Decompress And Debrief

What a week it was! Busy, hectic and full of excitement. It was spent installing my art for the Lyndhurst In Bloom event. Transforming a vision to reality is a process fraught with ideas, doubt, fun, tweaking, rethinking, redoing, second guessing everything and, finally pulling it all together. A roller-coaster ride.

And then the preview night arrived – it had all come together and I was ready to enjoy the evening. Whew!

The feedback that evening and through the weekend was good and gratifying. I’m really glad I’d said ‘yes’ to this opportunity. It made me stretch and explore, dig deep and think out of the box. It was truly exciting. I’m very pleased with how the final installation looked as well the public response. I learned a lot too.

I had many requests to share as much as possible about my project from those who could not attend. So I submit here the mission statement for it and lots of photos. Lyndhurst had a professional photographer take pictures but I will receive them only later.

And now, after a day spent collecting my thoughts and decompressing, I head into the garden and onward to the garden’s Open Day!

Before Flowers, Beyond Flowers

Lyndhurst Mansion will forever be connected to the Gilded Age. A time associated with rapidly expanding industries, significant progress in science and technology and of course, opulence and excess. What is often overlooked is that this period was also when Environmentalism as a national movement got started. It was a seminal moment when Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. The first of its kind in the world.

We are now at a similar inflection point where we must renew our covenant as protectors of the environment.

On that note,Welcome to The Gilded Age 2.0. What was the scullery has become an ode to seeds.

The very fundamental source of all life is highlighted. Every seed contains the past, present and future. Seeds hold the history, geography, science and art of life on earth. 

Yet, while there is universal agreement that seeds are important, one tends not to pay serious attention to them. Benign, diminutive, innocuous with an appearance perceived as dull, they’re easy to go unnoticed. When was the last time you deliberately examined a seed pod, capsule or head?

They are exquisite in design and each uniquely suited to its natural environment and manner of seed dispersal be it by gravity, wind, ballistic, water or animal.

The viewer is invited to take the time to examine the watercolor art works, displays of the real materials themselves, various ways to propagate – seeded paper hung like prayer flags as testaments of faith, hope and service, seed bombs to broadcast generously, seedlings started in flats/)pots for assigned places and purposes, some set aside to exchange with fellow gardeners,

A lot of gardening is focused on flowers. People don’t realize plants can be beautiful after flowering, and they cut them down before they can even see it. I look outside now and see the clematis that flowered in the summer but is more interesting now that it is showing seed heads.

If you make a four-season garden you have to learn to accept decay and see the beauty of it. It’s about the texture and shape, the seed heads and the skeletons. So instead of using the scissors you use your eyes.” Piet Oudolf

Note: The dried materials seen here were gathered from my own garden with some treasured additional contributions from Harnek Singh – @plantstani and Timothy Tilghman of @untermyergardens.

Sustainability at its best!

My garden is open to the public May 4 through the popular and highly acclaimed Open Days Program of the Garden Conservancy.

Shobha Vanchiswar

Artist, gardener, designer, environmentalist

Welcome To Before Flowers, Beyond Flowers-

A few of the other lovely installations –

(c) 2024 Shobha Vanchiswar

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New Growth

A few weeks ago, if you were paying attention, I’d hinted at a new and creative project coming up. It’s now time to reveal what’s got me so excited. I’ve been invited to participate in Lyndhurst In Bloom. As the name suggests, it is an event held annually at the historical Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York.

Select floral designers and artists are invited to decorate a room each at the mansion. It’s always resplendent in flowers and a perfect way to usher in spring. Each space is uniquely highlighted in flowers reflecting the creative skills of the decorator. Now, as we well know, I am not a florist or floral designer. However, I am a gardener, an artist and designer, as well as a scientist. This opportunity presents a wonderful challenge to get creative with those various skills and experiences. My goal is to offer an aesthetically pleasing yet informative, instructive display that challenges the viewer to see the botanical world a bit differently and appreciate it with an enhanced perspective.

What am I blathering about? I’m aiming to bring attention to the importance of safeguarding the environment by understanding seeds! To show the genius of nature’s work in designing not just the seeds themselves but how they’re packaged in pods or heads specifically suited to how they will be disseminated. I want to share my awe and expose everybody to the sheer diversity and the exquisite nature of the myriad designs.

Between my years of observing, working with and, painting nature, I find that, while flowers with their range of colors, rightfully have the viewer swooning, seedpods too deserve due recognition and respect. After all, all of life begins with a seed. By understanding this and making the effort to see them up close, one cannot but admire them. What seemingly appears innocuous, mostly monochromatic and undeserving of close examination, is in reality way more impressive than the flamboyant flower.

Of course, one cannot exist without the other. My point in all of this is that by seeing just how amazingly beautiful seedpods and seed heads are, we will be recommitted to preserving our plants and the natural world at large. Pollinators and/or herbivores/omnivores are often specific to only certain plants. Consider this, while the common milkweed is crucial to the life-cycle of the Monarch butterflies, it is the Carpenter bee that is supremely suited to pollinate it. It behooves the gardener to have a diversity of flora to support the diversity of fauna required to keep the environment in equilibrium.

With my installation at Lyndhurst In Bloom, I hope to be sharing all of this through my seedpod paintings, beautiful displays and arrangements of various seedpods to rival any floral counterparts and simply, to tell folk to take time to marvel at Nature’s brilliance. The ultimate mastermind of this vast and wondrous yet fragile world. We humans are her custodians. We must execute that responsibility as best we can. Preserve, conserve, serve.

Wish me luck please!

Note: Lyndhurst In Bloom will be happening April 20 & 21. Tickets are now available. Do grab yours! In past years, they’ve sold out quickly.

Getting ready for the event involves a review of the raw materials! –

Meanwhile in the garden –

(c) 2024 Shobha Vanchiswar

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Orchid Go For Some Spring Right Now Couldn’t You?

Yeah, I know. I’m feeling goofy. Happens about this time every year when I can almost feel spring making her way. It’s part imagination, part will, part reality. Spring’s official arrival is four weeks away. I’m weary of winter and my head space is full of garden plans and to-dos. I’m frustrated, excited and impatient all at once. Some diversion is desperately needed.

As though sensing my state, the NYBG always comes to the rescue with the annual Orchid Show. Ah! Just the cheery lift I need. Surrounded by the lovely plants vying for attention, it’s impossible to remain glum. The colors and forms of the orchid flowers are incredible. I also love the way other plants are combined in the displays to expand and elevate the palette. It’s not just about the flowers; the inspired use of foliage should not be overlooked. Good horticultural design instruction right there.

Admittedly, beyond the basics that I already know I learn very little about orchids at the show. But if one can set aside the need for such shows to be properly educational, such an exhibit can be a very positive experience. It uplifts the winter-worn spirit and entertains the senses. That, I believe is precisely what is required right now. A chance to simply feel good and get lost in the beauty of flowers. After a visit, one comes away pleased and positive of mind.

Flower power can never be underestimated.

This year, the theme of the show is Singapore – the mecca of orchids. Having had the privilege of visiting that city-state’s orchid collection, my NYBG visit this past Friday not only did the job of putting me in a happy mood but it also reminded me of that very pleasant vacation. Now I have spring fever and the travel bug. Go figure.

P.S. Wandering through the garden on my way to the Orchid Show in the conservatory, I noticed the pointed tips of bulbs pushing their way through and yes, the snowdrops have started blooming. Joy!

That typically means my own garden will begin to stir in a couple of weeks. More joy.

Note:Check out the art at the Phyllis Harriman Gallery at the New York Art Student’s League, March 4 – 9. I have four paintings in the show.

Enjoy the images below :

Yellow fever


(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

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