A garden is a performance art – the success of which is incumbent on the ensemble that makes it all happen. A cast of plants, gardener (s), soil, sunshine, clouds, rain, temperature, birds, bees, butterflies, worms and a host of other critters come together to create a garden. Each part is crucial and if even one member falters, the entire production is compromised. And, in the actual viewing or surveying of a garden at its best, no single character must stand out or dominate. Each complements the whole.

When a visitors experience a garden, they must feel inspired, comforted, and/or enthralled such that while different aspects or elements may strike a chord, provoke an emotion, recall a memory or, enlighten the mind, its the whole encounter that resonates.

This is true of almost every good experience. Often, when we say it was lovely or powerful, credit is given to something obvious. A flamboyant plant or a gregarious person but, we don’t think about the subtle elements that go into making it sublime overall.

This past week, a special event brought this truth to mind. It was the annual gala at Lyndhurst Mansion at Tarrytown, NY. Lyndhurst is described as a “majestic estate on the Hudson River with architectural tours, historical exhibits and, a relaxing landscape to explore”. Indeed, the grounds looked quite bucolic and their famous rose garden was enchantingly and abundantly in flower.

After three days of being blanketed in smoke from the Canadian wildfires, the air cleared, the sky was visible, the evening sun shone and the temperature remained very pleasant. All of which had the well attired guests in a most agreeable mood. We mingled and struck up conversations with new faces and some familiar ones, sipped wine and nibbled on an array of small bites which appeared in most timely fashion. One could not help but be in a good frame of mind.

‘Unlocking Lyndhurst’, the new exhibit was on preview for the guests. Learning the stories about the pieces beyond their aesthetic or historic significance was enlightening. It is a small but quite fascinating show.

And then, it was time for dinner. We found ourselves at a table of strangers who quickly became friends. Sharing much conversation and laughter, we enjoyed the meal, the live music and, the fund raising auction with a most entertaining auctioneer. All in all a wonderful evening.

But, that wasn’t all of it. It was how the space under a capacious tent felt- inviting and intimate but not crowded, the attentive wait staff and, the floral arrangements all around. Each table had a unique display that was simple ( a group of glass bowls each holding ferns or other greenery), creatively quirky ( branches of cherry tomatoes), elegant ( clematis vines gracefully climbing a support), charmingly wild (a mass of sweet peas and tiny bells of clematis), exotic (orchids) or sumptuous (lavishly filled urns near the stage). The floral works of art were the silent cast members of the ensemble that made the evening such a success. None shrieked ‘look at me’ or competed with another. Each arrangement held its own and together they contributed quiet beauty to the whole event. Kudos to floral designer and entrepreneur Sylvia of Cape Lily Flowers in Tarrytown, NY

Working harmoniously together is what its all about.

Note: If you live in the area, I encourage you to visit Lyndhurst Mansion. Better yet become a member and you’ll be privy to all sorts of events and exhibits. And the 67 acres of grounds with a fantastic view of the Hudson River will be available for your indulge all year round.

A few images from “unlocking Lyndhurst”:

Some of the flowers:

(c) 2023 Shobha Vanchiswar

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Growth is a process. Every gardener understands this. Yet, applying that to life outside the garden is not always easy. We know it takes not only time to grow from seed to plant to flower to fruit but there is need of the right conditions – temperature, light, nutrients, pollinators, good health, space. Nothing happens all by itself. A network of ‘helpers’ make growth possible.

When I say that the garden offers me an escape, a place of solace, it isn’t that it becomes somewhere to pretend that all is well. Instead, it is where I go to get away from the noise that drowns out the music. As I go about tending to my plants, I observe, I think, I listen, I learn. The garden is full of lessons and ideas.

Right off, an examination of a garden reveals that diversity is key. Shapes, colors, textures and, fragrances from diverse sources come together to create beauty. Every plant has a part to play. There are no insignificant roles. While some players might have loud/large visibility, they could not shine without the less obvious ones propping them up.

The sweet-peas have put out their first flowers. I’m looking forward to harvest time already! Their delicate tendrils stretching and reaching along the string tell me that we all need support to make progress, reach our goals.

The native wisteria over the pergola is in bloom. It flowers later than its Asian counterparts and the racemes are much shorter. I appreciate the timing because I’m invariably so overwhelmed by May’s full on blast of blooms that I’m not duly appreciative of the individual beauty of each type of flower. Besides, there’s also a lot of garden work to do at that time. The shorter racemes may not be as dramatic as the longer ones but they are still lovely and, they show up twice. So there. Being different is just fine. An asset even.

Watching the birds, butterflies and bees is better than anything on television. That by itself is an astounding feat. However, they make a couple of important points. First, all of life is interdependent. Across species and genus. We need each other.

Second, no matter who or what one is, our goals are universal – survival and providing for family and community. We have more in common than we think.

It’s fundamental. By striving to be my best self, I am able to connect with the world with empathy, understanding and purpose. But, just as I know from gardening, the garden is never done. There is always plenty of work to do. Growth. It’s a process.

David Austin’s R. boscobel

Native wisteria


Baby robins

Native wisteria

(c) 2020 Shobha Vanchiswar

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