Planting Bulbs With Henriette

On Friday, October 23, 2015, about 1,500 bulbs were planted in memory of Henriette Suhr. The weather was perfect for this project – sunny with a seasonal chill. In clear view of the hills blazing fall’s russet and ochre hues, about a dozen of us planted what will be a most splendid sight next spring. Hundreds of Chappaqua commuters will be treated to the show.
To keep it simple, a variety of daffodils, scillas, crocuses and snowdrops were chosen.

As we planted, we exchanged happy memories of Henriette. She brought together so many of us and it was only right that here too, in the midst of gardening, we were reconnecting and strengthening our friendships. It is funny how a daunting task can be made easy when many happy hearts and willing hands come together. And so the job got done.

As I planted, took photos and chatted, it occurred to me that here was a perfect lesson – Bulb Planting 101. If one was interested in putting down a bed of bulbs for the first time, this was the ideal demonstration. In creating her own gardens at Rocky Hills, Henriette taught so many. Educating on horticulture, the environment and good design, she led by example. Now, once again, she was providing yet another learning opportunity. On my part, it was only right that I spread her message that we must always care for the environment with sensitivity and grace.

So here goes the pictorial tutorial:

1. The selected site was just a typical grassy area. So, in preparation, the sod was removed and the area was dug to the depth required by the large daffodil bulbs. Remember, depth is three times the size of the bulb.

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2. To create a natural, informal look, the different daffodils were mixed up and placed in no particular pattern in the trench. Kept about 5 to 8 inches apart, the bed will look thickly planted.

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Scott Medbury, director of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens plants with volunteer and my dear friend Toni Kelly.

Scott Medbury, director of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens plants with volunteer and my dear friend Toni Kelly.

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3. These large bulbs were then covered with soil. The depth was thus raised to be correct for the smaller bulbs.

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4. Again, the minor bulbs were mixed and planted at random.

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5. The remaining soil covered all the bulbs and filled up the bed.

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Fred oversees the whole operation

Fred oversees the entire operation

6. The whole bed was mulched with shredded cedar.

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7. Finally, an evergreen ground cover of vinca/creeping myrtle was planted. The vinca will mark the bed and provide year-round definition. Its mauve-blue flowers will add an additional splash in spring.

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This rock, brought in from Rocky Hills, will bear a plaque dedicated to Henriette.

This rock, brought in from Rocky Hills, will bear a plaque dedicated to Henriette.

8. The bed will be kept watered till the weather turns really cold. That ought to allow the ground cover to settle in nicely before the winter.

Part of the planting team,

Part of the planting team,

I can’t wait for spring! This bed should look lovely. I do believe Henriette would approve. I felt her presence the whole time we planted – as though she was gently guiding us along.
Once again dear friend, I salute you. You are deeply missed.

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

Favoring Fall

Is it my imagination or is this fall a real winner? The colors are simply spectacular – I’ve been hard pressed to stop gazing and get down to the business of seasonal chores and other work demands. This past weekend, we had a taste of the frigid months to follow. It got very cold and the nights experienced hard frost. The saving grace was the sheer beauty of the foliage. Happily, temperatures are predicted to go up to the 70’s by mid-week. I hope the autumn lingers on much longer.

Because of my recent travels, the garden chores have not been attended to as they ought to have been. It has been a busy scramble to cut back and clean up. The former is done and the latter is in progress. Thankfully, I got the greenhouse cleaned and ready just in time to receive the vulnerable plants before the hard frost.

This has been an exceptional year for apples. My garden’s bounty concurs. I’m trying to brace myself for the hours in the kitchen – apple sauce, pies, baked apples, apple cakes ….
I’m sorry to see the last of the leafy green veggies. A steady diet of winter root vegetables can get tedious. So I’m arming myself with new and interesting recipes. The goal is to try and stick to seasonal produce as much as possible.

Apart from the grand task of planting my 700+ bulbs, there are two big projects I’d like to get done in the next few weeks. The first is that of dividing up the irises and replanting them – this needs doing every so many years and I’ve procrastinated for two years already. The guilt is getting to me.
The second job is that of replacing the wisteria covered gazebo. When I planted the pair of wisteria and directed them to climb up the structure, I knew full well that the gazebo was not going to stand up to the powerful twining nature of the climbers. My eagerness, okay my impatience, to get the native wisteria established and fuelled by the romantic vision of feasting with loved ones under the vine dripping with purple, pendulous racemes, got the better of me and I disregarded the obvious. Sure enough, the metal has been tortured and is now screaming for mercy. A strong, wooden replacement is in order.

As I write about these jobs, I’m feeling a wee bit overwhelmed. Much to do in the remaining few weeks before we’re once again in the deep freeze. So I’ll just have to get on with it.

But lets not get too obsessive about the work. It would be a shame to stop taking the time to appreciate the splendors of this season. I need these memories to get me through the more minimalistic palette of winter.

Appropriatly named Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Appropriately named Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

A portion of the apple harvest

A portion of the apple harvest

A reminder to pause every now and then

A reminder to pause every now and then

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Fuelling up for long flight south

Fuelling up for the long flight south

Illuminating the road

Illuminating the road

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

Surprise!

I love surprises. Not the scare-me-out-of-my-skin sort of surprises but more like the sweet, unexpected, put a smile on the face kind. Applying a sense of humor tempered with ingenuity results in the best kind of unanticipated joy. It is as much fun to think up such surprises as they are to experience.

I remember one April Fool’s day when I had the best time coming up with surprise after-school snacks for my daughter and her friend. How about sushi and baked potato with sour cream? The mortified look my child gave me when presented with those foods was priceless. I could see her wondering how she could possibly explain the weird parent to her fellow first-grader. All turned to laughter when they discovered that the potato was chocolate mousse cake covered in cocoa-dusted marzipan to look like a baked potato topped with creme fraiche. And the sushi was gummy bears wrapped in rice krispies and then further rolled with green, seaweed looking fruit leather.

Similarly, the garden is a great place for clever amusement. They could be odd or unusual looking plants but more often, sculptures and other objects provide the better, longer lasting effects.
I won’t say any more. Instead, I’ll let the images below speak. Tell me what you think.

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The above two images show how to play down formality and infuse some humor. The busts peeking from the greenery look like a game of Hide and Seek is underway.

The above two images show how to play down formality and infuse some humor. The busts peeking from the greenery look like a game of Hide and Seek is under way.

Check out those thorns on the leaves! Not great for surprises.

Check out those thorns on the leaves! Not great for surprises.

One can only see this sculpture if one comes around the corner of the pool house at the Bakwin garden. It is like a figure pausing for breath after a swim or game of tennis. I love that element of art situated so cunningly.

One can only see this sculpture if one comes around the corner of the pool house at the Bakwin garden. It is like a figure pausing for breath after a swim. I love that element of art situated so cunningly.

A giant rubber ducky! Also at the Bakwin garden - it is a laugh out loud sight amidst the very classy garden. Very fun.

A giant rubber ducky! Also at the Bakwin garden – it is a laugh out loud sight amidst the very classy garden. Very fun.

Books of stone in my garden. I had the titles engraved for a dose of fun and a bit of food for thought. This one says The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

Books of stone in my garden. I had the titles engraved for a dose of fun and a bit of food for thought. This one says On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

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The last two photos refer to my own books. Why the heck not? It is after all my garden!

The last two photos refer to my own books. Why the heck not? It is after all my garden!

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

David And Garden

 

On being confronted with anything profound or meaningful, I always ask myself what the takeaway lessons might be. So, when I was privileged to view Michelangelo’s David in Florence last week, the swirl of emotions and thoughts had me gazing and contemplating for quite a while. Unlike so much else that is overhyped, David lives up to his reputation. His creator’s genius is apparent and it got me wondering how this masterpiece could instruct me. In the garden in particular as that is of course one of my own passions.

Indulge me as I share my thoughts:

  1. The quality of the starting materials is crucial. Good, rich soil. Healthy plants. Clean tools and organic applications.
  2. Let the medium tell you how to proceed. The type of soil, amount of light and general climate should determine how and what sort of garden to create.
  3. Aesthetics matter. If David were not so handsome, we wouldn’t be caring so much. Likewise, a garden must be beautiful. Function is not enough.
  4. Understand the rules thoroughly and then break them. Just as Michelangelo knew his anatomy and proportions before deciding to enlarge the size of David’s hands, head and such so the viewer looking from below would perceive it as correct, a garden too can be made to appear much more than it is. Illusions are possible only through knowledge.
  5. Keep it simple or at least make it look simple.
  6. A well thought out small garden can hold its own against any of the grander sorts. Don’t let the big guys intimidate. Likewise, don’t be afraid to try something challenging or new.
  7. A beautifully designed garden needs no further embellishments. David looks perfect just as is!

For your own inspiration, I give you David in all his glory:

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This last image is a tribute to the original sculpture by a contemporary artist. What do you think of it?

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar