Foxtails and Fireworks, Alliums and Allumettes!

It’s kinda quiet in the garden right now. Spring flowers are totally done and summer is yet to make her big splash. At this time, there are only a few dabs of color amidst a mostly green canvas. To some it means I haven’t planned well enough to maintain a continuous display of blooms. They are probably right. But I really don’t mind this lull – it coincides with my own switch to a summer state of mind and so my attention is taken up by planning for pool time, picnics, reading escapes, outdoor concerts, catching up with friends over dinners under the stars, vacation prep, siestas and numerous other vital seasonal pleasures. After all, we wait all year for this – a time when slowing down and sipping a tall afternoon drink of something potent is perfectly acceptable. One hardly needs the distraction of a garden shouting for attention right?

So, I’m quite happy to do just the basic chores of weeding, watering and deadheading and get on with finding my summer groove. Once firmly ensconced in the rhythm of the season and comfortably balancing to-dos with want-to-dos, I’m ready for some petal power to add zip to my days. Only then can I duly admire the flowers and not hurt their feelings. See? My not so great planning actually suits me. Stop rolling your eyes.

Anyway, gazing at the flowers that are in bloom including those almost on their way out, I’m struck by the similarities between them and the fireworks I so enjoyed yesterday. Yes, summer gives you permission to spend time cogitating upon such matters. Look it up. It’s in the fine print.

If you don’t believe my inspired comparison, use your imagination and check out the photos below:

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Alliums

Alliums

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Cranesbill geranium and allium

Cranesbill geranium and allium

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Astilbe and geranium

Astilbe and geranium

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Bergamot

Bergamot

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Echinacea

Echinacea

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Foxtail lily

Foxtail lily

Foxtail lily

Foxtail lily

(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

Good Views, Bad News

I think I’ll start with the bad news. You probably know it already. The tick population is at an unprecedented high this year. And that means higher incidences of Lymes disease. But that’s not all. A new tick related disease has entered our realm. A tick-borne disease called Powassan, or POW, has spread to New York. It is potentially deadly and much worse than Lymes. The CDC website gives all the cautionary details so please look it up. With informed vigilance and common sense we can continue to enjoy our time outdoors.

Clearly, that mild winter has done no good by us. Chipmunks, mosquitoes and ticks are having the time of their lives.

The other piece of cautionary news –  It appears that some “Big Box Stores” are selling Milkweed plants treated with systemic Neonicotinoids. This will kill caterpillars that feed on the plant. Milkweed is THE host plant for the Monarch. Please, be aware and be on the lookout for these tags placed in plants. It is outrageous that any pesticide has been applied on them. While the scientific /environmental / gardening community has been working hard to make the public aware of the urgent need to plant milkweed to support the Monarch butterfly, irresponsible suppliers to the Big Box stores have been poisoning the plants for their own financial gain.

In doing the right thing of planting native plants, please check if they have been tainted with any pesticides. Let your conscience guide you when it comes to where you shop for plants. I support local, family owned nurseries.

If you discover that your plants have been treated with chemicals, complain loudly. Protest. Boycott.

Our health and indeed the health of the planet is in the balance.

Now for the good views. Enjoy the Open Day photos of my garden and Rocky Hills. This is why we garden! Hallelujah.

Starting with my garden:

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Sneaking in my newest pillows. Tell me what you think! More of those and other products will be uploaded on 'Shop' soon. Stay tuned!

Sneaking in my newest pillows. Tell me what you think! More of those and other products will be uploaded on ‘Shop’ soon. Stay tuned!

Rocky Hills:

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(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

Rekindling, Renewing, Reviving

It’s in the trumpeting of the daffodils

The chorus awakening the sun

In the untwisting of pink cherry-buds

That hibernating hearts comes undone.”

– Shobha

In leaps and bounds – that’s how the garden is coming along. It never fails to astonish how much growth happens in a single day. Naturally, keeping up with the work in the garden is a real challenge. All too often, being so focused on getting the various to-do list items checked off, one fails to appreciate what and why we garden. Not this year. No matter how much needs doing or what goes wrong in the garden, I’m determined to pause, step back and bask in the myriad miracles that occur in the garden on any given day. In this season of rebirth and renewal, my love and reason to garden is reaffirmed and rekindled.

So, join me. Take a few minutes to enjoy the photos below. See what I see. I just know that you too will agree that the world is a most wondrous place to be.

But first, indulge me. I’m so proud to be a part of this:

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Here you go:

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The best reasons to be in the garden

The best reasons to be in the garden

(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

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