On Plantsmanship

These past seven days of glorious weather was the sort of gift every gardener covets. Much got accomplished in my garden. Getting my hands in the earth is enormously life affirming. This is where all life begins!

With my garden Open Day less than three weeks away, it has been necessary to amp up the pace of action. The winter that dragged on and on has set us back on many time sensitive tasks. From pruning to seed sowing to getting the compost turned, has been a matter of maintaining grace under fire. It is no fun to focus on chores and miss out on what’s blooming and who is doing what in the garden.

The pruning got done and it has been noted that much of the David Austin ‘Heritage’ rose suffered from the harsh winter. The New Dawn on the two arches, Paul’s Himalayan musk, Bonica and Leda roses have come through all right. With the fruit tree prunings done just a week ago, the espalier is looking neater and the buds are forming nicely. The grapevine prunings are now camouflaging the peony supports. It is best to set up stakes before plants grow too full to manage.

A layer of newspaper, a good two inches thick, has been placed down in the beds and then topped with compost and cedar mulch. The paper works wonders suppressing the weeds and seeds of unwanted self-sowers. It also holds the moisture well and eventually decomposes to further enrich the soil. An excellent and ecologically sound re-purposing of paper. Mulching is crucial to the health of the plants so, it too is best started early in the season.

The composter is now open for the season. It was very satisfying giving it its first turn over of the season. Compost is both mulch and health food. If you doesn’t already make compost, then I strongly encourage you to start doing so this year. It is totally doable and contrary to common belief, do not attract skunks, deer, coyotes or raccoons. A regular application of compost will guarantee the health of the plants and lawn. No other fertilizers needed. Composting is easy, organic and economical. By making your own compost, you will be certain of what it contains and hence you’ll be feeding your plants only the best. As in our own nutrition, home-made is better.

On the subject of food, a comfrey tea is a fabulous elixir for plants. I make this later on in the season when the comfrey plants are done blooming the first time around. I cut back the plant and put the cuttings in a large bin, cover it with water and close it tightly. Placed in a remote location like the woods, I forget about it for a few weeks. The steeping plant renders the water super-rich with all sorts of healthy contents. It also smells very foul – hence the remote location. Filter the water and feed the plants in the garden. They will thank you profusely.

I re-planted the entire checker-board garden. It was looking ragged as the old plants had been there a while. As much as perennials come back every year, many do not remain robust and need to be replaced every four to five years. So, a whole new batch of creeping phlox was planted. Its youthful beauty is disarming. This area will be radiating a pale mauve when the buds open in a few days.

Likewise, the espalier has been under-planted with lavender. Not only will they look pretty but I’m hoping to attract lots more pollinators. The dwarf blueberry I purchased recently has been given a home right next to some roses and across from the pear section in the espalier. I’m already dreaming of blueberry muffins and lavender infused lemonade.

The hellebores, crocus, scillas, iris reticulatas, forsythias and hyacinths are in bloom. The daffodils are popping open daily. The meadow is coming to life.

Still more needs to be accomplished but I’m determined to be fully present in the garden. Yesterday, as I repotted plants, I noticed it was Open House at the bluebird house. No bluebirds came looking but chickadees and sparrows were the prospectives I saw. I shooed away the sparrows.

I also observed that some butterflies had determined that the weather was right for them. There were a few adventurous cabbage whites and admirals flitting around taking advantage of the early blooms.

While we are enthusiastically going about gardening, I thought I’d include the latest list of prohibited and regulated plants in New York state. Check here:


As in medicine, every gardeners first tenet should be to Do No Harm. Plant wisely.

Do check out the Shop’ page for my note cards and fabric pattern. Prints of my art work are also available – I’m currently working on the Gallery page. Stay tuned!

Please also check the Happenings page to get information about my art show all of May with reception and poetry reading on May 2 and, my garden Open Day on May 9. Mark your calender and come! I look forward to seeing you at all the events.

Setting up the planting pattern in the checkerboard garden

Setting up the planting pattern in the checkerboard garden

Phlox all planted! Don't miss the diagonal pattern.

Phlox all planted! Don’t miss the diagonal pattern.

Up close to a daffodil

Up close to a daffodil



Grapevine prunings on peony supports

Grapevine prunings on peony supports

My red glove temporarily in the opening of the bluebird house - to ward off sparrows

My red glove temporarily in the opening of the bluebird house – to ward off sparrows

(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar


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