Simply Summer

A lot rides on summer. A season so full of plans and expectations that it feels as plump and juicy as the fruit it bears. It’s time to switch to a lighter schedule so we can make the best of the long light filled hours. Reading lists, picnics, outdoor concerts, beach fun, pool time, ice cream tastings, hammock naps, freshly picked produce, crayon box colored flowers – we demand so much of summer. In our bid for simple, easy living, we expect to do a lot!

And then, there’s summer vacation. Where to go? For how long? With whom? To do what – chill out, sight see, find adventure, reunite with friends/family? It’s as exciting as it is stressful to plan that ideal getaway.

I’ve learned to pare down my own expectations and get very organized ahead. Mostly, I free up my schedule and create more space in my days for spontaneous activities. The to-do list is shortened to the bare minimum. Even in the garden. Weeding, watering, deadheading and lots of lounging to count butterflies and watch birds. Pure heaven. It’s the much awaited period when pleasure is prioritized over purpose. I believe I’ve earned it.

However, it’s what needs doing before going away on vacation that is invariably the challenge. How to best ensure the well-being of the garden when I’m away.

An intensive weeding is done right before. As is the mowing and tidying. I try to leave the garden looking as groomed as possible so on my return, it doesn’t look overly disheveled. Nothing like an unkempt garden to wash off the vacation glow.

Ensuring that the plants are well hydrated is a whole other matter. As I’ve mentioned before, plants in the ground are expected to hold their own – unless it’s been unduly hot, they are not watered routinely. It’s only the plants in pots that get regular quenching. And I have many pots.

In the past, I typically arranged for someone to come periodically to water the pots in various parts of the garden. It was a bit of a hit or miss as it depended wholly on the diligence of the person doing the watering.

This year, we’ve corralled all the pots in one place and set up an automatic system that turns on at a specific time of day for a specific length of time. There’s a moisture sensor attached so it does not turn on the water if it is raining or has done so recently. I just returned from being away for two weeks and the potted plants look lush and fine.

My nephew stopped by regularly to ensure everything was generally okay but most importantly, he cleaned and refilled the hummingbird feeders. I had made a quantity of the sugar solution and stored it in the refrigerator. A word of caution – the feeders must be refreshed more frequently during particularly hot spells because the water can start fermenting and this is unhealthy for the birds.

Overall, this new system, whilst requiring some effort to set up and move pots together, seems to be a better way to serve the plants. At the same time, it requires less of my nephew so he doesn’t feel too put upon by his garden obsessed aunt.

I’m going away again soon and it’s comforting to know that the care of the garden is in hand. So now, back to savoring the joys of the summer. Whats left of it.

Pots gathered together for watering:

The garden at present. I notice some hints of fall! –

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

Spring Forward

Spring in the middle of a heatwave? Yes, I’m thinking about next spring. Regardless of the heat, now is the time to consider bulbs to order for Fall planting. It’s perfect timing when you think about it. Firstly, the intense heat is keeping one indoors so, might as well address the bulb order.

In picking up the bulb catalogs now, I have the luxury of time to peruse the pages to ensure my favorites are available and check out new introductions. It permits a thoughtful selection keeping in mind color schemes and bloom times to get the most of the spring bulb season.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to tulips. There are so many choices of color, forms and varieties – its such fun selecting. I generally think about a color scheme – nothing rigid. A loose blend of shades that go together or complement/counterpoint well with a bit of surprise thrown in. This year, I went with my regular mainstays and added several new ones. I cut out the pictures and laid them out randomly ( that’s how way they get planted anyway) to see the effect. Of course they will not all bloom at the same time but this visual gives me a rough idea that it’ll work. Anything jarring will be noticed and rejected right away. It’s a lovely activity of dreaming and planning in the cool comfort of air-conditioning.

It’s easier selecting daffodils, alliums, fritillaria and such. The biggest obstacle is my budget. I covet certain bulbs like F. imperialis both lutea and rubra maximus and would love to order a great many but can only permit myself a handful. So be it. A few of them will still look impressive. However, when it comes to the alliums, few will not do. A few hundreds are required in the meadow so I stick with Purple Sensation and Summer Drummer which are beautiful and less costly. One day, after I win the lottery, I’ll include Globemaster and others. I don’t have any complaints about having to compromise – there are so many great choices that one way or other, a suitable selection can always be made.

Bulb growing is not an easy industry. For that matter, growing anything is not easy. I’m quite content with what I can afford and careful to factor in all expenses when deciding a realistic budget. I’m always happy to forgo designer anything for plants. And art supplies.

This year, I’m not adding any more crocus, ornithogalum, hyscinthoide and other minor bulbs. I want to see how the ones already in place continue to perform. It’s necessary to make periodic assessments.

While I believe there’s no such thing as having too many bulbs, it’s just wasteful to keep adding bulbs without allowing those that naturalize easily to do their thing.

By ordering bulbs now, one has the best chance to ensure their choices are not sold out. It always surprises me how fast certain varieties get bought up. Even when I think I’m relatively early, I’ve sometimes been too late to grab popular choices.

In the process of selecting bulbs, the mind is wholeheartedly in spring season – a very pleasant place to be when its blazing hot outside, A little side bonus of advance planning.

Once ordered, I’m free to enjoy the summer without that pending task. The order gets charged only at the time of shipping which is scheduled according to the right planting time for your zone. Pretty convenient.

Happy spring planning!

Note: Ordering now means ordering from bulb houses – you get the largest selections and best prices. Large quantities can be ordered wholesale. Buying bulbs later on from local nurseries is just fine if you’re buying only a few bulbs and not looking for a big choice. I usually get my amaryllis and paperwhites for holiday decorations and hyacinths for forcing from my local nursery. Often, I go again towards the end of the season and snap up the remnants for potting up and getting an early start on the spring show.

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

Parched Earth

This past Saturday it rained. Not for long but, the garden plants got a decent watering. The relief I felt was disproportionately huge. It’s been a very dry summer. The rain barrel has been low for a while and but for the fact that the condensation from the central air-conditioning unit is directed to the barrel, it would’ve been bone dry some weeks ago. Saturday’s rain did not fill the barrel. But I’m grateful for every drop of water.

Yesterday, we finally got a true ‘rainy day’. Thunder and lightening too. Torrents so powerful that there was flooding of roads and basements. The problem with this kind of rain is that the earth cannot soak up the rain in a hurry so there’s a lot of run off water. Still, it quenched the thirsty plants.

And now, for the foreseeable future, we are in a heat wave. No rain but plenty of heat and humidity. Ugh. I shudder to think of all the unhealthy conditions for the flora and fauna. All life.

While the unprecedented heat followed by the fierce monsoons in Asia have wrought some devastation there, the lack of rain and soaring temperatures are doing much damage in other parts of the globe. It’s getting hotter everywhere. That, combined with severe lack of water, is going to see the biggest human migration to date. And this could begin in our lifetime.

I don’t know about you but I worry a great deal about this. In this country alone we are experiencing the horrific effects of climate change. Wild fires, large bodies of water drying up, power cuts, water rationing, loss of homes, crops and related livelihoods – the writing on the wall is clear. The science is evident. What are we going to do about it?

For a start, it would help enormously if our representatives in government could accept that we’re in a climate crisis and accordingly make and institute policies to help mitigate the threat. Concurrently, we citizens must do our part. Conserve, reduce, reuse, recycle water, energy and other resources.

In the garden –

Re-examine how and what we grow. Native plants are less demanding and more resilient.

Eliminate or drastically reduce water and energy guzzling lawns.

Collect rain water, gray water for the garden. I recently learned that in some parts of the country, it is illegal to have rain barrels – WHAT??? If they’re worried about a rise in mosquito populations, there are simple, safe ‘dunks’ available to stop them from breeding.

Water from boiling eggs, pasta and such can either be poured right away to kill weeds emerging between pavers on pathways or cooled and used to water plants.

And please, can we agree that timed watering systems MUST have a moisture/rain detection monitor attached so no automatic watering happens when its raining or the ground/pots are wet? Reduce the frequency of watering too. With the right plants, there will less demand for water.

If plants struggle and require too much care, get rid of them. I feel your pain but it is what we must do to keep our place on earth.

Finally, vote out the politicians who do not support the environment or believe in climate change and replace them with green-thinking, progressive minded candidates.

These asks are not as difficult as they seem. Lets begin right away. There is literally no time to lose.

Note: To counter the stress of worrying about the world, I’m sharing photos from my visit to Hollister House last. Sunday. A gem of a garden. Do visit!

Call Maintenance!

July is all about maintenance. No major planting or project occurs at this time. It’s time to enjoy the fruits of ones labor. And I’m here for it. There’s nothing as satisfying as strolling around, preferably with a cool drink in hand, admiring what’s in bloom and what’s going well. Finally, a bit of time to simply take in the beauty and wonder of what one has created.

Of course, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. That would be wishful thinking. Weeding, watering, propping up, trimming back and general faffing is in order, But these can set a happy rhythm to the days. Leaving plenty of time to sit and soak up sunshine and revel in the delightful horticultural offerings. Hours spent watching the numerous insects and birds never get old. Quite the contrary – like sunrises and sunsets, rainbows, full moons and meteor showers, we never tire of what’s in bloom, butterflies flitting and floating gracefully, hummingbirds darting from feeder to flowers, bees laden with pollen whirring home, dragonflies pausing at the water filled trough, their iridescent wings refracting sunlight into flat rainbows …. the list goes on. Before one knows it, afternoon has become nightfall and the fireflies are twinkling in time with the stars.

All too often, I’ve allowed myself to be caught up in the spirit of the season and neglected to do enough in the maintenance department. It’s so easy to let that happen. I think I’m doing enough only to discover that the garden is no longer just expressing summer exuberance. Rather, it is shockingly messy and overgrown. Not this year. My resolution made early in the spring has held up well thus far and I’m seeing the impact due diligence makes.

Regular weeding and watering as required have always been kept up but, timely deadheading, staking and cutting back overgrowth makes all the difference to the health and appearance of the garden. This past weekend, blessed with good weather, that’s exactly what was accomplished. Snipping off spent flowers, cutting overgrowth of certain highly rambunctious plants, staking and supporting those in need, re-potting plants started from cuttings, trimming topiaries, chopping some plants like asters by 1/3 to prevent legginess and encourage fuller growth, feeding all the roses and every plant in a pot with organic fertilizer – it all got done. And the garden breathed a big sigh of relief. Everything looks so much better.

My husband and I split the numerous tasks but we made sure we took breaks for coffee, lunch and many glasses of water on the terrace, at which time we watched the hummingbirds, counted butterflies and shared observations made when we were tending different parts of the garden. A happy balance of work and pleasure. Pre-dinner drinks and dinner felt very well deserved as we sat back and appreciated this piece of earth of which we are blessed to have custody.

My final task before calling it a day was to water all the plants in pots – something that is done almost daily. I had to resort to the tap as the rain barrel was very low in water indicating how dry its been. I then noticed some plants in the beds looking mighty thirsty and watered them too. Fingers crossed it’ll rain later today, slake the earth and fill up the barrel.

In doing the maintenance chores regularly, it’s easier to notice what’s new. Which flowers are blooming, is there a scarcity or abundance of pollinators, where the nests are, what pests have made an ugly appearance and addressing the problems right away before it gets too late. The tasks remind me that I am a caretaker. And care I shall take.

Scenes from the garden –

Hummingbird at the feeder

Blue Jay taking a a break

Before and after a light trim

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

Some Like It Hot

For the longest time I resisted hot colors in my garden. Growing up in India, I was accustomed to the gaudy oranges, reds and yellows of calendula, marigold, nasturtium, lily, canna, dahlias , salvia and such. In my mind, they were tropical colors. So, when I started gardening in my current garden in New York, those colors felt inappropriate.

Blues, pinks, purples, soft yellows and whites shone in this space. And they do look spectacular in spring. I was rather strict about it. I shunned sulfur yellow yarrow, reserved the annual, school prompted, Mother’s Day pot of orange marigold that my daughter brought home all through elementary school to a good but discreet location, selected only paler nasturtiums and made an exception for the claret red Monarda in the herb garden. I had convinced myself that those hues were wrong for this garden.

Yet, as the years passed, I was struck by the lack of summer exuberance in the garden. The pale hues were washed out in the strong sunlight. The garden lacked oomph. But, as summer was also the time I traveled for several weeks, I never made any serious attempts to change anything. Then, in 2019, a late August photo shoot was scheduled by the Garden Conservancy for the 25th Anniversary of their hugely popular Open Days Program. I returned from a long vacation to a bedraggled, lackluster garden with just a few days to whip it back into some semblance of summer splendor. The marathon weeding and trimming brought in order but there was serious lack of punch. Off I went to the nursery looking for inspiration.

True to form, the nursery was a riot of summer color – all the plants of my childhood dominated. I had a sense of comfort in seeing old plant friends. They made me happy. I brought home some canna sporting flames of red and orange. Installed into the pair of pots leading down to the potager, they instantly lit up the space. What a difference that small tweak made.

The following year, 2020, became the year the garden and gardener were transformed. I had all the time in the world and the garden was my salvation. It was a rekindling of my romance with it. Like most long term relationships, I had gotten complacent with the garden. I realized I hadn’t been giving it my all. A good partnership requires consistent effort and attention and I was resolved to do better.

With no possibility of travel and pretty much no distractions, I sought out elements that brought joy and comfort. Happy colors that shine bright as summer unfolds. I planted cardinal vines to scramble up the pergola, red and yellow hibiscus standards in the urns on the terrace, orange, red and yellow nasturtiums to ramble freely in the potager,and tumble boisterously from the big pots of bay standards, yellow calendula and saffron hued marigold in alternating rows in the bed of leafy greens, cannas again in the pots – the potager and terrace was ablaze. In the meadow, the colors were echoed by Monarda and Lobelia ( cardinal flower) punctuated by Solidago golds. Everything was so much in keeping with the season – summer became a true celebration.

And that’s how it has come to be. Sometime in June the softer shades of spring give way to the hotter hues of summer. It’s become my cue to ease up and slide into the season of kicking back and relaxing- rules, rituals and reservations. Let’s drink to that – Cheers!

Random glimpses of summer color  – 

          

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar     

 

Sizzling Into July

Both temperatures and garden are distinctly taking on summer sizzle. I don’t do well in the heat so I’ve learned to keep my time in the garden to the cooler hours of the morning and evening. I leave the hot midday to mad dogs and Englishmen.

It’s now all about balancing between letting the sounds of birds and insects lull us into a happy state of doing nothing and keeping on top of weeding, tidying and watering. The weeds are the biggest offenders – they seem to come up with an enthusiasm that I wish would rub off on the choice plants that are taking time to spread.

The season to gather with friends has commenced. I firmly believe gardens are created to be shared with others. Have you noticed how everyone instinctively inhales visibly and relaxes in nature? Entertaining outdoors is unfussy and naturally easy. The food is simple and fresh and the garden does its magic at putting everyone at ease.

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting several groups of artists in the garden this month. A garden is a perfect muse – inspires us to paint and stretch ourselves, it relieves us of inhibitions and nudges us into working more freely, exploring, experimenting, learning to see anew. Encouraged by the creative company and commiserating about the challenges of all the greenery, the whole experience is joyous. As both gardener and artist, I absolutely love to see how others view my garden. It’s the same when I see photographs taken by visitors. I learn a great deal and grow as gardener as well as artist. Quite possibly, in sharing the garden, I’m the one who gains the most!

As we head into the long weekend, here’s incentive to get stuff in the garden –

Things To Do In July

1. Weed, weed, weed! Remember, pouring boiling water over bricks and other stonework will kill  weeds growing in-between.

2. Deadhead often. Neatness matters.

3. Mulch, fertilize, water.

4. Mow regularly but keep the mower blade high.

5. Watch out for pests and/or disease. Use organic control.

6. Plant out vegetable seedlings for fall harvest.

7. Keep birdbaths filled with fresh, clean water.

8. Order fall bulbs

9. Take time to watch dragonflies by day and fireflies by night.

Happy Fourth!

Summer vibes

Veronicastrum lighting up the meadow.

Lady Slippers getting worn out

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

Specially Small

First, let me apologize for not posting last week. I was forced to lie low as I succumbed to some bug. Not Covid or the ’flu but something that knocked me out nevertheless. Took a few days but I’ve recovered well and feeling immensely grateful. Thanks so much for all the concerned inquiries – honestly, it felt good that my silence was noted!

Although I started feeling well within four days, I decided to go quiet for another week. My mind and body needed that break. The 10 days of going off the grid felt like a cleansing of sorts. No doom scrolling the news or checking Instagram. It was easier than I thought it’d be. I didn’t miss any of it. Now, I’m ready to get back to putting up my one daily Instagram post and checking the accounts I follow but with a determination to only do so for a half hour a day. That’s it.

I can use my time more productively.

As soon as I felt sufficiently better, I went down to the PHS Flower Show. It had been some years since I’d visited Philly so the trip took on the feel of a real getaway.

The Flower Show was held outdoors and the day I went was blessed with lovely weather. It had all the elements of a fair – live music, lots of people, smells of food, vendors of all kinds of wares and of course the horticultural exhibits themselves. I enjoyed Wambui Ippolito’s Aer and AMP’s Nature Amplified very much. Sadly, neither of the dynamic women were present that day. In fact, AMP had already returned to the UK. Still, I’m so glad I got to see their work.

Beyond the obvious reasons to go to a flower show like this, it was particularly joyous to just have this show take place. We’ve all been through so much that events like this are life affirming and filled with hope and optimism. Nature heals.

What I appreciated the most at the show were the plant vendors. My inherent greed for plants aside, it was special to see small nurseries being represented. These nurseries, almost always family operated, are invaluable to the horticultural world. They do what they do for the love of it. Neither lucrative nor glamorous, running a nursery is very hard work. Small nurseries are the ones that grow the unusual, the special, the rare. They preserve important plants while big box stores push the popular/trendy. If you’re looking for plants no longer found easily or fallen out of fashion, go to a small nursery. I, for one, shop exclusively in such places. Shop local, think global.

Years ago, there were several family run nurseries in my county. Each a source of great plants, knowledgeable and helpful people and each had its own unique specialty or expertise. As big box stores popped up everywhere, many of the nurseries could not compete. Customers were lured by low prices and settled for the plantes du jour. Specialty nurseries got hit hard. Today, the remaining nurseries in my area can be counted in one hand and even some of those only do wholesale. The discerning home gardener has to search hard to locate the required less popular but horticulturally valuable plants.

Back to the flower show – although I had no list or pressing need for purchasing, the sight of healthy plants was enough to break all my resolve. One nursery in particular caught my eye. At Triple Oaks Nursery, I picked up several Indian Pink plants (Spigelia marilandica) to add to my meadow. It is an uncommon native wildflower. A small fig was also obtained. Joe Kiefer the nurseryman was most helpful and full of good information. He operates in Franklinville, NJ and I cannot wait to visit him there.

If I had one suggestion to make to the organizers of the PHS Flower Show, it’d be to have even more nurseries at the show. We need to support them fully or run the risk of losing them entirely. That would be doing a huge disservice to ourselves, our gardens and to the horticultural world at large.

Small is priceless and most beautiful.

Pictures taken at the PHS Show –

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

In June’s Spell

June Jiving

June sashays in on May’s wake

Jiving to music the winged ones make

Swishing and swirling gossamer petals

In colors that flirt with summer’s sizzle.

– Shobha Vanchiswar

Do you get the feeling that it’s hard to focus on any one flower in this month? What a lovely problem to have! So many flowers and so little time to enjoy them!

The peonies and roses vie for the most attention. Both are so popular but in longevity, the roses win. Easily succumbing to rain showers and/or high temperatures that often plague June, the peony is something of a delicate darling. Before every impending thundershower I rush to harvest the peonies and bring them in to adorn every room. For a couple of days the house smells divine and looks festive. Then they start dropping petals as if they’re bored and wish to leave the party. And leave they do. That fleeting time we spend together is precious but it does leave me wishing they had more staying power.

Note: I do also pick peonies just as the color peeks through the sepals in the buds and those stick around longer as they slowly unfurl and spread their goodness. Keeping them away from direct light and in cooler areas helps too.

The roses are easier. They adorn the garden longer – even the one time bloomers. And they’re better at withstanding the weather tantrums. Truth be told, I’m quite happy to leave the roses to shine in the garden, Very few are cut for indoors. The bonus is that it allows for rose-hips to develop for fall color and to feed the birds.

The roses in various parts of the garden are exploding and are almost a cliche – roses in June and all. Though who can have any complaints? They look beautiful and there can never be enough of them.

Meanwhile, the native wisteria blooms in this month as well. Shorter racemes than its Asian cousins and not so fragrant, they still look fetching. However, just when they are at their peak and the pergola is charmingly festooned, the temperature is sure to rise and burn the delicate petals. I so loathe when that happens! Is it too much to ask for a few more weeks of cooler days? This type of wisteria will bloom a second time but never in the same abundance.

As I write this post, the perfume wafting into the house tells me to mention the climbing hydrangea also in bloom. A froth of creamy-white flowers overtakes every other perfume in the garden. On returning home from errands and such, the fragrance greets me long before I approach the property. What a welcome!

The hibiscus, marigolds and nasturtium are giving the terrace and potager a preview of summer with their hot colors of yellows and oranges. Joined by the blue comfrey and aforementioned purple wisteria, there is an exuberance that is contagious. Uplifts the viewer fo r sure.

The meadow is having its quiet time. The native anemone is in bloom and the white flowers against the vast green soothes the eyes. Which is just as well because it helps one notice the shy, diminutive lady’s slippers stepping around softly amongst the bigger plants in the meadow. They’re so easy to escape notice that I’ve placed stakes to indicate their location. It’s be such a shame to miss these flowers.

Irises and alliums are still going strong as are the baptisia rendering the front garden in lovely hues of purple and blue. Allium siculum have joined in the festivities – scattered in front and in the meadow, their bells nod dance gracefully in the breeze.

There are still pansies in pots bravely facing the rising heat but their time is coming to an end. The geraniums, pelargoniums, dwarf nicotiana, daisy topiaries, all in pots, are adding their colors to this month of June. What a month! And I’m here for it.

Note: Some beauties from the garden –

Rose. Compare to peony look alike!

Peony. Compare to the rose!

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

This, That And The Other

I can hardly keep abreast with the flowers exploding in the garden. I might be gazing adoringly at the alliums when from the corner of my eye I notice the irises gracefully unfurling themselves. The clematis on the arch tumbles in a cascade – its exuberance is contagious. In counterpoint to the rounded heads of allium, the camassia shoot up in tall cones of pale blues and cream.

The foxgloves are having their moment in the potager. Their speckled spires distract me no end. It’s hard to work in their towering presence. And just this past weekend, the native wisteria scrambling up the pergola nearby, decided to join the party. The tiny bell shaped flowers of both the common and the more unusual blue comfrey are supporting actors in this cast of performers. Their part is no less important in the tableaux. Indeed, the bees and other insects seem to prefer them to the more showy companions.

The first rose to bloom is the David Austin R.Boscobel but the others are getting ready to compete any day now. Surprisingly behind schedule, the Baptisia and Amsonia are adding their shades of blue to the late spring parade. It’s rather interesting to view them amidst a new cast of characters. They fit in rather well.

What has excited me the most is something diminutive and easy to escape notice amidst this floral carnival are the Cypripedium parviflorum – the yellow lady’s slipper. I’ve long coveted them and acquired two plants last summer at the plant sale held at Hollister House. Both were planted in two different parts of the meadow. One is currently in bloom and the other is in bud. I am so pleased.

On the other end of my excitement was the discovery of cutworms on a small, potted pine. They looked so creepy writhing around in a cluster. Already a branch had been totally denuded and the vandals were working on another. They were dealt with swiftly. Felt very satisfying.

Today, the temperatures are expected to rise to the low 90s. Just when the late spring garden is looking so glorious. Don’t you just hate that! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no real damage is done. I went around late last evening harvesting the peonies in bloom and those just about to. The anticipated heat would burn them easily. So now, while I work in the cool indoors, I’m basking in peony perfume and beauty. That’s a pretty good upside.

Lady’s Slipper

Wisteria on the pergola

Wisteria viewed from above

Cutworm cluster

Rescued peonies before the heat wave.

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

Boning Up

I love the way the garden gets defined by the snow. Snow in its stark whiteness, highlights the bones of the garden. Even as it blankets everything, it reveals the design and lay of the land. There are highlights and low-lights that emerge to give a new understanding of the effect of the various elements in the space and their relation to each other. One hardly designs a garden for the snow but it is always gratifying to see an entirely new dimension revealed by it.

Winter is always a good time to asses the bones of the garden. Devoid of foliage, the garden is laid bare for scrutiny. Too much or too little structure, a need for some additional plantings or focal point, even what alterations or repairs are necessary. Add a coat of snow and it gets even more telling. Subtle gradients can be seen more clearly, Sunlight on the snow exposes how light hits the garden. Shadows from trees and buildings tell of the extent to which they impact the plantings. As the snow melts, the different micro-climates can be observed – where it melts first and where it remains cold longer helps the gardener plant appropriately. There is so much learned.

As an artist, when painting snow scenes, I have to observe even more closely.. Exactly how the light hits the ground, the angle of the shadows, dips and inclines, areas that are either particularly interesting or too bland and discerning colors in what seems like a very white canvas.

This observation has proven even more educational than simply taking photographs. In fact, I believe it has improved how I compose my photos as well as the garden.

Best of all,, both, painting and taking photos keep me in the moment. A valuable lesson in mindfulness.

Watercolor

Watercolor

Watercolor

Watercolor

Watercolor

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar