Weather Perfect

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!


Friends from Chicago

(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

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Waxing Poetic

It’s a busy, busy time in the garden but I cannot let April go by without honoring it with poetry. It is National Poetry Month after all.

Deflowering Spring

The earth blushed cherry pink

Even as the forsythia glowed yellow

From innocent fresh born

to fertile maiden

In the flutter

of butterfly wings.

Shobha Vanchiswar

Spring Cleaning

Sweep away detritus

Winter’s wild remnants

Prune roses

June’s dress code

Straighten borders

Summer edges to spill

Outside order

Inside peace

Clearing, cutting

Room to breathe deep

Opening, widening

Mind broaden fast

Plants get bigger

Spirits grow higher

Colors multiply

Senses infused

Days lengthen

Smiles brighten

Outdoor classroom

Paradise within

Shobha Vanchiswar

Colors Of Rain

It rained cherry pink today

Drenched in pleasure

I walked on rafts of petals

floating on rivers of grass.

I predict tomorrow

it’ll drizzle pear white

Washing away footprints

leaving behind confetti flowers.

Shobha Vanchiswar

Note: Open Day is May 18. My garden as well as Rocky Hills will be ready and waiting for you!


(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

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Sunday In The Garden

Last Sunday was a gift to this impatient gardener. Bright and sunny, temperatures in the mid-60s and a garden just waiting for a do-over. No bugs trying to feed on me, no place else to be. This was heaven.

With the scillas, hellebores, early crocuses and Abeliophyllum distichum ( white forsythia) in bloom, it felt as though I had a cheering squad. The air was gently scented by the Abeliophyllum – a bonus!

So many chores got done. The front lawn was scratched up, reseeded and layered over with compost. Lets hope no destructive rains occur till the grass comes up. A daily sprinkle for about an hour would be mightily appreciated.

A trip ( the first of the season! ) to my favorite nursery resulted in a host of plant purchases. A few perennials like Jacob’s Ladder, lungwort, unusual looking ajuga, dianthus and sweet woodruff, annuals such as pansies, nemesias and lobelias, potager must-haves – beets, Swiss chard, arugula, kale, lettuce. I helped myself to herbs as well – lavender, hyssop, lovage, bronze fennel, sage, thyme, tarragon, parsley, cilantro and one that I plan to use extensively through the spring and summer – Mojito mint. Yes, that is exactly what it is called.

The spring window-boxes were put up – daffodils, tete-a-tete and pansies. Urns and planters in various locations in the garden now sport similar plants to tie in the whole look.

The new ajuga accompany two young Japanese maples (also picked up at the nursery) in a large, copper container by the front door. The plan is for it to look elegantly understated through the seasons. I also stuck in some muscari to give it an early pop of color. Nothing flashy though – the window-boxes above take care of that. The urn nearby, also on the front porch, will echo both with its mix of the pansies and muscari.

The vegetables are esconsed in their bed looking fetching in diagonal rows in hues of deep plum, bronze and greens. The herbs are in terracotta pots that will go on the ‘herb wall’ but for now, until the weather truly warms up, they sit in the greenhouse biding their time.

My cherished Anduze pots with boxwood balls were brought out of the greenhouse and placed in their appropriate sites. Should a frost be imminent, they will be easy enough to protect with fleece and burlap. Other plants in the greenhouse will be brought out in a couple of weeks.

On the vertical garden, some ferns we had overwintered in the vegetable plot under a cover of burlap were put back on the wall. Fingers crossed this experiment will prove successful. If so, it’ll be a good development in our quest to preserve the ferns through the winter.

By days end, I felt so exhilarated. Good progress under very work-friendly circumstances renders a most delicious sense of satisfaction. At the same time, my muscles were tired and the back was sore. A hot shower followed by a tall mojito ( with eponymous mint ) in the embrace of a comfortable, plush chair was well deserved. I sincerely hope that said mint can keep up with all the drink orders to come.

Note: My Open Garden Day is May 18.

The reception to the New Horizons exhibit is this Sunday, April 14.


(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

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Where Do Butterflies Go When It Rains? Who Goes Around And Tucks In The Trains?

That refrain from a song by the Carpenters played in my head all through the time Hurricane Sandy was doing her worst. Apart from the understandable concern for the safety of family, friends and property, I could not help thinking, okay obsessing, about how the birds, bees and butterflies coped in the storm. In the big picture, those little creature matter mightily. Consider how much has has been impacted by the drastic decrease in the number of honey bees due to colony collapse disorder. Enough said.

Of course, unlike us humans who need the whirring of assorted machines to predict a change in weather, birds are finely tuned to barometric pressure shifts. They will then flee, seek shelter or actually move into the eye of the storm where all is quiet. This last option can carry them long distances and depending on the duration of the storm, they will remain without food or water which if prolonged will ultimately do them in. Most birds find old nests, tree cavities, dense shrubbery where they can ride out the storm.
No doubt, severe hurricanes and storms cause a rise in avian mortality be it due to starvation, exhaustion, habitat destruction, exposure to pounding rain or wind.

Butterflies are also able to read a drop in barometric pressure and know to seek safe locations. Under leaves, in piles of leaves, thickets and such.

Bees on the other hand, have it down to a science. Contrary to the supposition that they swarm before a storm, these smart creatures do not leave the hive if temperatures fall below 57 degrees Fahrenheit or if the wind speed is more than 12 mph. And of course, they have each other to huddle and keep cozy inside the hive.

Common to all of the creatures mentioned above is what is called ‘communal roosting’. Which just means getting close together sharing warmth and having safety in numbers. Sound familiar?

In times of adversity, the tradition of coming together to do what’s good for the whole seems to prevail across the species. For us humans, it means sharing and giving. For the most part, we are at our best in times of crises. Our pets get included in all the camaraderie.. Their safety is given high priority as well it should. But, what are we doing about those birds, bees and butterflies? Given how important they are to the health of our gardens, farms, forests, park lands and, consequently our own health, surely some attention on our part is required.

True, its not as though one can round up all these vital beings and give them a form of public shelter but perhaps we can provide conditions that lend some level of security in their natural habitats. Obviously, the unnecessary clearing of woods and forests is to be avoided. But it is really what we can do to support the creatures closer to home and farm that will be of direct use. Setting up bird, bat, butterfly houses, ensuring a source of water, growing plants, shrubs and trees that offer both shelter and food will go a long way. At the same time, doing away with toxic fertilizers, insecticides and weed killers should be mandatory. Safe and effective organic alternatives exist so please lets all adopt them. However much one is a neat freak, find it within yourself to keep one corner, a far spot not so easy to view if you prefer, a little wild. By that I don’t mean it should be unsightly. Instead, group together some assorted shrubs to form a thicket. Toss in a thorny bush or two into the mix of deciduous and evergreen plants. Select shrubs that are the natural food sources for the refugees. Situate these shrubs at some distance to allow for some privacy and sense of security. And following a storm, replenish bird feeders and water baths. None of this is so hard to do right?

There will of course be some casualties from each storm but staying tuned to nature and doing whatever is within our abilities would be doing right by ourselves and this earth to which we all belong.

When Sandy was blowing at alarming, ear piercing speeds, it must have been absolutely terrifying for those poor souls. I’d like to think they sensed and were reassured by the positive energy I was sending their way. Please don’t attempt to disillusion me.

Things To Do This Month

1 Clean up debris left by the storm. Rake leaves, pick up branches and twigs, cut away broken or dead tree and shrub limbs.
2. Check stability of supports, fences, gates, paths, steps and such. Fix what needs fixing.
3. Finish planting bulbs and perennials. The ground is still pliable. But hurry!
4. Cut back perennials, remove annuals and generally tidy up.
5. Put away all outdoor furniture and smaller pots.
6. Protect outdoor statuary and large pots.
7. Get amaryllis started so they will be in bloom at the holidays.
8. Fill bird feeders.
9. Keep sand or kitty litter and snow shovels handy.

Birds at the feeder in winter.

Gold finch in the butterfly bush.

Tom turkey visits

Red Admiral on allium

Red, white and blue!

Yet another butterfly – Tiger Swallowtail

(c) 2012 Shobha Vanchiswar




In the garden 2010-03-23

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In the garden 2009-12-30

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In the garden 2008-04-04

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