Performance Review 2021

The final week of 2021. One can’t help but think about the year in review and anticipate the one to come. On my part, I’ve shifted the way I’m examining 2021 in the garden. Instead of looking at how things fared in the garden, I’m taking a hard look at my own efforts as a gardener. Instead of simply considering how weather, pollinators and pests contributed to successes and failures, I’m reviewing how my performance has impacted the garden.

In the latter part of winter, I was filled with hope and energy and got columbine seeds started. The seeds had been stratified weeks earlier and were duly sowed in starter pots. I’d hoped for a plethora of seedlings to plant in the meadow. It was a complete failure. While I’d been told by experts that starting columbines was not simple, I had not expected total defeat. Thinking back to that time, I see how I neglected to closely monitor the seed flats. I kinda let the seeds manage completely on their own as I got distracted with myriads of other seasonal tasks in the garden. Well, I shouldn’t have been surprised when not a single seed sprouted. What I’ve learned is that I shouldn’t take on something I don’t have the time/skills/conditions required. While this effort was not a big financial investment, it was a very visual reminder of my gross negligence. I’m duly shamed.

When the weather gets too warm and humid, I always retreat indoors. It’s not only very buggy and uncomfortable to be outside but, conditions are ideal for migraines to plague me. I’ve learned to be preemptive and stay inside. This year, the summer atmosphere was mostly unpleasant. We had weeks of bad weather. I barely got in the garden and endlessly complained about how the weather had created unhealthy conditions for the plants. But I took no personal ownership. I should’ve found moments in the cooler periods in the early hours of the mornings to do a pest check, some staking or a spot of weeding. I could’ve helped the beleaguered plants in pots by feeding them weekly (instead of sporadically) to counteract the loss of nutrients by the incessant rains. I admit I used the excuse (valid as it was) of migraines to conceal my laziness. Ashamed I am. Thoroughly.

On the positive side, timely pruning and trimming resulted in those plants looking healthy and happy. My foray into hot colors for the potager and terrace was very successful. Due diligence resulted in a very good grape harvest. The plants that were too vigorous and smothering their neighbors were dealt with – creating more breathing space all around. I finally addressed the wisteria that was in the wrong place and replaced it with a magnolia espalier. The wisteria is now in a friend’s garden where it has a much more suitable home.

Open Day and Digging Deeper were not only successful but brought me so much joy to once again be amidst like-minded, garden crazy people. My kind of folk.

I’ve begun taking steps for next year. Inspired by the stunning flowers I saw in other gardens this past year, I’ve ordered dahlia tubers for the first time. I’m hoping to source and order flats of native columbine seedlings for the meadow. If I can get them early enough, I will nurture them along responsibly. In the coming weeks, I plan to get organized and ready for spring. And I’m creating a game plan to mitigate my laziness.

And now, the greenhouse beckons. Some faffing and fussing is in order.

January

February

February

March

April

April

May

May. Marco Polo Stufano, Timothy Tilghman na his wife Renee visit.

June. Open Day

July

August

September

October

November. Bulb planting.

December. Gifts from the garden.

(c) 2021 Shobha Vanchiswar

No Challenge, No Change

The final days of a year give pause to reflect and reassess on how we did, what we’ve experienced and learned. The new year is full of expectations and anticipation. We hope it will be the best year yet.

2020 has been a most challenging year. I doubt if there is even a single person who was not had to face some kind of test in the past ten months. At best, it’s been a struggle for most of us. Devastating for many. 2020 has not been easy.

We have had to adjust, change and rethink so much. How we work, live, shop, communicate, entertain and connect to others and the environment. But, we’ve done it – we humans are resilient. We grow from our problems. We adapt.

I’m giving plenty of thought to how I’ve handled 2020. Undoubtedly, my garden got me through. Like everyone else, I’ve dealt with fears, anxiety, confusion, loss, disappointments and setbacks. Through it all, the garden kept me engaged and busy. I was consoled by it’s beauty, comforted by its bounty, kept productive by the many tasks. Somehow, even easy, uncomplicated tasks like watering the plants, managed to calm the mind and lift the spirit.

So much joy was experienced in the garden. Birthdays, graduation, new jobs, small gatherings were celebrated in the midst of flora and fauna. I found time to do the varied chores with attention and appreciation. Equally, there were plenty of opportunities to sit back and enjoy the artistry of the plants. Beguiled by the antics of the numerous birds and butterflies, my resolve to ensure their continued residency in my garden was reaffirmed over and over.

What I’ve learned is that I need to slow down so I can immerse myself in what truly fulfills me. Short changing the garden by giving the tasks limited time or a rushed effort results in shortchanging my own joy and well-being. Devoting a good amount of time taking care of chores, listening to the birds chatter as they go about their own business, inhaling the perfumes of flowers and aromatics, reveling in the beauty of the plants, watching the bees and butterflies making their rounds has kept me in a state of equilibrium at a time when the world seemed to be torn asunder.

As if to reward my attention, the garden was brilliant all through the seasons. It filled cup repeatedly. And I couldn’t get enough. My only regret is that I was unable to share it with everyone. After all, gardens should be shared and lived in.

Reviewing the year, I understand that the garden recognized where I was coming from and comforted me accordingly. It gently revealed to me that I’d been stretching myself too thin, got involved with too many things and how far I’d moved away from my true north. Not any more.

While a good amount of the global challenges from 2020 will carry over into 2021, I feel better about the coping skills I’ve acquired from under the tutelage of the garden. I now have a clearer , cleaner vision for myself. Simplify, streamline and then full steam ahead. In the garden and in life.

From the bottom of my heart I send each of you the warmest of wishes – health, hope and happiness for the New Year. May 2021 bring peace, joy, love and laughter to all.

Note: Looking backwards –

December

November

October

October

September

August

August

August

July

June

May

May

May

April

March

February

January

(c) 2020 Shobha Vanchiswar