Showing Up

From the perspective of a human, the weather these past couple of weeks has been glorious. Sunny, dry and deliciously pleasant. The right degree of warmth during the day to permit one to work long in the garden without getting hot and sweaty and, delightfully cool at night to snuggle under the comforter for oh so cozy sleep. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

This made it so much easier to attend to the seasonal demands in the garden even though it didn’t look like it usually does at this time of year. At times it felt as though I was operating blind. Catering to the needs of plants that were not quite visible or hadn’t yet shown signs of new growth, felt like my commitment to the garden was being tested. Nevertheless, I went about my work. It actually never occurred to me to not do the chores. Besides Open Day looms near!

From the view point of plants however, things have probably been challenging. With virtually no snow packs this past winter plus what has turned out to be a very dry April, the plants are parched and thirsty. Getting on with the business of growing must be a real struggle. Imagine trying to run a marathon following weeks of dehydration.

In response to the warming up as well as my ministry, the garden has returned the favor by greening up and putting forth all manner of growth. The tulips are staging a very rewarding display. They appear to be a bit shorter in height but still quite fetching. The wisteria have suddenly woken up and the roses are off to a good start. Everywhere, the garden is looking lively.

Showing up. That’s what it’s all about.
Spring Cleaning

Sweep away detritus
Winter’s wild remnants
Prune roses
June’s dress code
Straighten borders
Summer edges to spill

Outside order
Inside peace
Clearing, cutting
Room to breathe deep
Opening, widening
Mind broaden fast

Plants get bigger
Spirits grow higher
Colors multiply
Senses infused
Days lengthen
Smiles brighten

Outdoor classroom
Paradise within

– by Shobha

Note: Don’t forget Open Day is May 7. I’m working hard to get the garden and pop-up shop ready for you!

Pear blossoms

Pear blossoms

Moss and lichen on vertical garden

Moss and lichen on vertical garden

Tulips

Tulips

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Frittalaria persica

Frittalaria persica

American wisteria emerging from hibernation

American wisteria emerging from hibernation

Tree peony

Tree peony

An area in the meadow

An area in the meadow

The checker-board garden

The checker-board garden

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Blind Faith

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. – Saint Augustine

The calendar says late April but the garden registers early April. The plants are late. In normal years, the apple espalier would be radiant with shiny young leaves and burgeoning flowers. Right now, I have to look so close to notice the tiny bumps of nascence. The native wisteria, for whom the new pergola was built, still appears dormant. Were they traumatized so badly when the old pergola was removed that accepting their new support is too much to ask? I anxiously scan the limbs. What appear to be minute spots of furry gray must certainly be early signs of active growth right? I reassure myself. There is no reason to worry. I must believe even if I cannot see.

With the days finally warming up, as I go about my garden chores, I’m constantly searching for signs of new growth. To determine which plants have survived the winter and which ones didn’t is imperative because the garden needs to be in ship-shape form for Open Day. I do not have the luxury of waiting and seeing. Even while my brow furrows in worry, a voice in my heart reminds me to trust that it’ll all be okay.

We become conscious of faith mostly in times of crises. But in reality, we take leaps of faith all the time. Simply getting up each morning and starting the day is all about the conviction that today will be okay. Perhaps even better than hoped. Getting married, having babies, buying a house, making meals, taking our medicines, forging friendships, sending children off to college, planning vacation, listening to roofers saying the roof needs repairs or replacement ( who actually goes up there to verify?), are all possible because we trust in something bigger than ourselves. God, the Universe, Spirit, Energy whatever we choose to believe, we place our faith in that higher entity because we know we cannot go it alone.

I have learned that having faith is not easy. Fears have to be conquered and that nay saying voice in the head must be vanquished. Doubt, pessimism and cynicism are not compatible with trust. But that isn’t all. A surrendering of control is called for.

One does what one must and then leaves the rest to that force that will take it all the way. Leaps of faith are exercises in patience and trust. Reminders that we are not the boss of everything. Having humility cannot be overstated. It is remarkable how the mind is put at ease when we allow faith to become our partner.

True story. When I was a very young student and nervous about an upcoming test, my father said “Do your best and God will do the rest”. In my desperation to believe, I heard – do your best and God will do the test. And I totally blew off studying for the test. The dismal grade was evidence. You see? I had failed to do my part.

As I go to bed each night, I’m certain the sun will rise again. The garden will grow as it must. And it will reveal what I, the gardener, must do. Tomorrow, I will see what I believe. I just know it.

Reminder! My garden Open Day is May 7. Please come.

Next week :

 Rocky Hills Environmental Lecture by Edwina von Gal

Turning PRFCT: The Evolution and Adventures
of a Rational Naturalist

Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Chappaqua Library
195 South Greeley Avenue
Chappaqua, NY

Admission free. No registration is required.

Window box

Window box

The wisteria right now

The wisteria right now

Look closely. Do you see the furry grey buds? Growth!

Look closely. Do you see the furry grey buds? Growth!

Apple blossom.

Apple blossom. Went from tiny red bumps to this in a single warm day!

 

Snake's Head fritillaria

Snake’s Head fritillaria

Climbing hydrangea

Climbing hydrangea

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Warming Up To April

Apart from that best forgotten April Fool’s Day of 70 degree weather, thus far this month, the days have been very much like winter. Snow, sleet, bone chilling winds and temperatures below freezing. I was not pleased but did my best to maintain a good attitude. I am chomping at the bit to get going in the garden.

Since it was too cold to bring plants out of the greenhouse or to get the young vegetable plugs into the potager, my focus has been on the three ‘R’s. Repairing, replacing and repositioning. Considering that the winter was relatively mild, there is surprisingly plenty to do to re-establish order. Admittedly, things age and then finally one notices that a structure needs urgent attention. The roping on the ‘fence’ that borders the front of the property had to be replaced and the posts straightened up. Easy enough.
(On the subject of fences, my neighbor’s fence that marks one side of the meadow has totally fallen apart. I’m hoping desperately that it is taken care of very soon. With equanimity and understanding.)

However, the stairs leading to the garden from the side porch were in bad shape. The whole structure had to be replaced. Much more work but this time, we were able to match the wood to the red cedar of the espalier and front fence posts as well as the new pergola in the back. Neither of those existed when the stairs were put in soon after we bought the house. At that time, we knew very little about thinking ahead. The effort to make it all cohesive has been successful – there is nothing to jar the eye and as a result, the plantings can take center stage.
This past weekend, the task got completed. The resident mechanical engineer came through with flying colors. I really am grateful.

There are still other areas to attend. Such as remedy the erosion in the area leading to the meadow. The water runs off here after heavy rainstorms and carries away soil. Similarly, paving stones leading to the greenhouse need to be reset. Water is such a powerful creator and destroyer.

The hold-up in garden work has also permitted me to plan more for the pop-up shop I intend to have on May 7, As this was an idea that came to me only recently, I have plenty of details to work out. But, I’m excited. It’ll be so much fun to share some of my garden inspired creations. Make sure you visit!

Taking advantage of Sunday’s rise in temperature, I got the potager and large pots planted up. It was such an unadulterated pleasure to finally feel the soil in my hands. This week promises to be more seasonal so, I expect to do more clean up, get the peony supports in place, start moving plants out of the greenhouse and generally spruce up the garden.

I have yet to assess how all the perennials have fared through the winter. The delay in warming up has slowed the greening of the garden. But, already it is obvious that four of the espalier trees need to be replaced. Fortunately, three of those were some of last year’s introductions so they are young enough to be easily removed. And, as if to comfort me and keep my spirits up, the ‘minor’ bulbs continue to bravely make their entrance. Taking over from the crocuses, the Muscari and Anemone blanda (grape hyacinths and Grecian windflowers) are now in bloom. The true hyacinths have also started flowering and perfuming the air. Pure heaven. And on Sunday, I spied the first of the early-blooming tulips. Makes me so happy.

With less than a month to Open Day, the pace of getting the chores done is frenzied. I’m keeping fingers tightly crossed that the return to normal April conditions continues and the plants look magnificent. Much rain is predicted this week so those showers had better deliver on the May flowers. Or else ….

Note: This should be fascinating!

Please come to the upcoming Rocky Hills Environmental Lecture by Edwina von Gal

Turning PRFCT: The Evolution and Adventures
of a Rational Naturalist

Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Chappaqua Library
195 South Greeley Avenue
Chappaqua, NY

Admission free. No registration is required.

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

April Foul!

Like a protracted bad joke, April has unleashed really bizarre weather on us. The thermometer rose to mid-70’s on the 1st and then, by the night of the 2nd, we witnessed thunder, lightening, rain and then a good dose of snow. Presently, it feels a whole lot like winter. My patience is being tested. Enough already!

The forsythia and sweet early bulbs were out brightening the spring landscape. The daffodils had begun trumpeting. All over town the magnolias were in fine, blousy form. The scene was set for the season to unfold. Lo and behold! The villain arrived – unscripted and not in cast. As I look outside, the small jewel-like flowers no longer twinkle. The daffodils appear a tad beat up and frozen in time. But the magnolias are totally done for – the blooms lay strewn like used coffee filters. Only the forsythia, bless their hardy hearts, are valiantly holding the fort.

For a gardener with just about a month to get her garden ready for Open Day, I’m feeling the pressure. This sudden spell of winter has set me back by at least a week. Toss in other non-garden related obligations and you can understand my frustration. For one who generally sees the glass as half-full, I’m trying really hard to stay relaxed. I have to believe that the weather will begin to cooperate, I’ll get my tasks done, the plants will be on their best behavior and all will be right on May 7.

On the up side, at least I didn’t start bringing out plants from the greenhouse. When the weather was warm last week, it was tempting to do so and it would’ve been about the right time. Listening to the weatherman’s warning, all thoughts to get the plugs of cool weather vegetables in their freshly prepared plot were postponed and the young plants were hustled back under cover.

Being more protected, the window-boxes still look cheery. The same combination of pansies and daffodils in urns and pots situated more in the open are putting up a good fight. I think they’ll be just fine. On closer examination, I see that the scillas on the ground have not been defeated. Perhaps the somewhat bedraggled crocuses will also stage a comeback. I would very much like to see the minor bulbs get to play their full part in this spring performance. By Open Day, none of them will be in sight. Late bulbs and other perennials will be in bloom but, I personally derive much inspiration from the diminutive starters. Their courage to show up at a time when the weather is still erratic and risk everything for a brief shot at being center-stage is a lesson in carpe diem.

And there it is! My take home from the ridiculous antics of the weather – stay in the moment. It is all I’ve really got.

Note: If you haven’t already, mark your calender! Open Day is May 7. 10am – 4pm.

When you click on that link, you’ll note that Teatown Lake Reservation’s Wildflower Island opens for the season on that date. There will be a plant sale, music and other vendors to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their Plant Fest. Should be very fun.

I am very proud to be Teatown’s 2016 Wildflower Artist and Poet. Teatown will be printing note cards of my artwork and poem of the 2016 wildflower Helenium autumnale.

At my Open Day, a limited number of those note cards will be available for purchase.

I’m also busy planning a pop-up shop of my botanical themed products. Think Mother’s Day, baby showers, bridal showers, all sorts of celebrations, home decor projects, hostess and teacher gifts!

Enjoy these images of flowers before the cold hit them:

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar