flowers garden

Plants in the City

_tmp_5234070f2a10f_geometry-650x650_v-When you’ve moved to the city from the country, you want to take a little piece of suburban to your urban. I moved from the suburbs early last year and mourned the loss of my garden which I had worked tirelessly on for many years. Jasminum, colchicum, tulips; chaotic and colourful. In bloom the garden was a wild rainbow and in winter she appeared more sombre but still striking in simplicity. I had spent hours working with the soil, trying different places, digging, watering, trellising. And let me make this very clear; as a landscaper by trade it is the equivalent of the taxman returning home only to have to process his own accounts. Sometimes it was a real struggle. Bereft, I left, city bound hoping that the new owners would cultivate and protect all my painstaking hours. The garden had been a hive of activity for various forms of life, a scene of splendour for both birth and death. In the evening the scent would drift gently into the bedroom window and wind its way around the marriage bed. The garden held special memories.

On moving to the city, I fretted over the possibilities that would be afforded me in terms of a garden. As a terminal gardener, the idea of not being able to wield my trowel out of working hours was too upsetting for words. I began to turn my obsession to scouring magazines and blogs on how the elusive city gardener survived in such an inhospitable environment. I knew that a number of friends had traditional ‘allotment’ style gardens that they kept and a number of my more wealthy contacts had the luxury of roof gardens but in my heart I felt it wouldn’t be the same. Or so I had convinced myself.

Six months later everything changed. 

Bereavement had made me blind to possibility and it wasn’t until I bemoaned one too many times about missing my suburban haven that a work colleague told me to create a garden indoors. “What?” I exclaimed. The idea was simple. Explore the possibilities for your indoor space and then look at indoor plants and balcony /window sill flowers. I became intrigued. The minute I started to sell it to myself as a surmountable diverse challenge my old obsession reared its glorious head and shook its mane. Suddenly a wealth of possibilities sprung to life like my once beloved suburban garden in the spring.

Vague memories of Andie MacDowell’s garden in the film ‘Green Card’ came to mind and I thought about what I could grow and cultivate. My first port of call was to investigate what I could grow. I had always fancied the idea of growing my own produce but had previously focused more on flowers and plants. I turned my keen eye towards fragrance and moved to the herb aisle of the garden centre.

Although the idea of weeds conjured up ideas of back breaking removal work, I liked the idea of having mint in the house. Its smell and uses are ubiquitous, opening the door to a wealth of opportunities. Bear in mind mint is a fast grower, an untameable beast, which is exactly why I liked it. I then moved on to placing other herbs that would perfume as well as provide in my kitchen sill boxes. The effect was immediately transformative and lifted the look and feel of the apartment. At the moment I have my mint, oregano, coriander and some rosemary. Alas my basil died – quite the tragedy but I do believe it is the season. My little herb garden near heaven.

My next target was indoor plants. I decided here to be ironic and mix a peace lily with Aspidistra or the Cast Iron Plant. My rooms aren’t awash with light so I have had to take this into consideration. These gorgeous girls now sit proudly in my living room and I couldn’t be happier. In my bedroom I decided to go with an indoor Chinese happy plant. And I can honestly say I am very happy with the plant! City gardening is more complicated and does lack the physical graft of the suburban expanse but it is incredibly rewarding. My plants are thriving and my mind is a matrix of what I can accomplish next. Looking forward to keeping you posted.


My name is Greg Pyriot and I am the owner of covering ground a landscaping company based in Victoria. I have worked in the industry for over 10 years. Gardening is my passion and I live and die by my trowel.

environment food

Crops planted on rooftops, underground create new jobs, lower temperatures

BY Harumi Ozawa
Agence France-Presse Nov 5, 2008

sweet-potatoesTOKYO — Tomohiro Kitazawa makes an unlikely farmer. He works neither under the sun nor in the fields, instead reporting for duty in the bustling heart of Tokyo.

As Japan’s capital city struggles with problems from food safety to global warming to unemployment, a growing number of people in the famously crowded metropolis are becoming city farmers, planting crops atop tall buildings or deep underground.
Kitazawa, 31, arrives for work in Tokyo’s financial district of Otemachi in a heavy- duty silver elevator. What was once a bank’s underground vault has been transformed into a subterranean world of greenery and warm, moist air.

Kitazawa was one of many young people here left without a stable income as Japanese companies slashed jobs. But he finally ended years of job hunting when he found the position growing vegetables right in the middle of Tokyo.

“I felt a bit odd at first growing vegetables like this, but I’ve learned its merits,” Kitazawa said.

The state – of- the art farm, known as Pasona O2, was created by Tokyo- based temporary staffing agency Pasona Group Inc. The farm carefully adjusts temperatures, humidity and lighting so vegetables can grow under the ground.Kitazawa grows a few different types of lettuce in one of the six ‘farms,’ which look somewhat like space laboratories divided by glass doors that slide open and shut automatically.

The other farming rooms grow rice, roses and vegetables such as tomatoes and pumpkins.

“ We want to activate Japan’s agricultural sector by dispatching enthusiastic young people,” said Sayaka Itami, leader of Pasona’s new business development division. “ By creating this new style of farm, which is bright and clean, in the middle of Tokyo, we want to draw young people’s interest into farming,” she said.

She said that urban farming helped her company by creating a new source of jobs.

City farming also offers a solution for another problem in Tokyo and other major cities — the so- called urban heatisland effect.

Cities’ temperatures rise in the summer due to the urban environment of heat- absorbing concrete buildings and pavement. In a vicious cycle, the heat boosts the use of air conditioning, raising carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Encouraged by environment- conscious Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, a number of building owners in the capital have introduced roof- top gardening as a way to prevent overheating.

“Sweet potatoes grow strongly in the tough roof- top environment of harsh sun and strong wind,” said Masahiro Nagata, a staff member of NTT Facilities Inc.’ s environment business department.

The plants are particularly good for roof- tops because their wide leaves can cover the whole surface and are efficient at transpiration — evaporating water — which has a cooling effect.

The temperature of a roof area not covered by potato leaves was as much as 27 degrees Celsius hotter than an area covered by the leaves, according to a survey taken on top of the NTT Facilities building.

The vegetables are consumed locally, helping ease another growing worry in Japan — the safety of its food.

Japan, which has limited natural resources, imports around 60 per cent of the food it consumes — a higher rate than any other rich country.

Public concerns have mounted about tainted food, particularly produce imported from China. In the past year, Japanese people have fallen ill from eating Chinese frozen dumplings and green beans laced with pesticides.

NTT Facilities is targeting not only big office buildings in Tokyo but also schools, hoping to market “ Green Potato” nationwide.

Nagata said he hoped more children in urban areas would learn about the environment and the fun of growing food with their own hands.

The excitement is already felt among office workers in Ginza, the glitzy Tokyo shopping district where real estate is the priciest in Japan.

Yukio Oki, a spokesman for the Matsuya department store, was delighted with the basket- full of vegetables — tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelons — he harvested on the rooftop.

“We harvested lots of vegetables and enjoyed a savoury vegetable curry,” Oki said.


Upsidey-downy plants

I first saw these Sky Planters by Boskke a few years back and have lusted after them ever since. The design is contemporary but striking and the concept is so simple its a wonder no one thought of it sooner. The kit consists of three parts – a pot with a wire on the bottom of it (to be hung off a hook), a ceramic reservoir to control the release of water to the plant and a ‘lid’ which clips into the top of the pot, keeping the plant from falling out.

Luckily, I have a boyfriend who knows what I like and I got some Sky Planters for my birthday last week. The first one is assembled and hanging from a hook in our bedroom.