A Case For Windowboxes

I’ve always loved window boxes. Long before I could imagine ever having a piece of ground to cultivate, I knew I would have window-boxes. Traveling as an impoverished student and then as a newly employed but still living in rental apartments, I’d photograph all the charmingly adorned windows I came across. One day I too was going to have them.

The surest way to brighten up the facade of any house is to hang flower boxes. The sight pleases the eye and puts a smile on the face. It’s welcoming and says something positive about the occupants.

What one plants in them is up to the imagination and taste. Tasteful/ elegant/ gaudy/ showy/ seasonal/ loud/ simple/ modern/ minimalist/ cottage-y/ – it doesn’t matter. Go for it. I do however strongly suggest – only live plants please. No plastic or other faux material. Really. What’s the point of having window boxes if you’re going to put in fake plants?

They’re quite easy to maintain. I squeeze in more plants in this limited space than I would in a bed in the ground. I go for a look of abundance and exuberance. The old pillar, filler, spiller combination still holds true.

Contrary to what is widely suggested, I eschew potting soil and use top soil mixed with compost instead. While the former is deemed lighter and adequate, I find the latter much better for encouraging good, healthy growth. Water retaining crystals are sprinkled in the lower one-third of the box/pot. I fertilize once a month with an organic potion.

All this happens in sturdy box liners that fit into the boxes well. This not only makes it a snap to pot up but it also protects the wood of the boxes as it does not come in direct contact wit soil. Towards the end of a season when the boxes start looking peaky, I start the next season’s contenders in fresh, clean liners. And when I deem that the present lot is done for, the next batch of divas are waiting and ready to start performing.

The boxes are watered according to season and daily weather. In spring I can get away with just one thorough watering a week but in summer, the plants often get thirsty enough to demand a drink every other day. Access to the boxes from the inside allows convenient watering, deadheading and tidying up.

I often include fragrant plants in my mix – the perfume that wafts into the house is a real mood lifter. This past spring, the scent of the stock just bowled me over.

A few weeks ago, I was awakened by a curious sound that I could not immediately identify. On looking around the room whilst still in bed didn’t offer up any clue until from the corner of my eye I detected movement. Turning my head towards the window, I saw a hummingbird getting its early morning drink. Since then, I’ve been privileged to watch it almost every morning – so worth the early wake up call. Does my heart good knowing I’ve been of service.

This justifies everything.

Be inspired by the photos below!

My hummingbird alarm. (Picture is not clear as it was taken on my phone from my bed and through the window screen)

When there aren’t any windows …

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Field Trip

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” Seneca

All too often, I get so caught up in the demands of life that my time with plants is mostly spent in my own garden. But the truth is, I absolutely adore visiting other gardens. Both public and private. Seeing a different garden is like entering a new country. Crossing new borders is always an adventure ( pun intended!).

One discovers differences and similarities, new likes or dislikes, new plants are identified, familiar plants to use in interesting, fresh ways and, hardscaping details that inspire. At the end of every journey, one learns something about oneself.

About ten days ago, I had the opportunity that was the ultimate in garden visits. My friend and garden wizard Marco Polo Stufano offered to take me and a couple of friends around Untermyer gardens, Wave Hill gardens and his own garden. Now, I’ve seen all three several times before but to go around Untermyer and Wave Hill with Marco as our personal guide was my idea of winning the lottery. Wave Hill in particular was a rare treat – after all, Marco created it and put it on the map. His own garden is a jewel box – it is the best representation of knowledge, aesthetics and passion.

I learned, I saw anew, I was totally in bliss. We walked, talked and laughed. I was enjoying myself so much that the heat and humidity that usually does me in, left me unfazed. It was quite simply a truly transcendent experience.

The two public gardens are at the height of their summer glory – go see for yourself!

I took pictures but it was my senses that absorbed the gardens a great deal more. No doubt I will do things in my garden as a result of that and many of those ideas will seem as though they were all mine but I’ll know in my heart that I had so much inspiration and guidance that I couldn’t have done it any other way.

And that’s why one gets out and explores other worlds. To grow.

Note:‘City Views’, an exhibition of works by 88 League artists celebrating New York City.  The show, showcases the wide diversity and remarkable quality of art being made by League students and members.

‘City Views’ is at the Manhattan Borough President‘s office at 1 Centre Street and is open through the end of August. If you can’t make it in person, you can view most of the works here.  They are for sale with prices starting at around $100.  On line purchasing is open.

Enjoy the images from my field trip!

Untermyer:

Wave Hill:

Marco and Louis – two generations of Wave Hill directors.

Still-life for the compost heap

Marco’s garden:

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Friends With Benefits

Did the title grab your attention? I thought so.

This past week, my garden was enriched by a bunch of plants given to me by various friends. First, I received a couple of plants as a hostess gift from Marco. He’d dug up these special gems from his own rather exceptional garden. Alchemilla erythropoda and Aruncus aethusifolius – two miniature gems to beguile the side path of my garden.

Earlier in July, I was asked to identify a ‘mystery’ plant that had suddenly cropped up in numbers in friend Pat’s garden. They turned out to be the native orchid Galearis. This too is a diminutive plant. Pat offered me some of these and being the greedy gardener that I am, I readily accepted. After consulting with my orchid expert friend Bill, it was decided that the orchids are best transplanted after the flowers had finished blooming. That happened last week. Perfect additions to my native plant collection in the ‘meadow’.

On my morning walk last Friday, I stopped to chat with a neighbor who was working in her pretty garden. Suzy was dividing her Siberian irises. She generously suggested I take some and once again, I accepted with shameless alacrity. A few of my own irises have mysteriously disappeared over the years so I’m particularly pleased to get this gift.

Finally, my friend Julie offered me her Calycanthus as she is selling her house and that shrub was bought some years ago when we were having a splendid day together at a rare plant sale. She has been given unlimited visiting rights to check on her beloved plant.

Yesterday, all the gifts were planted in my garden. They will hopefully thrive and enhance it. In addition, they and so many others like them, will be endearing reminders of memorable moments, special relationships and bonds. For garden and gardener, it is win-win all the way. The very stuff that sweetens life.

Note:

I’m very pleased to be in this show. Hope you will visit!

Here are my ‘friendly benefits’:

Alchemilla erythropoda – potted up for now. Will be planted in ground in the fall.

Aruncus aethusifolius – also temporarily in a pot.

Irises

Calycanthus

So many ferns from John!

A gift from the past – Bianca rose from Henriette

Ornamental raspberry – also from Marco many moons ago.

So many ferns from John!

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Fresh Perspective I

I take my garden very personally. How it performs is a direct reflection of me. True, weather plays a big part in the welfare of the garden but even there I feel bad if the garden suffers – I should somehow protect it no matter what. Disease or any type of pest invasion is my fault – I should have kept better vigilance and acted sooner. Sounds absurd I know but there you have it. Often, my feelings about the garden are quite like those parents have for their children. A relationship fraught with worry and guilt whilst loving passionately and unconditionally.

Just as parents are eager to show their children in the best possible light, I have an unreasonable desire to have the garden look spectacular at all times. It is simply not possible. There are periods of lull when not much is happening by way of flower power. The best one can do is keep up with weeding and other maintenance so the garden looks neat and cared for. In reality, to achieve that is in itself a pretty decent accomplishment. Because the weather, work and life events both big and small will thwart all your best laid plans and agendas. Invariably, when visitors to the garden arrive, the gardener will mention how much better the garden looked the previous week and/or will look stunning in the near future. Somehow, the gardener is hardly ever likely to say that the present moment is the best the garden has ever looked. We are simply too close to our creation to be honestly objective or detached enough to accept the present reality.

Yet, more often than not, the visitor views the garden differently and far more kindly. They are not likely to notice the odd weed or two, the floppy lily you haven’t got around to staking or that the roses need deadheading. Instead, the visitor is looking at the garden as a whole and will in all probability be quite taken with the charm of it all. And yet, the gardener will still only focus on the flaws and make excuses …

So, this past Saturday, I was given a gift that did my own harsh perspective of my garden a marvel of good. I got to see my garden through the eyes of artists. A true privilege.

A dozen watercolorists came up from New York City to spend the day painting in the garden. Some were themselves gardeners and others had no gardening experience but they all had keenly discerning eyes and distinct styles. Their oohs and aahs as they looked around my garden were instant ego boosts and at the end of the day, their artistic efforts showed me my garden in a wholly fresh, new light. They had observed with their artistic eyes details I thought nobody would notice and captured different areas in their own uniquely talented ways. The camaraderie and collective good spirits were empowering and uplifting.

It was all giddyingly exhilarating. I am humbled and yet, so terribly proud. Painting alongside these very talented artists, I too got the chance to see and appreciate my garden anew.

Enough said. The pictures below say it all:

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The output:

IMG_1809 IMG_1808  IMG_1801IMG_1797We even had live music!

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(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Call Maintenance!

Most of life is passed doing maintenance of some sort. We devote a good deal of our time maintaining relationships. Our bonds with family, friends, coworkers and all those who play some part in our day to day activities, must necessarily be kept strong. And we go to all sorts of lengths to do so. I imagine that on any given day, at least a third of my wakening hours are given over to connecting, communicating and commiserating with people. That is a chunk of time and effort!

We are obliged to maintain our health. How and what we eat, how much we exercise or stay active, what we do for recreation, our spiritual practices, regular physicals, dental check ups and age appropriate tests – are all integral to keeping ourselves in good fighting shape. After all, some days it feels like a war zone out there.

Apart from other activities, I try to walk a few miles each week day. While I enjoy the cooler temperatures in the early hours of the summer days, observing the birds and gardens I pass by and, often get inspiration for my poetry or painting, my underlying motivation to get myself out of a very comfortable bed at what feels like an ungodly hour, is that need to keep this body in some sort of decent health.

Our homes seem to be in a never ending state of requiring maintenance. From something simple like replacing a fused light bulb to a regular dusting and vacuuming all around to needing a new appliance to repainting a room, there is always something that needs tending.

This past week alone, in my house, some bathroom tiles were replaced, a sticky door got unstuck, the furnace was serviced, water filters replaced and I haven’t yet mentioned laundry, dish washing or daily tidy up!

We keep up with finances, archiving photos, stocking the pantry, servicing the car and a myriad other matters. It can often feel like an endless conveyor belt of must-dos.

The garden is no exception. While we wax eloquent on the plants and their blooms, most garden work is all about upkeep. We mend or replace paths, fences and steps. Thin out plants that are overcrowding the beds. Staying on top of weeding, watering, staking, mowing, deadheading, composting and keeping a sustained vigilance for pests or disease are all how we keep the garden healthy and bountiful.

The frequent rains we’ve had has translated into a greater number of weeds popping up so that task demands some extra time. Likewise, the jewel-weed that seems to want to take over the meadow needed to be thinned out aggressively. It belongs here for sure but only as a part of the whole.

All of a sudden this year, the David Austin rose ‘Heritage’ put out deep red flowers in addition to its usual pale pink ones. On closer examination, I determined that the red roses were from a stem emerging from the root stock. I assume with the passage of time and water over the many years it has been in the garden, the soil has been washed away to expose more of the area below the graft line. Seeing the light of day triggered that area to start doing what it is biologically programmed to do. Since I really only want the Heritage roses, I must now cut off the limb growing from the root stock and cover it up properly with soil so it goes back to being quiet and invisible.

When one steps back and assesses all that needs doing to maintain ourselves and our lifestyles it can seems there is no time to simply smell the coffee and/or roses. But just pause with me here. Maintaining is what its all about. With all the curve balls life can toss around and create havoc, we should be so lucky that we can just focus on taking care of what matters most to us.

Note: my art show at the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library is on till the end of this month.

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David Austin Heritage rose and the red rootstock rose

David Austin Heritage rose and the red rootstock rose

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Meadow after thinning out the jewel-weed

Meadow after thinning out the jewel-weed

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Wall garden right now

Wall garden right now

Leafy greens doing well

Leafy greens doing well

Bonica roses - a gift from Henriette Suhr many years ago

Bonica roses – a gift from Henriette Suhr many years ago

Oak-leaf hydrangea beginning to bloom

Oak-leaf hydrangea beginning to bloom

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Changing Climates, Changing Calendars

Unless you’ve been doing time in solitary confinement in an underground bunker, the term ‘climate change’ has been the mainstay in almost all conversations this past week. Agree or not, it is worth mentioning that the global scientific community at large and ones who study the climate in particular are in consensus that the climate is not only changing but human activity has had a detrimental impact on it.

Climate change is a highly complex subject with innumerable moving parts. This makes it really difficult to understand by most minds. In addition, it is an evolving subject and consequently, there are gaps in the data. Unfortunately, these gaps are exploited by those who are inclined to deny climate change. Given the complexity of this topic, does it not behoove us to believe and trust the scientists who know so much about it? After all, if we can accept the super-complicated science in cancer research and treatment, why are we doubting their word on climate change?

Whatever one thinks, lets simply get into the garden and consider phenology. This is the science dealing with periodic biological events that are influenced by weather and climate. In other words, it is the scientific observations of changes in plants and animals to weather or climate events causing them. In the case of plants, the significant stages of its life (phenophases) such as nascence, flowering, fruiting, senescence are studied. Phenology is more colloqually called nature’s calendar.

As gardeners, we are amateur scientists of sorts. Foot soldiers so to speak. We plan for and note all the goings on in the garden. We are aware of drought conditions, excess rain, prolonged heat or cold, sudden or extreme fluctuations in temperature, a scarcity in bees or a population explosion in chipmunks. And as a result of such occurrences, we note how our plants have responded. Last spring, it warmed up slowly, the apple blossoms emerged and then it got really cold so no bees showed up. This lack of bees resulted in poor pollination and hence a lack of fruits.

This year, spring blew warm and cold so the lilacs bloomed early. Meanwhile, mid to late May bloomers like my peonies, baptisia, roses, amsonia and several other plants are only just beginning to flower. A three day blast of summer like heat in early May, hastened the alliums – the early and late flowering types all burst open together. While this loud chorus of color looked stunning, the length of the concert itself was abbreviated.

This past winter was so mild that we are now confronted with an impressive increase in the populations of ticks, chipmunks, rats, mice and other annoyances. Yet, the cooler than usual spring has contained the number of bees and butterflies. Normally, the garden is humming with their activity at this time.

The life cycles of plants and animals are inter-related. Planting and/or flowering times coincide with the emergence of pollinators. Insect problems often occur at specific stages of a plant’s life. When exactly we feed, protect or treat our plants for disease is an application of phenology. What practices and tools we use has impact on the plant and animal populations.

Working with nature allows one to see up close how intimately connected we, as in all biological forms, are to the weather and climate. We cannot ignore the inconsistencies in the climate today. The normal phenophases by which a gardener tracks the garden’s progress get moved back or forward by the vagaries of weather/climate. If you typically plant tomatoes when the dogwoods flower signaling that the threat of frost has passed, then what happens if the latter flowers early? Risk it?

Phenology itself is now being used as an indicator of climate change. It stands to reason that every gardener applies it as he/she goes about working in the garden. The question now is this – are we or are we not going to do right by the world?

I, for one, acknowledge that my choices and life style has impact on my environment. Collectively, we affect the globe. So, I will start with my number one credo – Do No Harm. And that means, being mindful, thoughtful, respectful and considerate in all my actions. This will include those that I do not enjoy or ones I oppose – from invasive plants to pests to people. I realize in many instances it will not be easy. But I’m willing to meet the challenge. Are you?

[To learn more about phenology, look up the USA National Phenological Network at usanpn.org/  ]

Note: All of this month, I have a solo show of my watercolors at the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library in North Salem, NY. I hope you will take time to go visit. Thanks!

The images below are of some of my efforts to do right by my neck of the woods:

Aquilegia canadensis in the meadow

Aquilegia canadensis in the meadow

Tiarella

Tiarella cordifolia

Cheloni lyoni - pink turtlehead

Cheloni lyoni – pink turtlehead

White and blue cammasia

White and blue cammasia

Oak leaf hydrangea

Oak leaf hydrangea

Anemone canadensis

Anemone canadensis

American robin babies in the apple espalier

American robin babies in the apple espalier

In the meadow - a melange of bulbs and native plants

In the meadow – a melange of bulbs and native plants

Amsonia

Amsonia

Native wisteria

Native wisteria

The rain barrel

The rain barrel

The vertical garden - a brilliant way to keep the building cool in summer. Water for plants is recirculated.

The vertical garden – a brilliant way to keep the building cool in summer. Water for plants is recirculated.

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Budding Friends

Gardeners are a friendly bunch. But gardening itself is somewhat solitary. We look upon our plants as rather agreeable company. After all, plants make patient listeners and quiet supporters. Over time, trees and other long lasting plants become familiar friends we come to rely upon. I personally have been known to vent, confide and brainstorm with several of them as I’ve gone about weeding, pruning and planting. I’ve come to depend on their counsel and consolation. Any length of time in their presence does a world of good to my spirit and temperament.

I’ve worked out so many problems, sorted through various emotions and made sound decisions after opening up to my photosynthetic friends. Similarly, they have borne witness to the many celebrations and marked countless milestones. A gathering in my garden is an acknowledgement to the vital role its residents play in my life.

As with most gardeners, we share plants with each other. We trade, gift and covet each other’s plants freely. So when I wander through my own little Eden, those friends who gave me specific plants are also on my mind. These associations stay strong and alive forever. Some of those generous friends have passed on but their gifts remind and reassure. Their spirits are at home here. I cherish their company too.

Then there are the new friendships that come about in gardens. In my case, my garden’s open day is the ideal set up for making more friends. After all, those who come to see and appreciate the garden are typically kindred spirits. Especially the ones who brave inclement weather and/or drive fair distances to see the many gardens! I love my open days precisely because I get to meet some terrific new folk and reaffirm my fondness for those already known. I’ve learned all sorts of new stuff about plants, nifty gardening methods, new recipes, other fine gardens, obscure but terrific books and movies and, best of all, formed friendships that open more vistas in my life. My cup runneth over. I exist in a perpetual state of gratitude. Without all these friends, my life would be mind-numbingly dull.

At my most recent open day, I met a couple who, for some strange reason, felt as though I’d always known them. It felt comfortable. Well, listening to one’s instincts is good. A few days later, I was offered some lovely primula babies from their garden. Offer accepted!

This past Sunday, we had a most enjoyable visit and I came away with a rather embarrassingly generous haul of primulas from their totally charming garden. Pat and Jon, a million thanks.

You see how it works? I ended up with new plants, got to see a beautiful, new garden and gained two new friends. Budding friends indeed.

Note – All through the month of June, I will have my artwork on exhibit at the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library in North Salem. Do please go and take a look.

Now, enjoy the i-phone photos from Pat and Jon’s garden – I apologize to those reading on your phone or on Facebook as some of the images will appear upside down. On your laptops they will appear fine. Or, go directly to my website.

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The primulas!

The primulas!

Emma. Another new friend.

Emma. Another new friend.

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A charming collection of miniature hostas, geraniums and other gems.The hand is there for scale!

A charming collection of miniature hostas, geraniums and other gems.The hand is there for scale!

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(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Flower Power, Giving Power

Our human response to flowers must be coded in our DNA. We incorporate flowers into every aspect of our lives. All occasions of any significance are marked with them. We say so much through flowers. Joy, sorrow, pride, victory, loss, love, remembrance – get expressed with flowers. And so, it stands to reason that gardens have in their power to bring positive change in more ways than the obvious.

This past Saturday saw just such an event. ‘Bloom’ was held to raise funds for the Pleasantville Community Garden which raises produce for area food pantries and shelters. Based on the edict ‘Bloom where you are planted’, local artists were asked to donate nature inspired works of art for a silent auction. Held at the Station restaurant in Chappaqua, NY, it brought folks together to socialize, sip and nosh, bid on the beautiful art works and give to the cause. A win-win all around.

When approached about donating a painting, my response was a no-brainer. A big, enthusiastic YES! All the participating artists responded alike. After all, art has a reach that transcends conflict, partisanship and every form of hate.

Coming up this Friday and Saturday May 12 & 13, we are offered yet another opportunity to help others while we help ourselves – to plants, art, local food products, nature inspired soft furnishings, stationary and other goodies. Check here for hours and all other details of the PlantFest at Teatown.

The Teatown Lake Preservation is a veritable treasure in our midst. Its Wildflower Island is a marvelous paradise of native plants. We are so fortunate to have it for our pleasure and leisure. If you haven’t already, please do visit and explore Teatown as often as possible. I promise you will love it.

I am very proud to be participating in the Teatown PlantFest. My art and products inspired by the flowers in my garden will be available. Not only will a portion of the sales help Teatown but, another part of it will support a cause dear to my heart – the children with HIV/AIDS at the orphanage of Mukta Jeevan in India.

It is my hope that you will support this event.

Also, on Saturday May13, from 10 am to 4 pm, my own garden will be doing its part in raising awareness and funds for the Garden Conservancy. Another organization that serves us all by preserving some of America’s finest gardens. So, please come to my Open Day. Your presence is much needed. Besides, the garden is looking quite lovely right now.

Pssst! Remember, I will have four types of ferns for sale! They are in the form of small plugs so planting them will be super easy.

PlantFest and Open Day will be held rain or shine. So, come! No excuses will be accepted!

It is only right that we all come together to uplift those in need and in doing so, we rise as a community, as a country, as humans.

Here’s a glimpse of my garden right now –

Lilacs and Broom. The fragrance is heavenly!

Lilacs and Broom. The fragrance is heavenly!

In the meadow, columbines sway.

In the meadow, columbines sway.

Meadow madness

Meadow madness

Foxgloves in force

Foxgloves in force

Tulips and candytuft at play

Tulips and candytuft at play

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

 

The Chipmunk Challenge

April showers have indeed brought May flowers. Oh how I love this time of year! So much promise, so much growth, so much beauty, so many chipmunks. That last one has become the bane of my days. And nights.

It seemed like that the most prolific thing in the garden last year were the chipmunks. They were all over the place. Every gardener I spoke to confirmed my observation. I ought to have been worried right then. Then, the weirdly mild winter permitted these rodents to continue to thrive. They were happily active tunneling around and under the garden. For years there has been a resident population of chipmunks beneath the checkerboard garden but no real harm had been done apart from the compelling task of regrading the area routinely. A nuisance but still tolerable.

But now, they have expanded their subterranean kingdoms. They are under my perennial beds. I noticed their telltale holes and trails during the winter and heard alarm bells go off in my head. With nothing short of dynamite or equivalent poison to hit them with, I tried to stay calm and hoped for the best though, a part of me kept thinking about what they must be feasting on. I couldn’t bear to dwell on it and yet, I couldn’t stop.

Once it was apparent that spring was finally here, it became a matter of wait and see. Given the bipolar nature of this particular spring, it has been a challenge. Plants are emerging erratically – some too early, some too late and some on time. So I’ve waited. It was becoming clear – the darned critters have been gorging on many of my bulbs. I’m not as yet clear on which perennials have also been fodder. I have the other perennial bed to compare and contrast which is very useful. Meanwhile, the limbs of the New Dawn rose that covers the arch was greening up nicely till I realized a few days ago that no leaves were emerging from those limbs. The roses in other parts of the garden are leafed out but this one has not a single one. The roots of the rose are in the bed that the chipmunks have made their home. I’m still trying to come to terms with this state of my rose. Clearly, it will have to be replaced. But what good would that do if I don’t have a way to protect it from those miniature menaces?

Because chipmunks are classified as ‘wildlife’, normal pest control companies cannot address the problem. Besides, even they would have to resort to very toxic and generally harmful poisons or to trapping. The former will endanger all creatures and pollute the soil and water-table while the latter would be less than effective in deterring and ridding the garden of them. Stuff like the extremely malodorous urine of fox have not been seen as effective. So I’m at a loss for a solution to my dilemma.

A birth-control specificto chipmunks in the guise of tasty treats would be ideal. Better yet, a plant with such a property would be poetic justice. For now, I’m licking my horticultural wounds, mourning the loss of beloved plants and plotting my campaign.

This is war.

Stop press! At my Open Day ( May 13, 10 am -4 pm), I’ll be selling four types of ferns. I got them from none other than my dear friend Dr John Mickel – one of the world’s foremost fern scientists. They are in plug form so very easy to plant. Come and get ’em! All proceeds will go to the Garden Conservancy.

And don’t forget – the PlantFest at Teatown Lake Preservation. First pick on May 12 4-7pm and then to one and all on May 13, 9 am – 2 pm. Stop by my Seeds Of Design booth!

Chipmunk hole in perennial bed observed in February

Chipmunk hole in perennial bed observed in February

Telltale trails through the mulch

Telltale trails through the mulch

No leaves on the rose limbs.

No leaves on the rose limbs.

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Barely any tulips in this bed. Sad!

Barely any tulips in this bed. Sad!

Come, take a load off your feet!

Come, take a load off your feet!

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Apple blossom buds

Apple blossom buds

Pear blossoms

Pear blossom

The back from above in the house

The back from above in the house

In the meadow

In the meadow

The meadow right now

The meadow right now

In the herb garden

In the herb garden

With the Mickels and ferns

With the Mickels and ferns

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Verre, Verdure, Vue

Every now and then, no matter how busy one might be, it is good to pause, get out of ones own garden and, visit another. It is how we nourish our imaginations, ideas and yes, our very spirits. Public gardens and Open Days of private gardens exist for exactly this purpose. Inspiration and information is just a garden visit away.

All too often, we get so caught up in the busy-ness of our days that it seems like a big effort or sacrifice to do something that is seemingly frivolous or unnecessary. Not so! I would go so far as to say that it is incumbent on us to seek growth and guidance from such sources. Along with gardens, I’d add libraries, museums, theater, lectures, concerts and travel. Because of how important these are to me, I have for some years been a member/subscriber to all the organizations that add incalculable value to my life. For me, a membership to a museum or botanical garden trumps practically all other material gifts. Well, I do enjoy certificates to my local nursery, art supplier and the occasional massage. Just saying.

At present, with funding for the arts and sciences at risk, I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much more critical it is that we show our support of said organizations by becoming members and subscribers.

As a member of such institutions, one gets invited to member-preview days for new exhibits. Before the general public is permitted. This means fewer crowds and I can enjoy the exhibit at my leisure. Member preview dates get blocked off on my calendar and serve as reminders to get out and replenish my spirit. My sanity depends on this ‘therapy’.

Case in point – my visit to the new Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden this past Friday. It was a damp, overcast day. The sort that makes one want to curl up with a good book, a pot of hot, strong tea and a soothing play-list. But, I’ve come to know better. Off to the NYBG I went.

Overcast days are actually perfect for taking photographs. No glare or shadows to bother with. The colors seem to pop and brighten. And were the perennial beds popping! Spring comes a couple of weeks sooner in the Bronx than to my Chappaqua garden. The tulips and early-spring bulbs were already in bloom and the other perennials were well on their way. To say that the gardens looked gorgeous is an understatement. The thoughtful layout, choice of plants and colors of foliage, stems and blooms are more visible at this time of year before everything has filled out completely. It is the ultimate classroom for all gardeners.

And then there were the glass sculptures by artist and sculptor Dale Chihuly. Organic forms that seem to have a pulse of their own, in colors so vivid but never shocking, grabbing the light in ways that compel the eyes to see the shapes differently as one walks around them. They ignite the imagination.

Most of the exhibit is in the conservatory. A big shout out to the very appropriate plantings that enhanced the sculptures. Glass shapes echoed the plants. Or was it the other way around?! This is not mimicry but true complement. Very impressive.

Outdoors, there are several sculptures. Again, thoughtfully sited so the viewer can observe them from afar, up close, from different vantage points, in relation to surrounding plants, trees and buildings. A master class in how to site sculptures in the garden.

The whole time I was there, I was deeply absorbed. My own long list of garden to-dos was completely forgotten. It was as though the urgency of getting the garden ready for Open Day ( May 13) had ceased to exist. I marveled at the art, the plantings, the juxtapositions of the two and filled myself with inspiration. After all, it was there for the taking.

The rest of the weekend unfolded with a renewed energy and attitude. My order of a vast number of native plants for the meadow had arrived, a smaller collection of plants for other areas also awaited and, the plants in the greenhouse had to be brought out and placed in the garden. Sub-consciously dictated no doubt by the Chihuly show, my own stainless steel sculpture ‘Wind Song’ installed last fall in the meadow took on the role of dictating where to plant some of the natives. Do come and see on Open Day. I’m so eager to share and show!

Once again, my Open Day is May 13.

May 12 and 13, I have a booth at Teatown’s PlantFest. Please come to both events! Support the Garden Conservancy, Teatown Reservation and me! Celebrate Mothers Day weekend in the garden!

Enjoy the photos of the Chihuly exhibit at NYBG: Notice how the plants and sculptures interact!

I apologize in advance to all those who read this on Facebook or on their phones. As I took the photos on my phone, you will get to see them on their sides or inverted. So sorry! I cannot seem to fix the problem but will continue to try. Please do look them up on your computer.

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Acanthus

Acanthus

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A few of the plants tha got planted in the meadow last weekend

A few of the plants tha got planted in the meadow last weekend

A few weeks ago in the meadow with 'Wind Song'

A few weeks ago in the meadow with ‘Wind Song’

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar