A Garden’s Tale

Open Day came and went. The weather cooperated to the extent that it did not actually rain. A drizzle hung around for hours and it was chilly. A steady trickle of visitors braved the damp, cold conditions and for me, that made the day A-alright. Old and new faces brightened my outlook. Although colors are more vivid when it is overcast, garden visitors tend to come out in much higher numbers when the sun shines. I get it. I too do so much better when the golden rays are present.

I’d worked hard to prepare for this big day. All through April temperatures flip-flopped. Winter felt like spring and spring now is behaving more like winter. There was hardly any precipitation till April. How then was any self-respecting plant supposed to know what to do? But still, I endeavored. Caution has been the name of the game. Tentatively putting out leaves and buds, I’ve been risk averse. There was no way I could rush into full growth mode only to be felled by a severe cold snap. Besides what would’ve been the point, the bees and other pollinators were also playing it safe. Nothing was stirring in a hurry.

Despite the difficult conditions, the gardener worked industriously to get me ready. She cleared winter debris and tidied up everywhere so I could breathe freely. Fed on rich compost and judicious drinks of water, I was nurtured and cared for. I got new companions and said farewell to those whose time had come. Happy to be rid of thuggish weeds and all things harmful, I am aware that I’m amongst the fortunate suburban spaces where my health is of utmost importance. It’s a good life.

But I could sense her frustration. Where were the flowers? No doubt, at an intellectual level, she knew why. But, knowing that visitors adored pretty blooms, she was naturally concerned. While I’d have loved to oblige, it would’ve been fool hardy to ignore the weather conditions. I had to keep the long term in mind.

That caution has paid off. Little has been lost. However, it did mean that the flowers were delayed. With hardly any sunshine to coax the buds open, understandably, there is a hesitation to bare all. A little warmth and light goes a long way in the garden. To make up for the paucity of other blooms, the tulips have lingered longer than usual. They have held the horticultural fort so to speak. Thank goodness for that. I was afraid I’d lose face on open day by having nothing to show.

Meanwhile, the vertical garden had come alive with its many mosses and lichens and young ferns and heuchera. It was deeply satisfying to eavesdrop on all the positive comments on its beautiful, abstract appeal. I am not immune to compliments. Clearly, flowers do not own the show.

Gardeners are notorious for bemoaning to visitors “you should have come last week, the garden was spectacular!” For them, it is never the ideal visiting moment in the garden. Their eagerness to have everything looking perfect keeps them from ever being satisfied. It is the nature of the beast.

Coming back to this most recent open day, I too have to admit that while still charming and full of clever details and design, I looked less than stunning. Sodden after days of rain, it was hard to be very perky.To be fair, the slowness of the plants actually permitted those design elements to show with clarity. Without the distraction of the flowers, visitors noticed the grapevine cuttings that are used to conceal the mechanics of propping up the peonies. The stone ‘books’ got lots of attention. Likewise the different ways brick has been used. The espalier maintained its position as being pretty darn cool. And the checkerboard garden made a good impression despite the fact that all of the phlox had not quite bloomed. I admit that while the whole garden was burgeoning with buds that were just a few days from blooming, I still cleaned up pretty nicely. So on this day, my gardener said “ it’ll look terrific in a week to ten days!” Rightfully, she was not apologetic. Merely wistful. After all, she would have liked everybody to see me at my very best. Still, I was pleased to see her look proud of how I came through.

I will try to do even better next year. I promise. Do be sure to come and see.

Open Day photos –









photo credit - Dave Fleck

photo credit – Dave Fleck

The 'shop' in the greenhouse

The ‘shop’ in the greenhouse

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar



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