Pura Vida Part I

Pura Vida – the Costa Rican law of the land. It is a way of life. A state of mind. An attitude. A philosophy. It means to live life to the fullest with joy, love, laughter, kindness, caring and tolerance.

I’ve just returned from a glorious, life-affirming week in Costa Rica. Pura vida is alive, well and thriving. A country with no military and every effort put into preserving, safeguarding and sustaining its biodiversity, its culture and its identity. Pura vida is now my mantra.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on matters environmental but suffice to say that the people are exceptionally friendly and the food and water perfectly safe and satisfying no matter where you are in the country. From roadside fruit stands to food stalls, cafes, bars, local hangouts and restaurants, I thoroughly enjoyed them all. To know that what I consumed was safe and clean felt very reassuring.

Costa Rica is 0.05% of the earth’s landmass but it has 5% of the worlds diversity. The richness in flora and fauna is staggering and this was why this country was #2 on my bucket-list of places to visit. While I was aware that places like the cloud-mountain rainforest at Monteverde were major centers for research where scientists of all kinds of disciplines and from all over the globe come to work, I was pleasantly surprised that the whole population is environmentally conscious and proud of their efforts to do right. Water is diligently conserved, 75% of the energy is renewable with an aim to get to 100% in the near future, flora and fauna respected and protected, and the air is clean. And it shows. Everywhere I went was clean, comfortable and characteristically lovely.

The cities and countrysides were dotted with Cortez trees ( Tabebuia ochracea) in full pink or yellow bloom. Stunning. Add the loose, yellow flowers of the tamarind trees, the bold orange of cannas and the sunset hues of birds-of-paradise and you can picture the sheer exuberance of color.

In the cloud forests, I was totally overwhelmed by the wealth of different plants, exotic birds and other odd yet disarming creatures like sloth, choati and kinkajous. A guided hike at night revealed creatures like stick insects, tarantulas, minuscule frogs and some other nocturnal critters. Listening to the night sounds, feeling the mist and walking in the dark was an amazing experience. All the senses were heightened and the awareness that hidden animals were probably observing the humans gave me goosebumps.

The hike at daybreak was differently exciting. To see plants we normally grow indoors thriving in their natural habitats, listen to the cacophony of all sorts of birds, insects and animals and breathe in the air redolent with earthy fragrances was a total joy. I was in heaven. This is virgin forest and older than Methuselah. Zip-lining over this ancient rain forest, I was reduced to tears by its sheer majesty.

From the come-hither-linger-awhile beaches and large, antediluvian looking iguanas of the Pacific coast to the more arid, scorching parts of the northwest where I saw forest fires to the cool, lush, wet greenery of the mountain rain forests and finally to the fertile, gorgeous landscape leading up to a volcano crater sitting magnificent and beguiling, I’ll just say that I witnessed pura vida in action.

This earth of ours is all we’ve got. She deserves to be cherished and preserved. Our survival depends on her survival. And while we are at it, surely we can look out for each other and live with passion, compassion and purpose.

Now, who cannot get with the Pura Vida program? Seems a no-brainer and yet, we fall short all the time. Well, let’s try harder.

[ It is worth knowing that Costa Rica does not have zoos. One can either go to the natural habitats/forests to search for and observe the animals or, visit a preserve that keeps animals that have been rescued from those keeping them as illegal pets, for fights or other equally reprehensible reasons. For one reason or other, these animals cannot be released in the wild as they no longer have the skills to make it there. A country after my own heart]

Before you drool over the photos below, I just want to alert you on an upcoming art show that I’m in.


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.

Enjoy the photos! I’m only sharing a tiny portion of the vast collection – will give you more next week! A big shout out to our excellent Monteverde guides Ronnie, Roy and Chikkie and, to dear friend Brithany whose pride in her country is contagious!

Pacific sunset

Pacific sunset

Playa Negra

Playa Negra









Approaching Monteverde

Approaching Monteverde

Sunset over cloud mountain

Sunset over cloud mountain

Monteverde rainforest

Monteverde rainforest




A matter of scale!!

A matter of scale!!



Looking way up the inside of a hollow tree that is still standing.

Looking way up the inside of a hollow tree that is still standing.

Rare lily

Rare lily

Daughter on the zipline

Daughter on the zipline

(c) 2016 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?


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








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

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

March Madness

From the first of this month till today, we have gone from balmy, 60 degree temperatures to stormy, highly windy to, extremely cold and dry and now back to spring like conditions. That is in the span of exactly one week. Craayzeeee!

The snowdrops are practically done for. They shone all too briefly. There must be utter confusion underground. I imagine the assorted bulbs talking all at once in a state of panic trying to decide if it’s time to get going yet. The snowdrops are probably saying – “It’s madness up there guys! I wouldn’t risk it just yet.” And I’ll bet the scillas are hesitantly wondering if they ought to listen or just take their chances. No doubt the hyacinths are flexing their muscles and scornful of their more delicate cousin. Meanwhile, the irises are shrugging their corms and listening to the ensuing chaos happy in the knowledge that they do not need to decide anything this early. They get to snooze a few weeks longer.

I’m kind of glad I am a bit behind schedule in trimming back the old foliage on the hellebores. The emerging flowers ought have enjoyed the protection this past weekend. I intend to remove those leaves tomorrow.

Typically, at this time of year, I’m already looking into acquiring pansies and primroses to set the stage for spring. The spring window-boxes are put up a week before the vernal Equinox. Perhaps that will happen this weekend. It really is time to start on the spring clean up and schedule plantings and sowing.

After the barely-there winter, the feeling of spring is almost anti-climactic. There is none of the usual dramatic shift from frigid and bare to pleasant and green. It’s as though spring has been creeping in slowly for a while and appears to have made some sort of cohabitation deal with winter. I personally find this frustrating. Are we done with winter or not? Is she going to drag her feet? I’d like to know one way or other. I have plenty of work to do but the weather doesn’t seem to care one whit about that. It is clearly having a blast tormenting gardeners all around.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m starting with the hellebores. Then, I shall begin cleaning up in earnest. Next, set up the window-boxes. This should clearly be a declaration that this garden is spring-ready. And by that time, we ought to know if winter is finally letting go of her hold on us.

In these unpredictable, unsettling times, I really need to get started in the garden – my sanity depends on it.

I hope you enjoy my watercolor rendition and poem below:

Snowdrop. watercolor

Snowdrop. watercolor


Diminutive cousin of Amaryllis

emerging from Eurasian roots

Harking back to Winter’s white

Alluding to Springs chartreuse.

Visiting just long enough

to reassure seasons change

Never overstaying her welcome

Her departure prearranged.

Sweet bells hang low

So ants can hear them ring

calling to come feast

Depart with seeds to fling

Homer’s magical herb moly

disarms all human hearts

When small can be mighty

and staying humble is an art.

Shobha Vanchiswar

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Spring Breaks!

When I left New York eight days ago, there was a foot of snow on the ground. What a difference a week makes. Not only has all the snow disappeared, but signs of spring abound. It is positively thrilling. This anticipation of my favorite season sends shivers through my body. I’m giddy with spring fever.

After traveling for almost a whole day, enduring cramped quarters, stale air, airline food, blocked ears and total lack of sleep, I needed a real shot of nature to banish the fatigue. So directly from the airport, I went to the New York Botanical Gardens. The Orchid Show was on and I was in desperate need of flower power.

The sunshine and open space felt healing as I made my way to the conservatory. My tradition is to go through the perennial gardens and as I did so, I spied the first snowdrops of the year. Oh joy! Early crocuses stood poised to imminently open their diminutive goblets while the hellebores, as usual, had heralded the parade. They were in full bloom mode. Stems of shrubs still denuded of foliage had begun showing color as though they were slowly sipping from underground vats of dye. Taking in all these signs of rebirth and renewal made me feel so alive.

And with that shot in the arm, I stepped into the conservatory. The theme of the orchid show this year is Thailand. And it delivered beautifully. The natural humidity and warmth of the conservatory lent a very appropriate element to set the stage. The background music, the bright colors, the elephant motifs, the shrines and the very flowers themselves transported one to another place. For one just released from an airplane, this felt ideal. If only real travel could be this blissfully simple.

At such a show, it didn’t matter if the orchids on display were all originally from Thailand or not. It was the overall atmosphere they conveyed that mattered. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is the perfect antidote to all kinds of fatigue – from winter blues, to daily news of hate crimes and divisiveness, to rising anxiety to long journeys. A little respite, an brief escape, a shift in perspective can work wonders.

Do go to this show or, if you do not live anywhere near the NYBG, go to the nearest botanical garden as most have a conservatory with a collection that is sure to delight. And if you do not have even that option, get yourself an orchid or two from the local nursery, make or order in a Thai meal (or any exotic cuisine of your choice), dress for the occasion in something colorful, get a playlist of suitable music piped in and take yourself on a fun trip of your own. I promise you’ll have a great time. Spring is breaking out!

Note: I’ve written about my most recent visit with the children at Mukta Jeevan. They are my reason to hope, serve and make a difference. You can read about the visit here.

And now, enjoy the photos of orchids and all things spring!










Eranthis - like scattered gold

Eranthis – like scattered gold


(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Indian Summer

No, not that kind of Indian summer. I’m talking about summer in India. Okay, so it is still February and not actually called summer in India but it is 90 degrees in Mumbai and definitely feels like summer. So there.

Strange as it feels to bask in this heat having only just left New York in the throes of winter ( which apparently is currently simulating spring), I’m instantly transported to the summers of my early childhood. The scene here is actually nothing like those memories – hot and dusty, it already looks parched and eager for the monsoon rains. The trees and shrubs while appearing to be robust impart an air of exhaustion from the layer of dust choking the leaves. As though newly arrived from great journeys, they hang like weary travelers in need of food, drink and a long shower.

The air is drier than usual. Mumbai being an island in the Arabian Sea, is prone to the humidity characteristic of all coastal regions. I’m not missing the humidity however. The dry heat is much more tolerable. At the markets, ‘winter’ fruits are still found. Grapes and citrus mostly. Guavas are just beginning to emerge on the fruit sellers carts. I see lots of tomatoes which feels kind of odd as I’ve grown accustomed to them flavoring my summers back home but, certainly not unusual for these climes to have tomatoes all year round. It is simply a bit confusing for my jet-lagged mind.

But reverting to my childhood summers, I feel a sense of nostalgia. No doubt the years since have cast a romantic hue on those memories. I might even be mixing up the plants. Still, I remember the hot reds and oranges of the canna flowers punching the white hot days. The bright sunlight sent us kids to seek the shade of porches and trees. Too hot for physical play, we resorted to old-fashioned games with stones and shells that tested our hand-motor skills and did not require much exertion. The sounds of cicadas and other insects provided a back drop of discordant music that was well suited to our own rather unchecked vocals. The birds only bothered to sing in the early morning.

I remember lobbing stones to knock down still green mangoes from their tall trees. Some of those trees did not belong to any of us children but, that never hampered our ambitions. The tart-sweet flesh sprinkled with salt and red chili powder made a most heavenly snack. Ditto for the tamarind fruit. Come to think of it, these were remarkably natural, healthy foods that somehow fooled us into thinking we were indulging in something terribly naughty. Of course, too much of even these resulted in tummy aches and maternal scoldings.

What I recall most intensely were the aromas of the season. During the day, the high temperatures dissipated any smells. But come dusk as the heat abated, the perfume of frangipani competed mightily with the evening jasmine. The roses had a fragrance so strong that I was prone to coveting them. So much so that I’d actually eat the petals as though wanting to contain their power within my body. Gardenias were not as common but whenever they were present, even a single flower in bloom would perfume the air for miles around. There was no getting away from scents those evenings. Almost everything had a smell but the ones that chose to be subtle got overlooked.

It has been many moons since those summers of my youth but memories are strong. It takes only a wave of Mumbai heat to trigger them. And for a spell, I’m transported to my time in the gardens that gave me my life long love for nature. A gift every child should be so blessed to receive.

Note: As I don’t have images of those memorable gardens of my past, I’m offering up some of my watercolor renditions of warm weather flowers. Enjoy! May they evoke your own set of memories and dreams.

And do go see the exhibit I’m in at the ASL this week.

















(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Feeling February

After a rather mediocre rendition of winter from December and January, February has come on fierce! Snow, ice, freezing rain, high winds, black ice – you name it, we’re getting it. This I recognize. It was beginning to feel a bit unsettling when there were so many above normal temperature days. So now, as inconvenient as it might be, I’m comfortable with the more seasonal weather . Do I like risking life and limb every time I step outside? Absolutely not. My eyes label every dark patch as black ice and my feet begin walking so gingerly that I’ve turned into a poster child for the paranoid.

Still, the mass of snow protecting the garden is heartwarming. I suffered thinking of the plants left exposed to the cold and wind. And I fretted that the milder days might fool the hibernating bulbs into thinking it was time to awaken. So yes, this typical blast of real winter is making me feel better.

It’s funny how we long for sojourns to the tropics when we are in the throes of winter weather and moan about the treachery of traversing the icy roads. Summer cannot come to soon right? Yet, even a slight shift in the climate is cause for alarm. It can bring about big changes quite quickly leaving inadequate time for both flora and fauna to adapt. This then affects everything else. A sudden snowfall in Florida puts paid to the citrus harvest. A mild winter in the North lowers the water table, adversely affects towns reliant on winter sports and related businesses, plants requiring a proper period of cold begin to struggle when the growing season restarts and so on and so forth. As I write, the winds are gusting hard. Fallen trees are blocking off roads and even delaying train service, schools were delayed this morning due to black ice on bus routes and, power outages are spreading. There is no question, our lives are intimately entwined with nature.

Time spent in nature is critical to our mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Mankind has known that from ancient times. Science has confirmed that belief. It is now up to us to oversee that which is so important to our health.

We owe it to ourselves, future generations and all of life to preserve, protect and enjoy this beautiful, bountiful planet.

Recommended reading while you’re cozying up to the fireplace and the wind is howling outside:

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative. By Florence Williams

Happy Valentine’s Day one and all!


February 20 – 25 I have some paintings in NYC group show. Please visit!


Enjoy these images apropos Valentine’s Day:

Stone hearts


Heart in the snow

Ooty Bot garden

Dried leaf heart

IMG_8263Cyclamen heart

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar



Amaryllis Unplugged

I’ve been doing it all wrong. All these years I’ve grown amaryllis by planting them two-thirds their height in a slightly constraining container of soil, watering once a week and keeping them in a cool-ish, somewhat bright location in the house. Alternatively, I’ve also grown these bulbs in just water. Both methods have been quite effective. No doubt, you too have handled amaryllis the same way. Yes? Am I right? Or is it just me?

Well, come to find out on my recent sojourn to the Netherlands that, none of those efforts are necessary. Sure they may be potted up if you like but in truth, they do not need anything to bloom. That’s right, nothing. No water, no food, no container even. This bit of understanding has blown my mind.

Lingering at the store fronts of the charming flower shops, I noticed that inside one shop, there was a stunning display of white amaryllis on a vertically suspended length of tree branch. The branch had sinuous curves with interesting outgrowths. The bulbs were nestled in crooks and crannies – held in place with ties. But that was it. No soil. They just sat where placed. Each bulb had a stalk or two trumpeting beautiful white flowers. My first thought was the bulbs weren’t real. Wrong. Then I figured it was meant to be a very temporary display. Wrong.

On talking with the florist/owner Oda Schoffelmeer, I learned that amaryllis bulbs bought each season need no help from us. They do not even require a preliminary soaking in water to wake up their roots. The fat, firm bulbs come with everything they need to bloom. It is only when blooming is completed and leaves are put out that they need to be planted in soil and watered – to replenish their depleted stores. Is this not simply amazing? Consider the decorating possibilities!

The bulbs can be also be dipped in wax and placed just about anywhere to bloom. Pick the wax color of your choice! Or, the bulbs can be coated in a thin (non-toxic I imagine) paint. Gold, silver, bronze anyone?!

Needless to say, I am as excited about my new discovery as a puppy in a basket of laundry. I’m off to see if there are still some amaryllis to be had at my local nursery.

My take away – travel really does open minds and it is never too late to learn new things. I’m boarding a plane again in two weeks. Can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Enjoy the images below. And, mark your calenders – I’m in a group exhibit in NYC Feb 20-25.

I apologize in advance to my Facebook readers for the images not being upright. When the photos are taken a certain way, they show up on FB on their sides and I have not figured out how to correct this problem. When I post the article on my website, they go automatically on FB and Twitter. Please let me know if any of you can resolve my dilemma.

The amaryllis display as seen from outside the Bergflora shop in Eindhoven, NL

ca The amaryllis display as seen from outside the Bergflora shop in Eindhoven, NL

The amaryllis placed on the branch

The amaryllis placed on the branch


Bulbs dipped in hot pink wax. Just sitting there and preparing to bloom.

Bulbs dipped in hot pink wax. Just sitting there and preparing to bloom.

My own amaryllis grown the 'old' way. But, I stopped watering them 10 days ago when I returned from Holland.

My own amaryllis grown the ‘old’ way. But, I stopped watering them 10 days ago when I returned from Holland.

Another view. It is a stunning display even if I say so myself.

Another view. It is a stunning display even if I say so myself.

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Spring Will Come. I Promise.

I just returned from an all too brief visit to the Netherlands. Despite the cold, the flower shops there are already in full spring mode. I cannot even begin to express my joy at the sight of spring bulbs displayed in the storefronts. For that period of time, all felt well in the world.

So, instead of belaboring on just how much plants can uplift our spirits and remind us that life goes on, I offer you some of the images that filled my heart with optimism. Let them fill yours.

Remember, no matter how dark our days are right now, spring is on its way. I promise. Stay hopeful, be helpful.










(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Weathering The Storm

I’m writing a day ahead of when I usually do because I’m traveling tomorrow. Presently, while other parts of the country are already hit by bad weather, we in the Northeast are bracing ourselves for a Nor’easter. It’s funny how the knowledge of impending storms alerts our flight or fight responses. At once we gauge how prepared we are to face the ‘enemy’.

The wind has picked up, the skies are overcast and the temperatures have dropped. The birds are nowhere to be seen – they have all sought safe havens. Right away I check if everything outdoors is tethered/secured/put away. Still, I know the winds can tear through trees breaking off limbs and even uprooting them all together. Which in turn, can create further damage. This is of course beyond my control so, I hope for the best. Presumably, the pruning and cutting-back done in the fall will have paid off.

The greenhouse has been fired up and the plants are watered. Short of a truly unpredictably devastating storm, it should be fine.

Indoors, flashlights and candles are on the ready for potential power outages. There is food in the larder and wood in the fireplace. Books and boardgames picked out. Have I missed anything?

News of an impending storm should be less of a call to action and more of an opportunity to up my energy and resolve to do what is right, assess my performance so to speak – to take stock of myself, my home and all that I hold dear. Do I have what’s needed? Are things in good shape? Am I doing all I can to protect and preserve? An ongoing checklist is one way I keep myself organized and accountable. I definitely don’t want to be caught sleeping on the job.

And that’s what it comes down to – preparation. It’s easy to sit back when all is fine but having a plan, keeping necessaries in store and information available in case of conditions worsening is vital. Otherwise, it’ll feel really bad when we’re hit.

When the signs of an approaching storm are all there, it does not pay to sit back. Instead, confront with knowledge and readiness. In place of panic, may calm, resilient , wise minds prevail.

Because, in the end, this too will pass.

My friend Julie's garden after a storm.  Changed her woodland garden some.

My friend Julie’s garden after a storm. Changed her woodland garden some.

The greenhouse

The greenhouse

In the greenhouse

In the greenhouse

Camellia in bud in the greenhouse

Camellia in bud in the greenhouse

In my friend and orchid guru Bill Smiles' greenhouse

In my friend and orchid guru Bill Smiles’ greenhouse

Inside the house

Inside the house



(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar


Doing Right The Old-Fashioned Way

So, here we are in the third week of January. A strange January at many levels but I’ll stick to the weather. Every day of seasonal weather, has been counter-pointed with a not so seasonal day. What is one to make of this irregularity with regard to the garden? Beats me!

While we, as a world community come to grips with climate change and pressure our leaders to implement policies to deal with it, I am doing my level best to do my part in my own little piece of earth. I have no control of the weather itself but I do have the power to make informed, intelligent choices.

From the start, when we bought our house a good 24 years ago, I made a conscious decision to go organic. At that time, it was not so simple or even popular to be organic. It made me seem like a throwback to the ‘60s. A hippie-flower child wanna be. Nurseries did not carry many organic pest-control products, compost was barely understood. This being the years before the Internet or Google, I had to do my research the ‘old-fashioned’ way. That took a fair amount of time but I actually ended up learning more than a search permits today. When specific information can be conjured up instantly, there is no opportunity for detours into related and not so related topics.

I mail ordered my composter and when I excitedly announced its arrival, I was met with responses that ranged from puzzled to amused smiles and told I was so ‘quaint’, a ‘modern hippie’ or ‘trés new age-y’. Re-purposing an oak wine barrel to a water butt elicited similar reactions. Ditto for the manual, push-reel mower that I had such a hard time finding. When I began introducing native plants in the garden, I was told more than once that I was growing ‘very common’ plants. Some pronounced them ‘weeds’.

I sourced neem oil, seaweed and fish emulsion, lady bugs, Bacillus thuringiensis, nitrogen fixing microbes and made other products like comfrey ‘tea’ (best fertilizer!) at home. Those were the good old days!

Today, almost everything is available at my local nursery and what isn’t can be ordered super-easily on-line. Instead of the calender reminding me when to do what and physically making the effort to monitor temperatures and precipitation, I have apps and digital gadgets that have simplified everything. While these have freed me up for other matters and provide a certain peace of mind, they also push me away from my garden to a certain extent. I do not have to actually be in the garden quite as much. I realized this a couple of years ago and missed my 100% hands on approach. So now, although I enjoy the benefits of modern technology, I consciously putter around the garden no matter what. My physical, mental and spiritual well-being depends on it.

I still have the same composter and rain barrel. The mower was upgraded to a lighter, better manual model – there is now a choice! All the organic products are readily available. Towns offer free compost and mulch to their residents. Nurseries now proudly carry numerous native plants and some even have a whole section devoted to them. In fact, in current parlance, organic, native and ecologically sound practices are trending. Our forefathers would no doubt be highly amused by our ‘modern and progressive’ ways.

Meanwhile, I’m determined to plug away ethically, with integrity and, put up with whatever the weather blows my way. There is absolutely no excuse for anybody to do otherwise.

Note: Enjoy my watercolor renderings of a few of the natives that grow in my garden. Do they look common or weedy to you?!








(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar