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

Flower Power, Giving Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is my hope that you will support this event.

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

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

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

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

Here’s a glimpse of my garden right now –

Lilacs and Broom. The fragrance is heavenly!

Lilacs and Broom. The fragrance is heavenly!

In the meadow, columbines sway.

In the meadow, columbines sway.

Meadow madness

Meadow madness

Foxgloves in force

Foxgloves in force

Tulips and candytuft at play

Tulips and candytuft at play

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

 

The Chipmunk Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is war.

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

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

Chipmunk hole in perennial bed observed in February

Chipmunk hole in perennial bed observed in February

Telltale trails through the mulch

Telltale trails through the mulch

No leaves on the rose limbs.

No leaves on the rose limbs.

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Barely any tulips in this bed. Sad!

Barely any tulips in this bed. Sad!

Come, take a load off your feet!

Come, take a load off your feet!

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Apple blossom buds

Apple blossom buds

Pear blossoms

Pear blossom

The back from above in the house

The back from above in the house

In the meadow

In the meadow

The meadow right now

The meadow right now

In the herb garden

In the herb garden

With the Mickels and ferns

With the Mickels and ferns

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

Verre, Verdure, Vue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again, my Open Day is May 13.

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

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

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

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Acanthus

Acanthus

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

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

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

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

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar

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

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

 

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.

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.

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

Iguano

Iguana

Chifrijo

Chifrijo

Cashew

Cashew

Casados

Casados

Approaching Monteverde

Approaching Monteverde

Sunset over cloud mountain

Sunset over cloud mountain

Monteverde rainforest

Monteverde rainforest

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Bromeliades

Bromeliades

A matter of scale!!

A matter of scale!!

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

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?

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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

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

Snowdrop

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