo.  Here the colorful sitting blocks in the trees and plants provide a perfect rest area for shoppers and people who walk by. a rest station

A part of art

You will find this beautiful view at a street corner right across an entrance of the Imperial Palace and the moat surrounding the palace. Here, the tree is the centerpiece of this very elegant piece of art. According to the information bulletin, “These camphor trees (ones shown in the photo) have been on the site since the 1970s, long pre-dating the construction of the building.  During construction they were planted elsewhere, and then replanted…as a symbol of the building.” The 2 jade boats on the water is a throwback to the days when “Tokyo was once a city where boats piled the moat as a waterway”.  Trees here have become an integral part of the environment, and history. a tree as the centerpiece At the train station shown above, the green wall is like a piece of art too. Look at the all the greens of different shades, heights and textures. a green wall 3

Bicycle Friendliness

Tokyo is a city quite friendly for bicycles.  In some parts of the city, the bicycle lane is not in the streets, but on sidewalks.  The bicycle and pedestrians lanes are distinguished by the different colors on the floor – red for pedestrians and grey for bicycles.  It is safe and easy to ride a bicycle here. bike lane on sidewalk There are parking areas for bicycles on the sidewalks, near a train station, etc. bikes in Tokyp street Using bicycles, instead of cars in a city can reduce carbon emissions, help with the air quality and reduce the heat island effect.  Facilities like these make it easy for bicycling to be a way of life. In summary, while Tokyo is a big metropolitan city of over 9 million people, aboundance of trees and greenary makes it a much cleaner (air) and quieter city than you would imagine for such a big population.  Trees are critically important for a city’s environment, we can plant more of them in the place we live in too – in the streets, parks, and our gardens.  

A California Native Garden: How Long Does It Take to Bloom?

When a garden is installed, naturally, everyone hope all the plants will establish and grow. Specifically, everyone wonder: how long will it take to bloom?  Last fall, in the blog post “From Brown to California Native Charm” we talked about how a brown lawn was transformed into a charming garden with many California native plants.  It looked great when finished, but when will it become a garden full of flowers? A water efficient garden just installed

Winter Time

2016 was an unusually wet winter, with copious amount of heavy rains. At night, the frost was quite brutal to the new plants.  Luckily, with the exception of two to three plants, all were live and well.  The plants did not grow too much during the whole winter time, about 5 months after they were planted.

a water efficient garden 2 months after install
Winter, in the rain
Spring Time

When spring came, it surely looked different!  Colors started popping up, became bigger and denser later in spring.

a water efficient garden in spring
a water efficient garden in spring

There are 3 prominent California native plants in the garden : Matilija Poppy, California Golden Poppy,  and Monkey Flower, which all bloomed at this time.  Others like Hot Lip Sage, Blanket Flower, and Primrose also bloomed wonderfully. CA native plants in bloom

Summer Time

As summer approached, temperatures rose sharply.  Several heat waves hit the San Francisco bay area, with temperature going up to as high as over 90F.  How did the plants hold up?  Did they fizzle? Not a chance!  With the hot weather all the plants remain strong.  As if spurred by the heat, the California native Red Buckwheat exploded into this splendid blossom, like a dancer in hot pink bursting onto the stage. The blanket flower also expanded its early colors into full blown spectacle.  A garden full of colors finally came, just 8 months after the plants were first planted! a water efficient garden in summer

From First Planted to Bloom

As this garden illustrates, for a water efficient garden with mostly native and drought tolerant plants, it only takes 7- 8 months to go from newly planted to full bloom.  In this case, if you install a garden in fall, you can see the first blossom next spring.  Isn’t that nice? The plants can really grow during this period of time.  In winter they did not seem to grow much, when they might just be storing the energy; when spring arrived, that energy came out in full force and propelled the rapid growth like magic. Look at this native plant Red Buckwheat.  When it was first planted in October, it was this tiny plant.  After 6 months in May, it grew quite a bit, but there was no flower yet.  Then, in the next 2-3 weeks, all of a sudden, the bush expanded by two times in size and the hot pink blossom broke out from nowhere.  It is quite a view. CA native plant growing process The blanket flower also went through the same magic. CA native plant growing process

Benefits of a Water Efficient Garden

Before this garden was installed, it was a lawn (turned brown from saving water during the drought).  Now that the new garden is fully grown, we can do a comparison.  How do they stack up?  What are the benefits of a water efficient garden? a lawn in CA drought

Saving water

To keep the lawn lush and green, it needs about 600 gallons of water a week, and even more in the extremely hot days like the ones over 90F couple weeks ago.  The garden that was installed, on the other hand, only needs about 1/6 – 1/4 as much.  This means some 1500 gallons of water can be saved in a month, enough for 3 months of indoor use for an average family in California.  The secret to this much water saving?  the plants – all are drought tolerant, and  drip irrigation system.

A Beautiful View for the House

With all the vibrant colors the garden adds a beautiful view for the house. Better yet, it changes with different seasons.  In May, it was yellow with the California Golden Poppy; in June, the hot pink from Red Buckwheat and red from blanket flower splashed the space.

Provide Food to Bees

Bees and other pollinators like the native plants, as they have been feeding on them for hundreds of thousands of years.  Look at these bees on this Golden Poppy – they just like it, even when most its flowers already faded and they can find other plants in the same garden.  Bees are hugely important for us, yet they have been on a decline.  Plant more native plants in our garden,  bees surely will appreciate it! a bee on a Golden Poppy

Santa Clara Rebate Program Open

The Santa Clara Landscape Conversion Rebate Program is still open, and you can apply for its rebate.  Take advantage of the program and plan for converting your lawn to a water efficient garden.  Find out details here. Act today, and see a water efficient garden in bloom tomorrow! a water efficient garden in bloom