Secret Gardens

Tokyo Life - March 9th, 2012

Award winning expat garden designer Theodore Jennings reveals his tips for making the perfect urban garden

It may be hard to believe but despite the freezing temperatures outside spring is already on its way. There is no better time than now to start planning your dream garden for the season to come.

But where do you begin?

Tokyo Weekender sat with award winning Outdoor Lifestyle Designer Theodore Jennings of Vacation Veranda, to hear his tips on how busy Tokyoites can create a spring ‘getaway garden’ in the privacy of their own homes.

When is the best time to start thinking about your garden?

It depends. For traditional vegetable gardens, late February or early March is a good time, after the winter’s frost.

However, most busy urban dwellers don’t have vegetable growing time, so I suggest creating a ‘lifestyle garden’, or an additional living space outdoors on your balcony with sturdy, manageable plants that can be started anytime.

I rent my place, can I decorate my balcony too?

Building rules vary but in most cases, you can decorate as long as you don’t block emergency exits nor construct permanent objects that prevent returning the space to original form after you move out.

How do I make my balcony garden unique?

The uniqueness of any garden lies with the garden owner. Whether you create a balcony garden yourself or hire a professional, it should have your ‘mark’ on it. It should be customized for you and be creatively designed to fully maximize the space, regardless of your balcony’s size.

Will my balcony garden be safe in high-winds and typhoon weather?

The impact of stormy weather takes its toll even on the best planned gardens, however, taking simple safety measures like closing parasols, lying down tall objects such as trees, or turning furniture upside down are a few examples of the things you can do to minimize garden damage.

Veranda before & after
I’m not good with plants. I’m afraid I might kill my garden!

If you don’t have a ‘green thumb’, no worries! There are tons of beautiful ‘tough skin’ plants like strong evergreen conifers, cacti, or succulent plants that require less hand-holding.

What are the eco-benefits of an urban garden?

Concrete balcony temperatures can more than double the summer’s heat and go up to 70 degrees Celsius.

A well-constructed garden prevents balcony floor temperatures from rising, placing less strain on your air conditioners, which cuts energy bills.

Any recommended shops to buy gardening gear in Tokyo?

If you’re going to start a small garden, I’m definitely a supporter of using your local flower shops to support the local economy! For pots, tools and fittings, stores like Tokyu Hands have a good selection of the basics you need to get started.

What is your price range for a customized veranda garden?

I have a ‘luxury for everyone’ mentality when I design a garden, so I really try to give each client my best. To date, I’ve never turned down a client based on budgets and I’ve done work as low as ¥100,000.

Vacation Veranda’s Theodore Jennings is winner of the 2011 Silver Medal at the Hibiya Garden Show.
For more info about balcony garden design visit: or contact Theodore Jennings on 090-5211-0053.