Whatever one believes in, celebrations are in order. Winter arrived with the solstice. Hanukkah is underway, today is Christmas Eve and Kwanzaa starts in two days. The New Year is just a week away. Best of all, we are past the shortest day of the year and slowly but surely the days are getting longer. Hallelujah!
At this time, we remember years passed and look ahead to the future. Friends and family are precious – this is a perfect time to reaffirm those bonds.
Trimming The Tree
Love hangs memories
on awaiting arms
twinkling happy thoughts
as new stories get written.
While the past is shed
the present unfolds itself
into the future.
– Shobha Vanchiswar
Before one gets caught up in the festivities, water the plants! Be they house plants or those being overwintered, they need to be kept hydrated. It’s easy to forget about them when you’re busy with so much else. Ditto for those bulbs such as paperwhites. Amaryllis bulbs do not need potting up and watering until after they finish flowering – for now, they can sit pretty anywhere you choose.
Take a turn in the garden and check if anything needs attention – broken tree limbs, plants wanting some protection, debris to clear, bird-feeders to fill and such. It’ll give you peace of mind. And the fresh air and sunshine will improve your disposition greatly.
Wishing you all a beautiful holiday.
Note: Some holiday trees through the years. Due to my daughter’s allergy, we switched from conifers to more unconventional ‘trees’.
Another alternative.This year I’m using my bay standard as the tree.
days to Thanksgiving. I love this holiday so much that I wait all
year for it. A holiday spent with friends, family and food. A day to
come together in gratitude and love – what could be more simple and
not so simple for many. Holidays are fraught with anxiety for many.
Confrontations, resentments and old wounds seem to surface at these
times. We are advised to stay away from discussing politics,
religion, relationships and gossip. Really, what else is left to talk
we complain about eating too much, drinking to excess, moving too
little and feeling awful about it. Why do we repeat this pattern
consistently? Surely we can do
and be better.
has shown that activity and getting out in nature improves the
disposition. A walk is a great solution but not everyone is able to
get too physical. Besides, people break up into smaller groups and
walk at different paces. It can become yet another opportunity to
avoid certain nosy relatives altogether instead of connecting to
everybody. Similarly, a good game of touch football is not for
everyone. No worries, lets get the entire Thanksgiving party into the
garden. We’re going to plant bulbs.
weekend is the unofficial last call for bulb planting. Unless you
reside way up north, the ground can still be dug up. While it’s too
late for planting shrubs and trees, it is just fine for bulbs. So,
get to the local nursery in a hurry and buy up all the bulbs you can
afford. By now there might not be much choice left but they are often
at very reduced prices. (You will plan
ahead next year).
the part(s) of the garden where you would like the bulbs planted.
Have gloves, dibblers, hand trowels, spades etc., ready and waiting.
When your Thanksgiving crowd is gathered, let them know that you are
starting a new tradition – a gratitude garden of bulbs. Divvy up
the bulbs between all the participants. This is an activity for all
ages. Not too strenuous and comes with the gentle instruction of
keeping faith and hope. Making a garden is after all, about optimism
and belief in a better tomorrow.
will instruct kids, young can assist the old. Whether a trench is to
be dug up for a multitude of bulbs or they must go into the ground
individually amongst existing perennials, explain the simple rules of
bulb planting – holes are three times deeper that the size of the
bulb and they are planted pointy tip up. Small bulbs are easier for
to each person that for each bulb they plant, they must privately
count a blessing and/or bury a grievance.
Encourage laughter and camaraderie. Typically, folk will get into the
spirit quite naturally. Prior gardening experiences will be
recounted, favorite bulbs declared and undoubtedly lead to further
discussions on a myriad topics. One
case of inclement weather
– have everybody pot the bulbs up. The pots are to be kept outdoors
in a sheltered area and towards the end of winter you will start
noticing some tiny tips emerging. At this time you can either bring
the pots indoors to hurry up the flowering or, leave them outside to
bloom in due time. Either way, they will look gorgeous. You might
also consider sending each guest home with a pot of bulbs of their
project gets everyone interacting, builds healthy appetites and
couldn’t be easier. PLUS, you get to anticipate a beautiful
spring. At which time, you will
take photographs to share with all your bulb planters.If
you’re up for it, invite them all for a viewing!
Happy Thanksgiving from the bottom of my heart. Studies have proven that both incivility and kindness are contagious. So, lets make the choice to put aside our differences, hold hands and strengthen our bonds. Yes we can.
Note: I hope these images will inspire you to undertake the Thanksgiving bulb planting project!
Boy, am I glad the
bulbs were planted the previous weekend. It got pretty frosty by last
Friday. A good portion of the country is being hit with record cold
this week. Too early I say! However, looking at the crazy seasons
we’ve been experiencing, this is not too surprising. I believe
we’re in a flux of sorts. There is something unsettling going on as
climate change is underway. The new normal is not here as yet.
With most of the
fall chores frenetically completed in the garden, I take November as
a time to reflect on life, the world at large and my place in it. The
garden offers a quiet place to restore equilibrium in these uncertain
times. The basic act of tending a garden is grounding in that it
makes us aware of how interconnected we all are – to nature and to
each other. Making and caring for a garden is an optimistic sign as
it implies we are invested in the future. There is a contentment to
be discovered in garden work that few other projects can provide.
I look back on the
successes and failures, the challenges and surprises through the
year. It was a great year for the bulbs and many of the perennials.
The clematis particularly shone. The vegetables did well too. With a
sudden freeze in early spring, the fruit trees struggled. As did the
wisteria. The meadow was a large part of my focus but I dropped the
ball a few times in staying on top of the weeding and watering so the
new, young additions could thrive. Life happens. I will do better
Through the year, as
I wrestled with matters unfolding on the national and global stages,
the garden has provided purpose and practice. When events seemed
intolerable, incendiary, confusing or conflicted, the garden
presented me with opportunity to take immediate action and make
something better in my little world. It reminds me to stay positive.
That the sun will always emerge through the dark. The seed will
become a flower.
While I alone cannot
bring the world to calm down, I am in a position to create something
beautiful and nurturing to give respite to myself and all others who
come my way. Every garden has this transformative capability. It
stands to reason that now more than ever, we need our gardens and
For me personally, gardening has kept me sane, balanced. Be it a single pot, a window-box, a collection of African violets in a stand indoors or, a garden of any size, the very act of tending to plants will make you feel better. I promise.
This week, I give you just two images to focus on. One is a photograph and the other a watercolor I did. Immerse yourself in them.Take deep breaths, allow the mind and body to relax. Let nature calm and comfort you.
Gardening is just what I do. What and how I do it feels like second
nature. While I’ve undoubtedly learned much from my garden, I’m
not always conscious of it. It’s only when I pause to think or
appreciate the garden that I become aware of how much it teaches and
guides me. As one goes about the day to day chores and demands of
life, it’s easy to be caught up in the immediate without being
mindful. Over the years, I’ve come to understand and depend upon
the garden to open my mind and heart, to take instruction, seek
counsel, solace and refuge, feel grateful, compassionate and a
general sense of wellbeing. The garden continues to impart wisdom and
I keep receiving. Yet, I’m guilty of taking it for granted. Till
something occurs to nudge me out of my complacency.
I was talking to a group recently, when the topic of bulb planting
came up. I tend to assume that everyone knows what I know. Especially
if they belong to a garden club or similar organization. So, there I
was saying that 700+ bulbs await planting in my garden, when I was
asked about the details of this task. When they get put into the
ground, how deep, where etc., It dawned on me that without the basic
information, any task can be intimidating.
We spoke then of getting the bulbs, making selections, quantities,
the process of planting and such. When it came to the necessity of a
cooling period, I had my own Aha! moment. Over the course of
this year, I’ve been working on a business project with a
philanthropic purpose. Not being naturally business minded, the
process is slow and the learning is tedious and frustrating. I’m
impatient and want things to be straightforward. But business has
many moving parts, it is not simple. There are deadlines and delays.
I can deal with the former but the latter drives me crazy because
it’s mostly out of my control. I have to depend on different
parties to do the needful and they each have their own agendas and
processes. Needless to say, it is slow going. Very slow.
I’m not complaining because I do appreciate the learning, other
people’s skills and expertise blow my mind and the pleasure I get
with each step forward. I just have a ways to go and I’d recently
hit a roadblock. A detour is required and I must find it.
Realistically, I’m looking at coming up with a different path
altogether. It is all the usual ups and downs but for someone not
schooled in business and marketing, it is annoying, upsetting and
disheartening. Doing something for good should not be this hard!
In this state of mind, I was ripe for a lesson from nature. In speaking about bulb planting, I received my own lesson. Firstly, I was reminded that there is a correctseason for everything. Then, given all the right conditions, taking care to do all the steps correctly, all I can do is step back and wait for matters to take their course and hopefully, produce the results one hopes for. Just as the bulbs, so full of promise, must be healthy, planted at the right time, to the right depth, in the right places and then given their optimum cooling or rest period to get properly ready for growing and blooming in the spring. I am not in control of everything. I must simply do my best and wait it out. Everything in its time. Preparation, perseverance, patience, perspective.
Enjoy the watercolor images of bulbs to look forward to next spring. Some of these watercolors are available in notecards and soft furnishings for the home. They make lovely gifts. All profits go to educate HIV girls at Mukta Jivan orphanage.
Fall in the garden is such a time of contradiction. It is as much
about endings as it is about beginnings. Hope and despair. Plants are
in senescence or going into dormancy – but they do so with panache.
The colors of autumn are unparalleled.
The gardening season is coming to a close – the frenzied activity
is winding down. Outdoor furnishings are getting put away and the
retreat to the indoors has become final.
Yet, this is the time to look ahead, plan for the future. New trees
are planted. Perennials are divided and replanted for fuller or new
beds and borders next year. Hundreds of bulbs are planted with the
intent to make a brighter, more beautiful spring. Fallen leaves are
gathered to make new mulch to enrich the soil in times ahead. The
spent plants pulled up and tossed return as compost to feed the
garden a few seasons later.
It’s a time of farewells so we can we say hello again.
Last weekend, the big cut back and clearing commenced in my garden. I
always feel a bit sad at this time as I recall the the joy of the
spring and summer just passed. The high expectations with which I
greeted the new growth. The celebrations held amidst the beauty of
the garden. The bounty that graced the table. Sweet memories were
made. It feels bittersweet.
But very quickly, with a sense of deep gratitude, I’m planning
madly for the next year. In the myriad bulbs I plant and the new
plants I select to add to the perennial beds. The fresh resolve to be
more dutiful in my care and stewardship, stay on top of chores and
make even more time to simply enjoy the garden. Already, I’m giddy
That’s the very heart and soul of the garden – it unfailingly provides us with so many life lessons. To stay optimistic, take chances, own failures, be responsible, work is its own reward, forgiveness is important and so much more. But right at this moment, the big take home is this – we get yet another chance to do better next year. Everybody deserves that.
Note: I have two paintings in the ‘Colors Of Fall’ art show at the Blue Door Gallery. You are invited!
slow, sultry sway of summer has taken over
and it is sweeeet. I’ve taken my cues from the season and slowed my
pace, lightened my load and simplified my days. I get work done but
no new projects are started. Meals focus on fresh, easy to put
together ingredients. Garden chores are limited to only what is
needed – weekly weeding,
watering as required
and deadheading only what’s
obvious. The garden seems to be enjoying doing its own thing –
free-spirited, alive and lush. Kinda bohemian. I appreciate that.
Heck, I aspire to it.
I finally got around to cutting back the asters and other fall blooming perennials by one-third and more so they will be fuller and less leggy at that time. During the cut back, I noticed that the Sanguisorba was under attack by Japanese beetles and there was also a general over-presence of slugs. All the beetles I could see were picked off and dumped into a hot soap solution and then a neem oil spray treatment was applied to the plants right after. It’s been a few years since I’ve had to deal with Japanese beetles. Let’s hope the neem does the trick.
positive outcome – the
allium sphaerocephalon were completely hidden until the asters were
cut back. Now, their deep maroon-purple heads lend bursts of color
amidst an otherwise
overwhelmingly green bed.
of color, that maroon-purple hue is having a moment in the front
perennial beds. The echinacea, alliums, acanthus, butterfly bushes
and geraniums are all in variations of that shade. Soon the
Eupatorium will join in. It looks like I planned it that way but no,
I cannot take that credit. One of those happy accidents of nature
that I’ve come to rely on.
Swiss chard is showing up frequently at meals. Easy to cook and so
delicious. The first cherry tomatoes and figs have been savored and
now I’m impatient for a regular supply. Zucchini
are the current
favorite. Stuffed with mildly
and fried tempura style, they are just soooo good. Using the flowers
also prevents having the inevitable surplus of zucchini to contend
with later in the season. We leave only
a small number to reach fruition. Just enough for a few ratatouille
meals and several
loaves of tasty breads to sweeten winter mornings (the bread freezes
made a big batch of arugula pesto last week. There was an abundance
of the leaves and it seemed a good thing to make. I froze a large
portion and refrigerated some of the pesto to use this week in pasta
and also in sandwiches. With all the outdoor concerts and plays we’re
attending, picnic meals need to be put together. Sandwiches of
arugula or basil pesto with sun-dried tomatoes with or without fresh
mozzarella elevate the repast.
yes, the mojito mint is thriving and being put to good use! FYI –
the leaves also make for an
appetizing Indian chutney that we
use in sandwiches and as a condiment to pair with crackers, samosas
the butterflies and bees make their rounds has become my go-to method
for decompressing. It’s very effective – I highly recommend it.
Ditto for spending some time taking in the show of fireflies at
you get lulled into taking it too easy, this is the time to order
bulbs for fall planting. It
might feel strange to think about next spring right now but take my
word – you will miss out on bagging some special and/or unusual
bulbs if you wait too long. It’s a nice thing to do when you’re
indoors in air-conditioned comfort on a sweltering hot day. You will
only be charged when the bulbs are shipped in the fall at the
appropriate planting time for your zone. So
just get it done!
Now, back to my summer reading and a tall glass of lemonade …
Note:I’m participating in two upcoming art shows in August and September. Do please mark your calendars to check them out.
“A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.” Marcel Proust
Ah, Open Day has come and gone leaving me with a sense of relief, well-being and satisfaction. The weather was perfect. After three straight years of cold, wind and rain on Open Day, this exquisite day was well overdue.
The sun shone bright, the air was dry, the temperature was ideal – not hot, not cold, a gentle breeze prevailed and the garden was filled with the buzz, tweets and hums of bees, birds and butterflies. The flowers rose to the occasion and shone bright and beautiful. I could not have asked for any better.
It is almost impossible not to respond positively to weather such as that. There is an imperceptible yet powerful shift in one’s mood and outlook. For myself, it felt as though a new energy had moved into my body. Being outside in the garden felt so right. There was no other place to be. No bugs biting, no jackets weighing me down, no sweat to wipe off and, best of all, no chores to do. This was as good as it gets.
It was the perfect weather to share the garden. And the garden looked its best despite the cold and rain it had endured thus far this spring. Several plants were lagging in their bloom time but the others stepped up admirably. Every visitor arrived with happy spirits and curious minds. Of the 100 or so visitors, I did not encounter a single person with the slightest hint of negativity.
As much as I love sharing my garden, I adore meeting other gardeners and garden lovers. I learn so much. This time, I picked up on a new-for-me nursery to check out, a few gardens I must visit, a book to add to my summer reading, enjoyed several good laughs, received feedback on my own garden and made new partners in horticultural-crime. At the end of the day, I was so much the richer – in heart and head.
Under such ideal conditions, it was inevitable that the best conversations ensued, strangers became friends, and for the one brief day, all was well with the world. Marcel Proust was so right.
A heartfelt thank you to all who made this Open Day a resounding success. Visitors, volunteers, friends and family – nothing is possible without you.
Note: Here are lots of photos for all those of you who failed to show up!
two of the best volunteers/friends – Barbara and Pam
My Auricula Theater
So, the gentleman on the right came from Belgium. What’s your excuse California?!
The wall right now
With the Mickels – godparents to my vertical garden
My garden’s Open Day is thisSaturday, May 18. I’m hard at work primping and propping the garden to get it looking it’s best for you. So, cancel everything else and come on over. I’d love to see you here!
I was in Evanston, Illinois this past weekend and even though part of that time it was cold and wet, I was struck by how much horticultural effort is put into making the heart of the city look attractive. Tulips waved madly in bright colors on traffic islands, pocket parks and around trees along the streets. So cheery and seasonal. And very easy to do. I’m eager to see what the next plantings of annuals will be.
But beyond the show of annuals, I observed that there is a thoughtful approach to infusing seasonal color and fragrance in the landscape through the use of perennials. A small park dividing a busy road, is bordered with hedges of viburnum. I smelled the park before I noticed it! The viburnums were in full bloom and the fragrance wafted far and wide. Pure heaven. As though reminding pedestrians to pause a moment and refresh the spirit – be present. What a lovely idea. Flower beds within the park abounded in tulips but there were many perennials emerging through. Three benches and a single sculpture completed this perfect oasis.
Swathes of Virginia bluebells carpeted several other green spaces for the public to enjoy and under many hedges I noticed abundant lily-of-the-valley leaves unfurling in readiness for the sweet bells of white to perfume the days ahead – subliminally cheering the outlooks of passers-by.
I had hoped to visit Millennial Park in Chicago and take in the plantings but my schedule did not permit it. Instead, I got to experience the glorious efforts of a much smaller city that could match its big neighbor handily. My well is full.
Note : Enjoy some images of plantings in Evanston. I look forward to seeing you in my garden this Saturday!
Depending on which device you are reading this, some images appear on their side. I have no idea how to fix it. My apologies! Also, the pocket park appears expansive in the photos – it isn’t in reality!
Gnomes. Makes you recall those all too familiar, garishly painted figures with pointy hats right? While these spirit creatures hark back to the 17th century and earlier, their presence today is viewed as somewhat naive and old-fashioned. Like gazing balls, they recall earlier times and are not commonly seen in today’s gardens. Truth be told, I myself have never been taken by them.
That is, until I recently came upon a modern take on gnomes at the Sullivan galleries in Chicago where highly talented, emerging ceramist August Brosnahan was debuting his gnome collection. And the creatures were getting a lot of attention and interest. Here is how Brosnahan describes his work –
“I am interested in human interactions with objects and how objects help us relate to the world around us. Whether it be the handle of a mug or the facial expression on a figurative sculpture, these objects have unsaid and sometimes unnoticed methods of guiding us through spaces. Humans spend a tremendous amount of time interacting with clay and ceramic objects. I believe that humans have deep-seated connections with ceramics, more so than other materials, due to the rich history we share with clay. This mindset is central to the form and presentation of my work as I create intimate connections between viewers and the object.
Another element that is central to my practice is my love for walking. I have recently distanced myself from the white-walled gallery as I spend hours in forests and fields. A notable example of this is my ongoing series, “Gnomes.” I create small personified objects that preferably exist in an outdoor setting. Multiples of these objects create a community that viewers can interact with by walking through the same space that the gnomes exist in. I activate the space that the viewer is standing in rather than a space that the viewer is looking at. With my work I hope to re-invigorate the overlooked spaces of our day-to-day lives.”
I have long championed sculpture in the garden. Art in an outdoor space adds a new dimension and there is a shift in context that enriches the experience as opposed to seeing the same sculpture indoors. At this particular art show, I could clearly imagine how they might transform a garden or park. My curiosity to actually see that happen led to inviting the artist to show some of his work at my garden on Open Day.
So, five pieces were carefully packed and shipped to New York. I worked with Brosnahan on siting the gnomes in the garden and I’m really excited to share them with visitors on May 18th.
Meant for outdoor spaces, the seemingly whimsical pieces urge the viewer to consider the dynamics between all the elements in a space. The ceramic gnomes make one aware that there is an energy and presence beyond that which we can physically see or feel. They appear to blend into the background and yet, manage to surprise and be noticed. These sculptures maintain continuity in the human history of personifying natural and designed spaces. The impact is subtle and fresh. A modern twist to an old tradition.
Several weeks ago, I hinted that I was working on a new project in the garden – just for Open Day. This is it! I look forward to introducing you to the gnomes. See you in the garden on May 18.