What Does Your Front Garden Say About You?

More to the point, what would you like it to say? Warm and welcoming / too busy to care / overwhelmed by life / trying hard / sweet and simple / minimalist / eclectic / modern / unimaginative / look at me world! / creative / lively and joyous / high maintenance / pretentious / well kept and groomed/ stiff and formal? Have you at one time or other given it much thought?

My town’s annual front garden contest has begun. I’m the judge. So at this time of year, I’m prone to pondering this matter. With all the investments one makes in a house and property, the front garden seems to get the short end of the deal. The focus tends to lie in creating an expanse of lawn. Never mind the overwhelming shade, uneven terrain or plainly boring rectangle and the sheer waste of time, energy and expense, the accepted belief that an emerald green lawn is de rigueur is held on to fervently. I cannot fathom why. A little lawn to complement the plantings is fine but even that need not be purely grass. Just as long as it provides a green relief.

Given the futility of such an endeavor and the abundant more suitable alternatives, why on earth would any body want to hold on to this golf-turf dream? Then, upon failing to achieve such status, the whole project is reduced to a stoic persistence in mowing and copious watering and fertilizing as though if done long enough one will triumph. On occasion, such failures are taken with the view that nothing will grow and the whole front garden thing is abandoned. We spend our time in the backyard anyway. So why bother with the front? is the prevailing attitude. So much attention is lavished in the back – patios, pool, flower beds and such. Thats like taking the trouble to wear silk and lace underwear only to then put on a dress made up of burlap.

Really? Do you not wash and wax your car periodically or any time it looks muddy? Why concern yourself with that when all you need it for is to get from one place to another? You do so because otherwise, it makes you look like a slob right? The same way you choose to wear clean, unwrinkled clothes. Stylish and pricey even. The well presented hairstyle, the immaculately made up face, the manicured nails are all testimonials to how much we care about ourselves and how much it matters how others see us.

So why not the front garden? Make it say something meaningful and honest. Curbside appeal is important. I’m not alluding to property values but to your own esteem. What appearance is presented by your property informs the viewer of who and what you are.

Stop making excuses and own that front garden. Too busy to tend flower beds? Then, keep it simple by planting interesting trees and shrubs suitable to the conditions present. Sun, shade, free- draining or clay soil, east facing or otherwise, even or sloped ground etc., Use hard-working ground covers like creeping myrtle or even pachysandra ( yes, pachysandra! It is better than a raggedy ‘lawn’). A four season tree like our own Amelanchier is wonderful. Large properties could have oaks, red maples and redbuds.

Ground too stony and unable to sustain plants? Gravel up the area and install large pots to fill with a myriad colorful annuals.

The point is, do something. Make that front garden say something good about you. All year round. Your neighbors and visitors are forming opinions … And if you live in my town, I’m wandering around looking and judging.

Review the photographs below and see for yourself how quickly you begin to form opinions:

My front garden

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IMG_8421(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

A Case For Camassia

Have you introduced camassias into your garden? No? Why not? I guess you haven’t taken me seriously when I’ve recommended that you start planting these good bulbs of North America. I promise you will be glad to have these natives in your garden.

Blooming in mid-spring, camassias bridge that transition from the early bulbs to late spring blooms beautifully. They come in shades of blue as well as a creamy white. A grouping of them is quite handsome but they also blend well with a mix of other plants. I particularly like how they mingle with the alliums, tulips, amsonia, baptisia and columbines in my perennial beds. The spires contrast well with the roundness of the alliums and the star bursts of amsonia.

In the meadow, camassia join the sea of blue created by ajuga and mysotis. The overall appearance is one of such gentle beauty that it is hard to imagine that so much activity happens in the meadow. The place teems with life. Butterflies and bees busy themselves here all day long. Parent birds forage for juicy morsels to carry back to their ever hungry babies. Toads await unsuspecting insects. Rabbits nibble on whatever greens suits them but never seem to do any visible damage. A neighborhood cat often suns itself on the stone bench kept warm by the morning sun. No doubt hoping to get at targets I’d rather not think about. The occasional garden snake rustles about quietly; its presence noted only by the hushed movements of the low-growing grass. I could sit here all day and watch the goings on.

But back to camassias. They naturalize well and do not beg for coddling. Suitable for both formal and informal gardens, they are in my opinion a no-brainer. Get them this year for fall planting. Don’t make me tell you again.

Camassia

True blue natives
for food and form
Echoing colors
of seas and skies
Spreading nicely
from forest shade
to open prairies
to rocky ties.

From quivers of green
shoot Indian arrows
Piercing early
verdant blankets
Sustaining tribes
across western fronts
These bulbous offerings
make a banquet.

Shobha

Camassia 1

Camassia 2Camassia 3

Camassia 4

Sea of blue

Sea of blue

Camassia 6

Camassia 7(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

And The Music Played On …

There is a God after all! One who listens to me! How else can I explain Open Day in my garden last Saturday?

First we had that now legendary winter – looooong and harsh. Then, spring showed up kinda confused. It was either too cold or too warm. The plants were flummoxed as they couldn’t tell if it was safe to start growing. Some decided to risk it and others remained cautious. Which left me wondering what on earth would there be for visitors to see. The three days leading up to Open Day felt too much and too soon like summer but they were exactly the push the garden needed to get going. Who knew!

Saturday was perfect. It started out on the cool side. The sky was mildly overcast. The sort of condition that makes the colors pop. Precisely what the flowers required – like models at a photo shoot, they ‘talked’ to the camera. Sports Illustrated, eat your heart out. These beauties dazzled.
Later, it got shyly sunny and comfortably warmer. As the youngest of the three bears would’ve said Just right.

Never mind that the amsonia and camassia designed to bloom in complement to the tulips were yet to open their buds. Or, that the replacements to the espalier trees lost to the rodents two winters ago arrived only the day before and could not be planted in time. The columbines, alliums, frittilaria, comfrey and, countless other flowers were also late. Nobody noticed because the tulips, hellebores, foxgloves, apple and pear blossoms, creeping phlox, daffodils, leucojums, ajuga, mysotis and yes, dandelions blazed bright. The vertical garden had progressed enough in its growth to look like a beautiful work of abstract art. I had absolutely nothing to complain or lament.

The visitors, both friends and those about to become my friends, arrived in a steady stream. A pace that is just right for me to have time to talk with anybody who has questions, comments or simply engage in conversation. It is the most enjoyable activity for me. To see my garden through another’s eyes is so fun.

If you can believe it, the day got even better. Musician friends dropped by to see the garden and they arrived carrying their instruments. Oh joy! Up they climbed to the tree house and gave a sweet concert. Just like that, the garden event turned sublime.
Only after they had entertained the all too appreciative crowd, did the minstrels tour the garden. Now that’s real service.

The garden closed to the public at the appointed hour but friends lingered on and soon the outdoor brick oven was fired up, wine poured, gourmet pizzas and tandoori chicken made and consumed, desserts brought by our chef extraordinaire friend completely demolished and still we all stayed on and basked in the magic of the moment.

This day had been offered to us with unconditional generosity and I think we accepted it with the grace it deserved. I could neither plan it nor recreate it just so again.

My gratitude to every person, plant, garden creature and weather gods who gave me this day is boundless. Thank you.

Pretty maidsin a row

Pretty maids all in a row

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Can you see the violist in the tree house?

Can you see the violist in the tree house?

IMG_5461(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

 

 

Hellebore Heaven

IMG_1688I’ve waxed eloquent on the topic of hellebores in the past but I think it bears revisiting. It appears that while I’ve assumed everybody knows and loves these rugged plants, many are not at all familiar with them. Clearly, I haven’t done a decent job of spreading this good plants virtues.

My own love affair with Hellebores started over fifteen years ago. I saw a plant in bloom one very cold day in March when winter had barely relaxed her chilly grip. I simply had to get to know this brave soul. So, I rushed to my local nursery and bought two. They settled into the garden quite easily and grew well. The following year, they repaid my kindness with a plethora of flowers that bloomed well into summer. I had barely paid attention to them all year and here I was being so handsomely rewarded. This was my kind of plant partner – independent, reliable, good-looking, low maintenance, loyal and hard working. Wish I knew more humans with all those traits.

I now have somewhere between fifteen to twenty hellebores in various semi-shady parts of the garden. They do better with a bit more sun than shade. I have them in the perennial beds, under shrubs and, bordering the meadow. At each site, the flowers add valuable color and beauty at a time when these elements are scarce. They are notorious self seeders but because I mulch heavily each spring, the seedlings get smothered and do not thrive. When required, I pot up some seedlings to give away and then spread the mulch.

Hellebore leaves are best not cut back in the fall. They are left on to provide protection to the emerging buds that nestle shyly beneath. Once the snow has melted and spring is just about to start, I remove the old leaves making way for the new growth.

Hellebores are not so palatable to deer and other pests as many varieties are poisonous. The leathery, serrated leaves keep away the curious. The flowers, oh, the flowers! They are show stoppers. Coming in a range of creams, buff, pale green and all shades of rose, a mature plant is spectacular in bloom. They do not scream but gently draw your eyes to their beauty. And then you cannot look away.

The plants are drought tolerant but do best in moist, well-drained soil. Most hellebores can be planted in zones 5a to 8. A few even tolerate zone 9. Reaching only heights of a foot and a half, these relatives of the ranunculus, are perfectly suited to that place between the low growing plants and the taller ones. The plant peaks just when you are weary of the bleak winter scene and impatient for the large bulbs to start their performance. They nicely bridge winter gaps with their evergreen leaves. In my opinion, no garden should be without hellebores. Ever.

So, have I convinced you?

My garden is open this Saturday May 9 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. See here for details. Please do visit!

Also, thanks so much to those who came to my art show reception last Saturday. You made my day! For those who missed it, the exhibit is on all of May – at Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, New York. Hope you’ll get to it. Let me know what you think!

Enjoy these images of hellebores:

This one is actually named 'Dark And Handsome'!

This one is actually named ‘Dark And Handsome’!

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My own rendition

My own rendition

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

Waiting For Spring

In ten days and some hours, my garden opens to the public. That’s May 9 from 10 am to 4 pm. But where is Spring in all her regalia? There is a vague warm up act going on but I’m beginning to wonder if the star acts have fallen asleep backstage. They are well overdue.

There have been years when it has seemed that spring was in a hurry and I’ve been concerned about flowers blooming too early. Not this year. As a friend mentioned recently, I might have to consider putting heaters outdoors to get the plants going. Mind you, given the pressure of getting visitor ready, I didn’t think that suggestion was as funny as intended. My sense of humor is being seriously tested.

I have absolutely no idea what will be in flower on Open Day. I can only hope that between today and that Saturday deadline, the weather will coax many of the bulbs and other perennials to display themselves in full glory. And then, bless us all with perfect garden-visiting weather for after all, what good will it do to have a somewhat wet or chilly climate on that day? The event will be held rain or shine but we all know that visitors like shine. I’d like shine too for if I must await the friendly crowd, I’d like to do so when everything sparkles. When the flowers are the main attraction, my other transgressions in the garden will be happily overlooked.

Like an events planner, I’m working at a madcap pace. Winters overextended stay delayed all garden work by weeks. That is a major handicap. Big tasks, minor to-dos, difference making details, have me constantly reviewing my endless list of chores. I don’t want to drop the ball on anything. A couple of items cannot be accomplished in this time crunch and must wait till after open day – I hope no one will notice. And I’m not telling because then you will notice!

Instead, I’m going to put my intentions and wishes out into the Universe and have faith that I will be heard. It shouldn’t be hard to do because gardening in itself is an act of pure faith.
However, as extra insurance, I ask that you help me out by asking the weather gods to be kind and most importantly, I’d like to see you in my garden on Open Day. Please come.

For details, click here.

While you’re marking your calender (for my Open Day of course), do make note of this other event. I’d love to see you there:

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On Plantsmanship

These past seven days of glorious weather was the sort of gift every gardener covets. Much got accomplished in my garden. Getting my hands in the earth is enormously life affirming. This is where all life begins!

With my garden Open Day less than three weeks away, it has been necessary to amp up the pace of action. The winter that dragged on and on has set us back on many time sensitive tasks. From pruning to seed sowing to getting the compost turned, has been a matter of maintaining grace under fire. It is no fun to focus on chores and miss out on what’s blooming and who is doing what in the garden.

The pruning got done and it has been noted that much of the David Austin ‘Heritage’ rose suffered from the harsh winter. The New Dawn on the two arches, Paul’s Himalayan musk, Bonica and Leda roses have come through all right. With the fruit tree prunings done just a week ago, the espalier is looking neater and the buds are forming nicely. The grapevine prunings are now camouflaging the peony supports. It is best to set up stakes before plants grow too full to manage.

A layer of newspaper, a good two inches thick, has been placed down in the beds and then topped with compost and cedar mulch. The paper works wonders suppressing the weeds and seeds of unwanted self-sowers. It also holds the moisture well and eventually decomposes to further enrich the soil. An excellent and ecologically sound re-purposing of paper. Mulching is crucial to the health of the plants so, it too is best started early in the season.

The composter is now open for the season. It was very satisfying giving it its first turn over of the season. Compost is both mulch and health food. If you doesn’t already make compost, then I strongly encourage you to start doing so this year. It is totally doable and contrary to common belief, do not attract skunks, deer, coyotes or raccoons. A regular application of compost will guarantee the health of the plants and lawn. No other fertilizers needed. Composting is easy, organic and economical. By making your own compost, you will be certain of what it contains and hence you’ll be feeding your plants only the best. As in our own nutrition, home-made is better.

On the subject of food, a comfrey tea is a fabulous elixir for plants. I make this later on in the season when the comfrey plants are done blooming the first time around. I cut back the plant and put the cuttings in a large bin, cover it with water and close it tightly. Placed in a remote location like the woods, I forget about it for a few weeks. The steeping plant renders the water super-rich with all sorts of healthy contents. It also smells very foul – hence the remote location. Filter the water and feed the plants in the garden. They will thank you profusely.

I re-planted the entire checker-board garden. It was looking ragged as the old plants had been there a while. As much as perennials come back every year, many do not remain robust and need to be replaced every four to five years. So, a whole new batch of creeping phlox was planted. Its youthful beauty is disarming. This area will be radiating a pale mauve when the buds open in a few days.

Likewise, the espalier has been under-planted with lavender. Not only will they look pretty but I’m hoping to attract lots more pollinators. The dwarf blueberry I purchased recently has been given a home right next to some roses and across from the pear section in the espalier. I’m already dreaming of blueberry muffins and lavender infused lemonade.

The hellebores, crocus, scillas, iris reticulatas, forsythias and hyacinths are in bloom. The daffodils are popping open daily. The meadow is coming to life.

Still more needs to be accomplished but I’m determined to be fully present in the garden. Yesterday, as I repotted plants, I noticed it was Open House at the bluebird house. No bluebirds came looking but chickadees and sparrows were the prospectives I saw. I shooed away the sparrows.

I also observed that some butterflies had determined that the weather was right for them. There were a few adventurous cabbage whites and admirals flitting around taking advantage of the early blooms.

While we are enthusiastically going about gardening, I thought I’d include the latest list of prohibited and regulated plants in New York state. Check here:

http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/isprohibitedplants2.pdf

As in medicine, every gardeners first tenet should be to Do No Harm. Plant wisely.

Do check out the Shop’ page for my note cards and fabric pattern. Prints of my art work are also available – I’m currently working on the Gallery page. Stay tuned!

Please also check the Happenings page to get information about my art show all of May with reception and poetry reading on May 2 and, my garden Open Day on May 9. Mark your calender and come! I look forward to seeing you at all the events.

Setting up the planting pattern in the checkerboard garden

Setting up the planting pattern in the checkerboard garden

Phlox all planted! Don't miss the diagonal pattern.

Phlox all planted! Don’t miss the diagonal pattern.

Up close to a daffodil

Up close to a daffodil

Crocus

Crocus

Grapevine prunings on peony supports

Grapevine prunings on peony supports

My red glove temporarily in the opening of the bluebird house - to ward off sparrows

My red glove temporarily in the opening of the bluebird house – to ward off sparrows

(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

Nesting Instincts

The birds are getting busy. Even as I gradually shrug off winter apathy and answer the call of spring, the feathered ones are already well into the season. The season of renewal and rebirth is well under way.

A pair of cardinals have commandeered the old apple tree in the meadow. Covered with the exuberant growth of Paul’s Himalayan musk rose, the tree offers the perfect shelter. This rose bears lethal thorns so any nest within is well protected and well concealed. The romance of a home covered in roses appeals to me. Even the knowledge that birds do not have a notable sense of smell, does not hinder my satisfaction that the rambler will be in full bloom and radiating its sweet scent when the baby cardinals are born. This tree has been the keeper of a cardinal nest for some years now and at the last winter storm, I watched the adult pair sit atop the ‘umbrella’ of rambling rose and observe the snow fall. As though they were simply onlookers to a parade from their very own balcony.

Friends of mine have a college of cardinals that resides in his rhododendrons. Which leads me to believe that these birds are indeed quite romantic and select sites based on not just practical. Charming is important as well.

There is a robin who isn’t wasting any time. She ( her industry makes me think it is a she but I’m biased) took her time inspecting various locations in the garden. A site in the espaliered fruit trees has been selected. One by one she ferries small twigs and dried grasses to this place. I haven’t yet determined her mate as I only see one robin at any given time. The focus with which she works is impressive. Sometimes, holding building material in beak, she pauses at a different location. I believe she does so to lead away any creature that might bring harm. So wise.
I’m so glad the dormant oil treatment of the fruit trees has already been completed. Otherwise, it’d have to be put on hold or not done at all so as not to taint the eggs or babies. I do enjoy picking apples and pears in the fall and it would be no fun to find them riddled with bugs.

This year, I’ve put up a bluebird house. I’m hoping fervently that they will come. Earlier in March, a friend spotted a bluebird not too far from my garden so I’m optimistic. The literature on siting the birdhouse is daunting but I’ve done my best. The one fact that bothers me is that apparently, sparrows like such houses too and we are told to thwart them if we see them near a bluebird house. If a sparrows nest is found in the house, it is recommended that it be removed. I know I cannot do it. While I understand that sparrows are not native and their population needs to be curbed, there is simply no way I can do such a thing to a fellow mama. I just can’t. I don’t mind shooing away a house hunting sparrow but remove the nest? Not a chance. So the blue birds had better get to this house first.

I hope that this year I will have the pleasure of encountering a hummingbird nest. Unsurprisingly, these diminutive birds weave fine grasses and plant fibers to make the nest. Then they hold it all together by using spiderweb silk! How does this tiny, exquisite creature know about the super-resilience of this material? It blows my mind how smart and skilled birds are. Nature astounds and impresses consistently.

To support all the construction in progress and yet to happen, I’m hanging up a nesting wreath. It is a plain wreath of grapevine prunings to which I insert feathers, string, ribbons, grasses, mosses and small twigs. Nothing artificial or fake of course. I know birds like to liven it up as, on several occasions I’ve seen nests with a piece of bright ribbon, a strip of foil or even a gold thread woven into it. After all, any good interior designer knows that when working with earthy neutrals, a shot of color or shimmer will give a room just the right pizazz.

So, while I’m not planning to expand my family, the birds have inspired me to do some spring cleaning and repairing and a spot of redecorating. I have been given the cue to make the best possible nest for my loved ones.

I hadn’t planned to but this post segues perfectly to reminding you to consider sprucing up your homes. New curtains or a throw pillow. Upholster a tired looking chair. It is also that time of year to start thinking wedding/engagement/baby shower/hostess gifts. Stock up on stationary to send invites or thank you notes. Yes, despite the ease of e-mails, a handwritten note still works best. So, do check out the ‘Shop’ page for my note cards and fabric pattern. Prints of my art work are also available – I’m currently working on the Gallery page. Stay tuned!

Please also check the Happenings page to get information about the Rocky Hills talk this Thursday, my art show all of May with reception and poetry reading on May 2 and, my garden Open Day on May 9. Mark your calender and come! I look forward to seeing you at all the events.

Baby robins in the espaliered apple trees

Baby robins in the espaliered apple trees

Watchful mama robin

Watchful mama robin

 

Goldfinch within the buddleia

Goldfinch within the buddleia

Cardinal on top of the thorny Paul's Himalayan rose

Cardinal on top of the thorny Paul’s Himalayan rose

Dove nest in pine bush

Dove nest in pine bush

(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

Persecution Complex

What would you say if you were told where exactly you would be allowed to reside? There is no choice given. How tall or wide you could get determines your chance of survival. What you eat, how you look, your coloring, how you smell, are all subject to one person’s wishes. When you could have babies or even how long you could live was not up to you at all. In fact, just about any habit or proclivity was selected for you. One strike and you’re out. That would be an absolutely terrifying nightmare right?

Yet, we gardeners do it all the time. Just ask the plants in our gardens.

Persecution Complex

Gardeners are bullies
They take nature
create faux naturelle
Steadfast conviction
A false heaven
from a perceived hell.

Controlling, suppressing
Evicting all not selected
those neither lovely nor rare
Cajoling, coaxing
favoring the beautiful
with attention and prayer.

Dictating designs
color schemes and shapes
to suit personal tastes
Taming independent tendrils
relegating the unsuitable
to the compost waste.

Plants submit
to ruthless acts
that test and torture
But who is true master here,
the one with secateurs
or that which enraptures?
Shobha
'Controlled' chaos in the meadow ‘Controlled chaos in the meadow
'Bounded' by borders‘Bounded’ by borders
'Training' espalier tress‘Trained’ espalier trees
'Designated' to climb the gazebo‘Designated’ to climb the gazebo
'Caging' the peonies‘Caging’ the peonies
'Forcing' bulbs‘Forcing’ bulbs
(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

Communion In The Garden

This week has a divine quality to it. As though my normal activities have taken on more significance. In this season of renewal and rebirth, I am distinctly aware of the holy and revered. Or it could be the extended hours of light that elevate my spirit. After a particularly harsh winter, I am desperate for signs that better days have indeed arrived. Even as an Alberta Clipper is anticipated today in my neck of the woods, there is a sure impression that spring has begun. That silent presence of the sacred is palpable. In the thawing earth, the emerging snowdrops, in the fattening buds on the pussy willow.

So my mind has been tuned in to the talk of God in the media. Who is God Today? The Future Of God. Faith And Spirituality. Captions to provoke the mind and get one to think, start a dialogue and with any luck, understand ourselves better. I have been ruminating on this matter too.

Nature is my temple. It is amongst the trees, the birds and butterflies that I sense the presence of the source of all energy. In the call of the cardinal, the raindrop beaded Alchemilla, the perfection of the spider’s web, I’m conscious of something bigger than myself. So much bigger.

Who has watched a sunset or sunrise and not been struck with awe? The sight of a rainbow is cause for pause. Every single time. Which one of us is immune to the newly unfurled rose?

Every time I work in my garden, it is in service of that higher presence. I meditate as I weed, I pray for the well-being of that which I plant, I vow to do better in my efforts. As I work, I surrender my fears and anger in the conviction that I will be freed from the shackles that hold me down. Answers to problems are revealed when I’m focused on doing something useful beyond myself. Being occupied in the garden strengthens me physically, mentally and emotionally.

Nature delivers eloquent sermons in showing the cycle of life from seed to fruit and back to seed. I bear witness to miracles all the time – the transformation of the caterpillar to butterfly, the explosion of blooms on what looked like mere sticks just a few weeks ago, the cicadas that know to surface at just the right time. From the tragedies of failed plantings, destroyed nests and hard work coming to naught, I am taught that life has ups and downs but that I cannot stay down. I must get up and keep going. Trusting that things will work out is a matter of faith. Learning to accept what I am dealt is just as important as dreaming big.

In minding nature, I am never lonely. After all, we are each a vital part of a beautiful whole. I see how kindness matters – our returns in the garden are directly proportional to the care we put in. Coming in from the garden, I am invariably converted. I am not the same person who went into the garden earlier. I believe that this is how I pray best. The wind carries my intentions and my wishes. The Universe will deliver.
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Botanical eggs 1
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Robin eggs 5.23.14
(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

Never Too Busy

In a world that moves at an accelerated pace and glory is given to those who are perpetually busy, it is hard to come to terms with the oft repeated mantra Keep it simple. Somewhere in the haze of obligations and self-imposed , ambitious agendas, we have become a society that justifies its existence by how preoccupied it is. We are busy being busy.

It appears that busy people are also the electronically connected people. The busier one is, the more their time with a digital device. Face time has replaced face to face time. At the risk of sounding outdated, I have been picky about the technology I embrace. All my writing and filing is done on the computer. E-mails are my chief form of communications though I still deeply value the hand written note. I rarely text anyone but my daughter and almost never have my cell phone turned on. That last bit drives many crazy but my thinking is that I’m either home or I’m not. I prefer to have conversations without disruptions. When I’m not home, it is because I have other things to do and hence unavailable to take calls. Facebook and Twitter are mere platforms for the work I do and not to broadcast the minutiae of my life. In all honesty, if I got into all the social media available, I wouldn’t know how to find the time to read a book let alone hear myself think. This is not meant to be judgmental. I believe we each must know our own selves and our role in a community. I’m content with my limited association with technology. I simply feel no compunction to be in the thick of it all. I have no FOMO*! But what are we really saying about ourselves?

That we are not quite in charge of our lives? Or we are so important that we haven’t the time for more prosaic matters like watching the world go by? Perhaps it is how we indicate our success? Well, I for one have decided not to be too busy. What I truly want is to clear up my calender, free up my days and unclutter my life to be with those I cherish or do the things that matter most to me.

In order to make myself available to what is important, some things must be let go. We all take on more than our share simply because we want to be useful or because we don’t know how to say ‘no’. We start defining ourselves by the things we do and relieving ourselves of some of it feels as though we’re surrendering a part of our identity.

In my own quest to simplify and focus, this letting go is about becoming more of who I want to be and what I really want to spend time doing.

For purposes of this gardening-centered site, I’ll share what I’m aiming to do and not do in the garden this season. While certain aspects of my life demand greater attention this spring, other matters need to be postponed or adjusted. And still more obligations must be relinquished.

First and foremost, I gave up the idea of planning any big project in the garden. There are a couple of notions I was intending to try out but, I’m putting them on the back burner where they will simmer till the time is right.

This year, I am not going to start any seeds. This decision is a big one for me. I belong to that cadre of gardeners who take pride in doing most things from scratch. It is an arbitrary distinction and all in ones mind that ‘real gardeners’ must per force grow from seed. Not true of course but I had allowed myself to accept that belief. As easy as it is to grow from seed, it takes time, space and attention to successfully grow flats of annuals and vegetables. Since I have a few other events to prepare for, I will not stress myself by adding on the extra effort when I’d be just as satisfied to get the required flats of plants from the nursery. Hence, I will be free to put my mind where it is most needed.

Similarly, I am one who does not want to entirely automate the watering of plants. I like watering. For one thing, in the heat of summer, the water feels good as it splashes around. More importantly, when I water, I observe the garden and take note of what looks good, what weeds have crept in, insect activity, what is in bloom or fruit etc., However, as I will be away off and on, I’m going to have most of the watering on an automated system. It will give me peace of mind to know that the plants are not being neglected due to my hubris.

I will continue to weed regularly and do my best to not worry when I cannot. It’ll be okay. Due diligence will pay off with fewer weeds in general.

Whenever help of any kind is offered, I shall accept. Pride or a bid to express fierce independence is over-rated don’t you think? After all, what am I trying to prove?

While liberating myself to be more present for all that is scheduled to happen this spring will enrich my enjoyment of them. Including time spent in the garden.

And any time I find myself with nothing to do, I will simply sit and take in the gifts of nature. I’ll watch the grass grow, listen to the seeds explode from pods, smell the rising perfume of flowers as the day unfolds. I’ll track the flight patterns of bees and count the butterflies on the roses. I’ll follow the slow blushing of the apples. In not doing anything, I’ll have so much to keep my attention.

No, I will no longer be too busy. Instead, at any given time, I’ll be fully engaged in life. You see, I want to remember showing up.

* – Fear Of Missing Out

Rose arch
IMG_5150
Tree house
Apple blossoms
Stone bench
Apples
(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar