Archive for January, 2010


Winter update and further experiments with seeds

Readers might be wondering what has happened to my veggie patch – the last few posts I have focused on hikes and seed experimentation. My small veggie patch is doing as well as it can with the limited sunlight it gets. Here’s what it looks like:


I have laid out the traditional Japanese “wara” (straw) between the onion seedlings to protect them against frost, and a tunnel over cabbages and fava beans. Because of the poor sunlight in winter, growth is rather slow. I have plans to rent additional space to grow vegetables and flowers and am likely to grow busier outdoors from spring onward.

I did consider using reflecting material to redirect sunlight on the windows of the upper storeys of my house on to the veggie patch, but in the meanwhile, I found a site about a 15-minute drive from my house that would serve both as a work place (for my translation work) and with adequate space for gardening!

I have made rough plans too, on what to plant at the new location, and this will be the topic of another post.

Last week I visited my friend’s (Utiyama-san) garden and was presented with several kinds of seeds from the plants in the garden.

Japanese Quince

Japanese Quince fruit with seeds

The first was a “Boke” (Japanese Quince) fruit that revealed gleaming black seeds. This is a flowering tree that yields a fruit (astringent, so I didn’t try to eat it). It appears that one can use the Boke plants for bonsai too, so I promptly planted four of these in my vinyl pots containing seed mix. Let’s see whether they’ll root.

Cherokee rose

Rose hip of the Rosa laevigata (Cherokee rose)

I cut open the thorny rose hip carefully and found 3 large seeds and several hairlike seeds with black dot. Are these baby seeds that will grow? I’m not sure. I retained these also and am looking for further information. If you do have photos or information on what the seeds of a Cherokee rose look like, do send them to me.



 Hawthorn – a member of the rose family

I also picked up a few berry-like seeds from a plant growing in his garden said to give cheery flowers in summer. I didn’t catch the Japanese name at first, so I took the photo with the seeds above and posted it to him for confirmation. Learnt that the name in Japanese was “sanzashi” which translates to Hawthorn. Planted all five of the hard seeds and am eagerly awaiting results.


Japanese Sarcandra (“Senryou”)

Finally, the seeds of the Japanese Sarcandra – a plant that yields red berries in winter and is typically found in many Japanese houses and gardens. This plant is supposedly difficult to grow from seeds – so I’ll be delighted to see any sign of life in the coming weeks.


Have a nice day!

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New Year Hike

My next hike with friends was to Takagoyama on a glorious day bathed in sunlight. At several vantage points, we had a fine view of Mount Fuji. This is surprising because Mount Fuji is more than 100 km (60 miles) as the crow files from the hike location. Mount Fuji, if I’m not mistaken, is the only tallest mountain (about 3000 m) in Japan and can be seen from various distant locations, and even from certain locations in Tokyo!

Mt. Fuji (1)

Snow-capped Mount Fuji towering over the Yokohama-Kawasaki-Tokyo coastline from a vantage point during the hike

I was told that on a clear, cloudless day, the view of Mt. Fuji from Takagoyama was breathtaking. I was happy nonetheless, to have a fairly good view. Here is another shot from the top of a hill during the hike.

Mt. Fuji (2)

Another view of the snow-capped Mt. Fuji

The glorious views from different points during the hike kept us all in good spirits. As we climbed chatting with each other happily, I picked up some plants this time that I was almost about to tread on. I took care to ensure that there were an adequate number of plants in the vicinity, and those that I picked were at unobtrusive locations. One plant taken away from the forests would not affect the environment nor cause other hikers to miss the plant; besides, I intend to propagate them and give them away to friends (There! I got that out of my mind and I can sleep easy now 🙂 )

Wild berry

Wild berry

Picked this plant with the root from a dense bush and promptly planted it in a planter after returning home. The berry is edible and has a pleasant slightly sour taste.


Aoki (Japanese Aucuba)

Gives red berries in winter and has leaves similar to that of the holly. The entire hill was covered with Aoki trees – it appears that the leaves of this plant were used as cattle feed in winter a long time ago.


Shrine built into the sheer rock at the peak of Mt.Takagoyama

We reached the peak after about three hours and found a delightful shrine built into the sheer rock face. There were mats in the shrine for weary hikers that we spread on the floor. Some of the experienced hikers wanted to do an other steep climb of about 20 minutes from the shrine to a vantage point giving a clear view of the surrounding hills. I accompanied them and got some more shots of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding hills.

Yet another view of Mt. Fuji

Yet another view of Mt. Fuji



We got back to the shrine and got out our packed lunches. We had a great time sharing food and I especially enjoyed some of the Japanese pickles made from various vegetables that were passed around by friends. After resting for about 30 minutes, we started the descent. 


We came across a small waterfall and passed lots of maple trees – the leaves of most of the trees had already dropped off. The path was covered with red maple leaves and I felt like walking on a plush carpet. I managed to find one small unobtrusive maple, and  took it home and planted it.

I am sure that once winter has passed, these plants will grow. Until then, I have placed them indoors and am watering them carefully. 


Maple – planted in a planter




Here are some updates:

Persimmon  apple
 cyclamen hibiscus

Clockwise from top: Persimmon, apple, cyclamen, hibiscus

One of the persimmon seeds germinated, and one apple seed too. I’m delighted. I’ll do my best to nurse them through winter. I’m pretty sure once spring arrives, they’ll grow tall and healthy. I also bought a cyclamen from the nursery and hope to see it through to spring and next year too. Of the two Hibiscus seeds, the second one has also rooted – so that’s a 100% success rate.

Until the next post, have a great day!

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January 2010