First few weeks at RJG / Niwashyu

とても面白い!(…Or very interesting!) I have been initiated into a very hard working team, with a friendly, positive and determined attitude towards work. I began my internship by learning how to do the landscape design drawings of birds-eye and perspective views for clients. I love to draw, so this was a great start and something I look forward to doing more of.

English clotted cream gifts meet Japanese adzuki bean sweets!

Since then, I have been getting my hands covered in my favourite stuff – soil! The maintenance work has been physically tough (no exercise needed in the evening / weekend!) But it keeps you fit and there’s always an 美味しい (tasty) lunch! During this work, I’ve had the chance to help choose plants, giving me an awareness of the seasonality of this work and the species available for city dwellers to grow. I have pointed out and chosen a couple of varieties good for insects, bees and butterflies (nemesa and lavender) as well as for putting nitrogen into the soil (clover), which may help other plants grow. A small contribution to the sustainability of Tokyo’s sustainability, but every little helps! ☺

Arranging flowers chosen from the garden centre for a client’s balcony.

Most species requested by clients are evergreen and low maintenance – not so good for wildlife (due to the low variety and few flowering plants). Many insects, bees and butterflies, for example, need flowers with accessible pollen and so not only is the presence of flowers important, but the shape and variety too. This is obviously a challenge for the sustainability of cities. However, with the seasons grading into autumn and winter perhaps this is not as important at the moment. Such as insight into the clients’ mind-set for gardens is further knowledge from my first trip to Japan, which focussed on issues with traditional 町家 (machiyas – traditional houses) and housing design, such as fires from natural disasters. This has resulted in a choice of concrete as the current building material.

Life in the trees of Tokyo gardens…

Clients also prefer only a few plants and mostly fences / paving for low maintenance, a further challenge for sustainability. Fallen and dead leaves are always cleaned up (this is either taken for composting or is incinerated) – although only small areas of soil are used in this inner-city gardening, it may still benefit from the incorporation of leaves through burying them within the soil, giving vital organic matter and carbon. However, this would be technically difficult and time consuming. I have noticed that a ground cover of mulch is often used, which gives a nice finish and an important cover to prevent soil erosion. Such erosion could occur in heavy rain or very windy and dry conditions, especially for sandy soil. I have worked on a range of soils in the short space of two weeks, including sandy and dry soil, waterlogged soil (from unusually persistent summer rain) and soil rich in organic matter giving it a characteristic dark brown / black colouring. Rubble in soil from housing construction has also posed some difficulties in planting, and is removed when necessary.

So, it’s been a busy first few weeks, but highly productive and educational! I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here and thinking about ways to encourage clients to have a more sustainable outlook on their gardens for wildlife and climate change!

Oh… and I’m picking up some 日本語 (Japanese) too! ☺

Food for thought: Remember, everything is connected and what you do today will impact tomorrow… and areas of the world you may never have thought about!

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