An interview about WIHL’s greenscape—WIHL’s opening will be accompanied with changing leaves
As a gentle rain fell steadily, Tetsuro Ikeda stood under his umbrella, looking intently at the plants around WIHL. Ikeda, from the Environmental Greenification division of Sumitomo Forestry Landscaping, has been creating the library’s greenscape. He had arrived early for our meeting and was checking the growth of the plants. Despite his mask, his smile was warm, and we fell into a lively conversation.
Trees have faces, too
The work of planting is not just about growing plants. It starts with a consideration of the location. It’s necessary to visit the nursery and select the trees and shrubs to be planted before proceeding to the creation of a construction plan, including the details of heavy machinery work. After those preliminary stages are complete, the on-site garden work finally begins. We asked Ikeda about the unique aspects of garden creation at the facility.
“This planting plan largely involves mixed shrubs. Normally, shrubs are planted along with medium and tall trees, but in this case, to make the design of the tunnel stand out, we decided on a greenscape of only shrubs here.”
As we were talking, the arrangements of many kinds of plants were growing quietly at their own speed alongside the flowing lines of the tunnel that leads the visitor from the front entrance to the side of the building.
“We chose shrub species that change colors with the seasons specifically. For example, Japanese enkianthus and burning bush, which are a rich green at the moment, will turn red around the time the library opens. I also paid attention to the balance of evergreen and deciduous trees in the arrangement. Actually, each tree has its own face, so we have to carefully consider which side to place facing outward.”
[A tree has a face … that notion gives us some insight into Ikeda’s approach. He has surely seen many plants in his career.]
“I look at a tree from various angles to find its most beautiful aspect. That’s rather difficult, because opinion varies as to which side is the face of any tree—but that’s also a fascinating point. The eight bamboo-leaf oaks that stand on the north side are from Gunma Prefecture. I visited the nursery there and chose these from a number of candidates. I have to go to see them because I can’t tell what kind of face they have unless I see them in person,” Ikeda says, laughing softly.
[The greenscaper, in working to identify, select, and determine the character of each tree, could be called a kind of “green producer.”]
With living things, the completion of construction is not the end
When asked why the bamboo-leaf oaks are wrapped with some kind of bandage, Ikeda replied, “That’s trunk wrapping. It’s hard to think of an analogy, but in human terms I would say it is like clothing. These trees have their roots cut so we can transplant them, and they are in an unfamiliar environment. They are desperately trying to absorb water through their roots, so we wrap them in this tape to protect the trunk, which is the lifeline of a tree. Like humans, trees are susceptible to external stimuli such as sunlight and cold wind. We have to reduce their stress as much as possible.”
By the time the trees have grown accustomed to the environment, this tape will break down and return to the soil naturally without human intervention.
Ikeda’s way of talking reveals his great love for plants. After hearing his story about the planting work, we asked him to tell us his thoughts about his craft.
“This work is a part of the construction industry that deals with living things, so even after handing the project over to the client, we will still take care of the greenscape maintenance. Since plants are living things, the completion of construction is not the end of the story. Besides, the landscaping-gardening business has a long history, so I always treat the gardeners who actually do the skilled work with considerable respect.”
As our conversation came to close, we asked Ikeda about his favorite plant.
“Well, let me see. Hmm, sorry, I can’t choose just one,” he said with a chuckle.Experiencing the powerful vitality of the plants so carefully arranged around WIHL first-hand, we found that this greenscape speaks to the bright future of the library as a whole.