Open Season

After all the weather related trials and tribulations, the garden opened for visitors this past Saturday. After a year of forced ‘hiatus’, the Open Days Program was up and running! And it felt so good. Opening my garden to visitors is a sly way to meet lots of like-minded folk and have fun, interesting conversations all day long. While the visitors invariably appreciate the sharing of my garden, little do they know how much I enjoy meeting fellow gardeners and garden lovers.

Open Day 2021 was no exception. Following a few days of torrential rain, Saturday was sun filled and bright. The humidity and temperature was high but, nobody cared. It felt wonderful to be outdoors. I was so ready to see people that the fact that the garden was a bit toned down on the flowers in bloom section, did not bother me. Abnormal heat from the previous week had put paid to several flowers that would typically have been at peak beauty. But, there was enough color provided by the baptisia, roses, geraniums, native wisteria, hibiscus, nasturtiums, peonies, irises and others.

As gardener and designer, I know my garden all too well. Warts and all. So it is hard to be objective. The critical mind always takes over. Stuff will bother me that absolutely nobody will notice. Still, until I improve or change it, the ‘problem’ will nag me. And by its very existence, a garden is never done. There is always more to do, undo and redo. And then, like a knight in shining armor, Open Day arrives to rescue me from myself.

After doing the usual last minute fussing and primping, the garden is what it is as the clock strikes the start of Open Day. Visitors arrive and perhaps it was my imagination but this year, they seemed more eager to tour and observe. Like me, they too must’ve missed Open Days. How else can we see all the beautiful private gardens that we yearn to see and covet?

On my part, I’m always impressed by the depth of knowledge and degree of curiosity that visitors bring . I’m gratified when they take note of elements and plants that I’ve designed and/or selected. Seeing my garden through their eyes and preferred interests is enlightening and fun. We commiserate about trends and fads, discuss cultivars and species, joke about chores, share ideas and information and linking it all together is our deep and abiding love for gardening.

I don’t know or care to know their political leanings, religion, socioeconomic status, level of education or other credentials. All that matters is the universal connection we have to nature and consequently to each other. Surely, if we can come together on all aspects of gardening, that in itself becomes, literally and figuratively, the common ground upon which we, as a people can build better relationships and understandings.

At the end of the day, I was, as always, euphoric about the new alliances made, plant suggestions, garden recommendations, good feedback on my own garden, humorous anecdotes shared and hopelessly optimistic about achieving all my horticultural dreams.

After the last guests had left and all paraphernalia had been put away, it was with such satisfaction that I ‘closed’ the garden. Days like that are truly special. At many levels.

My sincere thanks to all who came from near and far – I loved meeting each of you. Deepest gratitude to all who purchased from the Printed Garden collection. Your generosity supports good causes like the ACLU and orphan children with HIV.

Note: Do sign up to visit private gardens through the season and all across America at the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program. They will inspire, motivate, teach and entertain. I promise!

All but the first image below were taken by ceramist and photographer August Brosnahan:

(c) 2021 Shobha Vanchiswar

Press Reset

The garden has been put to bed. Now what? Time to dream, hope, plan and get organized. But first, let’s get inspired. Winter is a good time to reboot our creative aspirations by quite literally getting away from the garden all together.

This month, in keeping with the festive spirit, I turn to the NYBG’s Holiday Train Show. This exhibit cannot fail to delight and get your spirits soaring. The sheer creativity with which the buildings are constructed of all natural materials easily foraged in the great outdoors is impressive. It will change the way you look at ordinary materials found in the garden and on walks in the woods. I’ve been going to this annual show since it first started and I’m still eager for it every year.

Invariably, a seasonal concert or two is on my December calendar. Music has transformative powers. I go to the opera and philharmonic concerts all year round but at this time, I’m hankering for music generally performed for the holidays. Not necessarily restricted to Christmas music but appropriate for the season of goodwill to all. This week, I’m going to the Chanticleer concert in NYC– acapella singing par excellence. I went last year for the first time and came away so uplifted. The music stayed with me for days.

I will end the month with the performance of arias at the Met Opera – what an inspired way to enter the new year!

In between the music, visits to the art museums is always in order. As an artist and gardener, there is so much to fire up the imagination. Be it a simple nudge from an Impressionist to consider a bench or a color theme for your garden to a gorgeous presentation of floral combinations from a Dutch still-life to a call for boldness and out of the box thinking from an Abstract, you are guaranteed to come away with inspiration for your own ‘canvas’. The effect is not always obvious but for certain you will be revived.

This month, I’m looking forward to the Metropolitan Museum’s new exhibits – Felix Vallotton, painter of disquiet, Making Marvels, science and splendor at the courts of Europe and, In Pursuit Of Fashion.

Similarly, trying new foods, new places, books and movies/TV have the power to teach and elevate. I have lists of movies/shows to watch, a pile of books to get through, a folder of recipes to try, and towns and nature preserves to explore on day trips – December is merely the start of what promises to be a season for growth and gain. For self and garden.

Note: I’m fortunate to live so close to NYC but I also believer in going local. Community theater, regional museums, galleries, music orchestras and bands can be top notch. Check your local paper for listings.

In case you’re still hankering for a garden to-do list, check out my December list.

The images below are from past forays for inspiration:

NYBG’s Enid Haupt Conservatory at the train show
From the Met’s Camp fashion exhibit earlier this year
From the fall 2019 TEFAF show
Woodland walk
My painting inspired by a hike
Color combinations!
Colors, shapes, patterns
a Persian meal – reminds me of how fragrance plays an important role!
How many whites can you discern?

(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar