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

Spring Challenge

Gardening is in full swing and with my Open Day looming large (May 13), time is of the essence. Given March’s unseasonably cold days, many tasks are behind schedule. So there is a sense of urgency which is not entirely comfortable.

Typically, starting around mid-March, I ease into the myriad chores of the season. Not this year. The first decent day to begin any work was the first Sunday in April. At this time of year when things happen in geometric progression, to-do items delayed by even a week matter greatly. Hence, one works at a frenzied pace perforce.

In the span of a week that included three days of rain, the front ‘lawn’ has been de-thatched, reseeded and treated with compost (as fertilizer and weed suppressor), roses, grapevine and fruit trees pruned, winter debris cleared, plants left to cheer the winter landscape cut back, perennial beds mulched, spring window boxes and urns potted up with daffodils, pansies and primulas, the vegetable plot prepared and planted out with leafy greens, the big pots of bay standards brought out of the greenhouse and positioned, these pots have been underplanted with more leafy greens, pots of herbs set up on the “wall” by the vegetable bed, the espalier of fruit trees and the roses have been sprayed with dormant oil spray and finally, the fountain has been recommissioned. All of this was actually accomplished over just three days. Crazy right?

But, the big work of new planting must wait for the nurseries to receive the shipments. I have a largish order of native plants to go into the meadow. I’d like to get this done ASAP while the bulbs are in full view so that I won’t have to guess where to plant the natives and hope to avoid hurting said bulbs.

The rest of the greenhouse has to be emptied and placed/planted in their respective homes in the garden. This calls for lots of lifting and back and forth. My body is already protesting.

The vertical garden is the wild card. As part of the ongoing Great Wall experiment we’d left all the plants in through the winter. And since that season was kind of mild ( okay, positively weird), we were able to run the nutrient enhanced water system. Since ferns are late spring bloomers, we have yet to determine what has made it through. This means waiting but as I’d like the wall to look nice for Open Day, it is imperative that I know what and where replacement ferns are needed. Oh, the pressure!

This week promises to be unseasonably warm. Today, the temperature is likely to hit 80 degrees. That is more like June than April. What that portends is anybody’s guess. Put paid to the early bloomers before pollination can occur? Bring forward the mid to late ones? The chance of frost still threatens all the way to mid-May. Oy.

Finally, in the midst of all the mad activity, I’m resolved to actually enjoy the garden. It is after all, my favorite season. Time to just admire the early flowers, listen to the birds and watch their general activity. I hope to do quick watercolor sketches to capture this ephemeral time and also expand my collection of watercolor botanicals as several early-spring flowers have not as yet been painted ( Eranthis, Abeliophyllum, Forsythia, cherry/apple/pear blossoms – you see how the list grows?) and most importantly, celebrate the season with family and friends.

Certainly quite a challenge but this is still all good. We should all have only such ‘problems’.

Note: Open Day – May 13 from 10 am – 4:00 pm. Come visit! Bring mom as it is Mother’s Day weekend!

Also on May 13, Teatown Reservation will be holding its annual, exciting PlantFest and I will have a booth there selling my botanical products – prints, note cards and soft furnishings.

Their Wildflower Island will open for the season on this day. Make reservations for a tour.

The 'meadow' coming alive

The ‘meadow’ coming alive

The window box. Should be in full flower by week's end

The window box. Should be in full flower by week’s end

Mulched perennial bed

Mulched perennial bed

Reseeded lawn

Reseeded lawn

Stars at my feet. Scilla

Stars at my feet. Scilla

Bay pot under-planted with spinach and beets

Bay pot under-planted with spinach and beets

The vertical garden right now

The vertical garden right now

Vegetables all planted out

Vegetables all planted out

Buffy the Hellebore

Buffy the Hellebore

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Pura Vida II

I’m committed to Pura Vida. To be honest, it is not a hard thing to do. If one believes in living life fully and doing right by others and the world at large, then this is the obvious way to approach life. What my visit to Costa Rica has really accomplished is to show me that it is completely possible to live my life purposefully and with awareness, empathy and passion. All the things that matter to me and what I believe in are very much in keeping with the Pura Vida philosophy.

So here is how I’m recommitting myself. First and foremost, do no harm. Whatever I think, do or say has impact. Be kind, considerate. – to people, place or thing.

Live and let live. Tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness. Diversity enriches us all.

Stay true to oneself. Authenticity is the cornerstone of good character.

Embrace each day like it was the last. Focus simply on what/who is truly important. Don’t waste time on the all the stuff that clutter and only serve to sidetrack. Grab the day and make the most of it with joy, gusto and passion.

Don’t take anything or anybody for granted. Safeguard and cherish the people, the environment and all the elements that make this earth so wondrous. Life itself is ephemeral, don’t waste it.

Show the love. Pay compliments, hug often, freely express appreciation, give that most precious, seemingly elusive possession I have to those I love – my time.

Laugh often. Pretty much self-explanatory. Research has shown the considerable benefits of having a good sense of humor and laughing often.

Get outdoors as often as possible. Nature teaches, heals, inspires and nourishes.

Remain optimistic. Darkness leads to light. Winter gives way to spring. Good conquers evil. Always.

That is it. I wish Pura Vida for all.

Mark your calendar! – My garden Open Day is Saturday May 13 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Also on May 13, is Teatown Reservation’s Plantfest 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. I will have a booth there purveying botanical prints, note cards and soft furnishings. Good gifts for Mother’s Day, hostess, bridal showers, housewarming and for yourself!

I’m happy to report that I am Teatown’s 2017 Wildflower artist of the year. Their 2017 note cards will bear my rendition of pink turtleheads.

I have art work at – ARTISTS OF NORTHERN WESTCHESTER SHOW

Sponsored by the

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Hudson Valley

2021 Albany Post Road, Croton-on-Hudson

Directions on website: www.uuchudsonvalley.org

Four Weekends of Exhibit Hours: Sun. 4/9, Sat. 4/15, Sun. 4/16, Sat. 4/22, Sun. 4/23, Sat. 4/29, and Sun. 4/30 – Noon – 3 p.m. Opening Reception, Saturday, April 8th from 4-6 p.m.

And now enjoy some more memories from Costa Rica.

High above the rain forest! Exhilarating!

High above the rain forest! Exhilarating!

Mira nd me with guides Roy and Chikki after that amazing experience.

Mira nd me with guides Roy and Chikki after that amazing experience.

Hiking in the virgin forest. Sacred space.

Hiking in the virgin forest. Sacred space.

At the crater of Paos volcano.

At the crater of Paos volcano.

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La Paz reserve

La Paz reserve

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(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

Blowing Hot, Blowing Cold AND Stinky Stats

Stella blows into town tonight. Boy! Has she got us all talking and preparing for her arrival! Events and agendas have been canceled and cleared. Pantries and refrigerators stocked. Fireplaces made ready. Blankets and sweaters on hand for cozy times once Stella is here. She should be so honored that 50 million people are anticipating her visit. With anxiety and apprehension. Stella is after all the bomb. A glorious, whoppingly impactful snow storm of a girl. And it is predicted that she will undergo bombogenesis ( it’s a real word) which means conditions are right for snow to accumulate up to 4 inches an hour with high winds and possible thundersnow. We are therefore expecting 18 to 24 inches of snow. Let’s hope we do not lose power.

It is already mid-March and after a dismally weak-spirited winter, it just feels too much too late no? Besides, what about all those days in February and just last week when the temperatures were cheerfully spring like? If the weather was a person, a shrink would have a clear and conclusive diagnosis of its rather confusing behavior.

So, as it stands, one must do what one must to safeguard the garden. Protect shrubs with buds and other vulnerable plants with plastic or wooden ‘tents’, Wind rope around shrubs to give them a compact stability against breaking and splaying due to the weight of huge amounts of snow. Pour sand and grit on walkways and driveways to give traction to tires and shoes.  Have flashlights, matches, candles, bottled water on hand. Keep shovels accessible. Fill up bird feeders. Likewise, fill car gas tank. Get out those board games and books. Bring in a good supply of firewood. Stock up on groceries – don’t forget the fixings for hot cocoa and s’mores. Place blankets wherever cozying-up is a possibility.Charge up phones and laptops. During the storm, try and check up on elderly neighbors. Have your camera close by – snow storms can provide great photo ops!

I’m getting a bit tired of this hot and cold treatment. Enough already. Can we please just get back to safely predictable, ‘normal’ seasonable weather?

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Stink Bug Update

There is finally some hope in getting rid of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). Since their invasion into the US in the 1990s, they have destroyed fruit and vegetable crops and grossed out everyone who has been finding them in their homes. My method of action has been to capture them in toilet tissue and flush them down. Yes, I have probably wasted a good deal of water in this warfare. The guilt has been getting to me so, I’m more than relieved that a solution is in sight.

Scientists at Cornell University have discovered a tiny wasp that lays its eggs in the BMSB and thereby kills off potential bug babies. The Samurai Wasp Trissolcus japonicus, is thus far the only effective BMSB predator we know.

The wasp itself is an alien species so its own long term impact on our native flora and fauna is unknown. Hence applying it to combat the stink bug has to be done thoughtfully. The university and USDA scientists are collaborating on a project to create a map of the areas impacted by the bug. They want all of us to get involved – a National Citizen Science Project.

To participate is simple. Once you find a stink bug, ascertain that it is indeed a BMSB and not any other bug. Take a photo of it and report the finding on the EDDMaps.website. The live link is for New York state but that site can help you find the link to all other states.

Next, every day through March to April 31, count all the BMSBs you find in the home or garden. Enter that data online. That’s it.

After April 31, all the data will be collated and a BMSB distribution map will be created. Scientists will release the Samurai wasps in a controlled manner in the affected areas and help establish the wasps there so they can begin lowering the stink bug populations. At the same time, the scientists will be closely monitoring the presence of the wasp and how it might affect non-target insects. After all, we do not want another alien creature going rogue. At this point, the aim is to use the wasp for the single purpose of eradicating the BMSB.

So, lets all get started. A common enemy to unite us all!

Note: The date for my garden’s Open Day through the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day Program is set! Mark your calendars! Saturday May 13 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. No excuses. Be there!

Protective tents on the ready

Protective tents on the ready

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Isicles

Icicles

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https://i0.wp.com/njaes.rutgers.edu/images/photos/stinkbug/adult-female-full.jpg?w=584&ssl=1

Adult female Brown Marmorated Stink Bug ( photo – https://njaes.rutgers.edu/stinkbug/identify.asp)

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

A Garden’s Tale

Open Day came and went. The weather cooperated to the extent that it did not actually rain. A drizzle hung around for hours and it was chilly. A steady trickle of visitors braved the damp, cold conditions and for me, that made the day A-alright. Old and new faces brightened my outlook. Although colors are more vivid when it is overcast, garden visitors tend to come out in much higher numbers when the sun shines. I get it. I too do so much better when the golden rays are present.

I’d worked hard to prepare for this big day. All through April temperatures flip-flopped. Winter felt like spring and spring now is behaving more like winter. There was hardly any precipitation till April. How then was any self-respecting plant supposed to know what to do? But still, I endeavored. Caution has been the name of the game. Tentatively putting out leaves and buds, I’ve been risk averse. There was no way I could rush into full growth mode only to be felled by a severe cold snap. Besides what would’ve been the point, the bees and other pollinators were also playing it safe. Nothing was stirring in a hurry.

Despite the difficult conditions, the gardener worked industriously to get me ready. She cleared winter debris and tidied up everywhere so I could breathe freely. Fed on rich compost and judicious drinks of water, I was nurtured and cared for. I got new companions and said farewell to those whose time had come. Happy to be rid of thuggish weeds and all things harmful, I am aware that I’m amongst the fortunate suburban spaces where my health is of utmost importance. It’s a good life.

But I could sense her frustration. Where were the flowers? No doubt, at an intellectual level, she knew why. But, knowing that visitors adored pretty blooms, she was naturally concerned. While I’d have loved to oblige, it would’ve been fool hardy to ignore the weather conditions. I had to keep the long term in mind.

That caution has paid off. Little has been lost. However, it did mean that the flowers were delayed. With hardly any sunshine to coax the buds open, understandably, there is a hesitation to bare all. A little warmth and light goes a long way in the garden. To make up for the paucity of other blooms, the tulips have lingered longer than usual. They have held the horticultural fort so to speak. Thank goodness for that. I was afraid I’d lose face on open day by having nothing to show.

Meanwhile, the vertical garden had come alive with its many mosses and lichens and young ferns and heuchera. It was deeply satisfying to eavesdrop on all the positive comments on its beautiful, abstract appeal. I am not immune to compliments. Clearly, flowers do not own the show.

Gardeners are notorious for bemoaning to visitors “you should have come last week, the garden was spectacular!” For them, it is never the ideal visiting moment in the garden. Their eagerness to have everything looking perfect keeps them from ever being satisfied. It is the nature of the beast.

Coming back to this most recent open day, I too have to admit that while still charming and full of clever details and design, I looked less than stunning. Sodden after days of rain, it was hard to be very perky.To be fair, the slowness of the plants actually permitted those design elements to show with clarity. Without the distraction of the flowers, visitors noticed the grapevine cuttings that are used to conceal the mechanics of propping up the peonies. The stone ‘books’ got lots of attention. Likewise the different ways brick has been used. The espalier maintained its position as being pretty darn cool. And the checkerboard garden made a good impression despite the fact that all of the phlox had not quite bloomed. I admit that while the whole garden was burgeoning with buds that were just a few days from blooming, I still cleaned up pretty nicely. So on this day, my gardener said “ it’ll look terrific in a week to ten days!” Rightfully, she was not apologetic. Merely wistful. After all, she would have liked everybody to see me at my very best. Still, I was pleased to see her look proud of how I came through.

I will try to do even better next year. I promise. Do be sure to come and see.

Open Day photos –

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photo credit - Dave Fleck

photo credit – Dave Fleck

The 'shop' in the greenhouse

The ‘shop’ in the greenhouse

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

 

The Darling Buds Of May

Dang! It is cold! Winter is still maintaining a tenuous hold and April showers have spilled into May. Isn’t it time for spring to step up and show who is boss for these months?

If it weren’t for the resilient bulbs, my garden would be hard pressed for flower power right now The hellebores managed to get into the game just in time but the apples and pears were pretty much shut out. They were granted a couple of days before the temperatures plummeted and put paid to the blossoms. I have yet to see any bees so it looks as though my trees may not produce fruit this year.
And the lilacs didn’t stand a chance. The buds succumbed to the sudden cold.

The creeping phlox is scrambling to cheer me up and it’s working. Their exuberance is as effective as toddlers running after waves. Always a happy sight. The broom, full of butter-yellow flowers sends its fragrance wafting into the house as a reminder to come outside and look. Dandelions, ajuga and forget-me-nots are picking up the slack in the meadow and rendering it the horticultural interpretation of the Swedish flag. All blue and yellow. Sky and sun. Lovely. Yes, I can just visualize the lovers of pristine, monocultural lawns cringe! Sigh. They know not what they miss.

Elsewhere, what would typically be in full bloom are only just getting ready to do so. Buds everywhere. Columbines, camassias, alliums, amsonia, baptisia, foxgloves, tree peony, clematis … all in bud. But the buds are growing and growing! Any day now. I’m giddy with anticipation.

I so love the month of May. It has so much to offer along with the promise of still more to come. Peonies, roses, astilbe, irises, heuchera, wisteria, sanguisorba, filipendula, hydrangea …. and on and on till October!

By my Open Day this Saturday, I’m hoping the weather coaxes more buds to bloom. It should be pretty. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you. Come on over!

Creeping phlox

Creeping phlox

Tulip mania

Tulip mania

Blue and yellow

Blue and yellow

Vertical garden

Vertical garden

Allium bud

Allium bud

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

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