Transition Phase

I would love to report that the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden has fully blossomed, but in truth, we are in a bit of an awkward transition phase. Our planting was largely on hold, waiting for the irrigation system installation – now complete. With that hurdle overcome, the volunteer gardeners were out in force this week – some planting and weeding, others inspecting and planning.

Laure was out earlier in the week spending hours exterminating weeds. She shared her time with Susan and Jim who cleared and planted the Tree Circle Gardens.

Sue was out to continue her work on the what we had dubbed Grandma’s Flower Garden. With apologies for accidentally deleting the photo (next trip!), she has installed solar globe lights, a solar fountain, and a host of playful statuettes A new name may be in order. Something that captures new age spirit and old soul whimsy. Suggestions?

Randy and Vonnie were in planning mode. They are not only volunteer gardeners, they are volunteer taxi drivers. They are part of the devoted teams who travel up and down the state picking up lucky Goldens who have been rescued from shelters or sent from other organizations – including some from as far away as Taiwan. Theirs will be the Butterfly Garden.  This is the ‘before.’  Can’t wait to see the ‘after.’

Maria was busy with the Sugar Peas, Sunflowers, Marigolds and more in her Bed Garden. She has a knack for taking someone’s castaway and turning it into poetic vignettes.

Meanwhile, I did some weeding in other beds, and fussed a little in the Perennial Garden that I share with Deb in preparation for her Dahlias.

We are a patchwork quilt of established, newly planted and planned beds. We may look a little ragged around the edges at the moment, with the pathways now recovering from the heavy equipment. No matter; we will get there.  It was a necessary step backward, in order to move forward.Not unlike the Goldens who find their way to this amazing sanctuary. It’s not unusual for them to arrive with medical, emotional or behavioral issues. Thrust into yet another unfamiliar environment, it takes time to get stronger physically and to feel safe and trusting.  It is remarkable to see them blossom with love, care and patience. The garden devoted to them will no doubt blossom too!

The Benefits of Clay

I confess to being a little apprehensive about planting in the clay soil at the Homeward Bound Memorial Gardens, having little experience with it. I did the simple (very unscientific!) home test, and found it less heavy than I expected. Still, I know from weeding this spring, and the caked mud on my shoes, that there is much more than I am accustomed to.  This weekend, I learned its benefits!

While it is still April, temperatures were in the 90’s this weekend in Sacramento – and our plantings in the perennial garden are only two weeks established. I was expecting some droop, but found thriving, happy plants instead. The soil, under a good layer of bark, was lightly dry on the surface, but retaining moisture very well just an inch below. This, and the dappled shade the lower section of the bed receives in late afternoon, will be a real blessing in the hot Sacramento Valley summer.

Clay in moderation? I’m sold!

Fostered Friends

While we were enjoying our time at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden on Saturday, other devoted volunteers were manning a booth at the U.C. Davis Picnic Day to bring awareness to the mission of this amazing organization. Among them was one of our devoted volunteers, Maria, and her dog, Beau, who apparently travels in style!

Maria fosters in part because she likes travel, and Homeward Bound is kind enough to welcome her fosters back to the Sanctuary for babysitting when she is away.  Last fall she lost her 16-year old foster to old age. She took a break over the holidays, and, after getting off the plane in February, decided to stop by Homeward Bound to check on the gardens. All it took was a single mention that it might be time to consider fostering again, and Beau was by her side.

He is 9 1/2 years of age with a weak back  and weak back leg. This apparently does not stop him from beating Maria to the bed, however!  He was supposed to be evaluated for a possible placement at a senior retirement home, where older dogs are sometimes placed for mutual companionship and comfort. Given that he is a hugger and a leaner, he is not a good match for the elderly.

Older dogs like Beau often stay on with their foster families, while those who take younger dogs are really helping them prepare for their forever homes. It is hard to say goodbye, but also incredibly rewarding. And foster homes always have first option to adopt. You can learn more about fostering here. It looks like Maria has found her next long-term foster, and Beau has found a happy home. Hope to see you in the garden, Beau!

Mystery Gardener Unearthed

I met our mystery gardener, Sue and her dog, Brock, today in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. Sue served as our inspiration last fall, as she was the first to clear her garden bed – and meticulously so! She arrived today with a truckload of plants and whimsical additions to add character to the bed – only to discover that spring temperatures had fed the weeds too well.

The weather was unseasonably warm today in the Sacramento Valley, so we worked together to clear what is now “Grandma’s Flower Garden.” Great company and conversation helped us push through the  job.  Long after I gave in to the heat, Sue stayed on to complete the planting, settling in just as the day was ending, which will give them a chance to adjust in the cooler temps tonight.

Overseeing our efforts was Sue’s dog, Brock – another Homeward Bound rescue.  Sue was drawn to Brock for his special needs. Suffering from mange as a puppy, Brock had lost most of his hair when she adopted him.  A couple of years of loving care later, his hair has come back in, but is still very short. With no trace of the classic Golden feathers, you might not take him for a Golden at first.  However, spend a few minutes playing “find it” with his toy – and it becomes abundantly clear.

People like Sue, who are drawn to special needs Goldens, make Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary such a special place.  They adopt, foster and care for dogs that others long ago gave up on. And they are rewarded with the unconditional love of their new best friends and four-legged family members.

Now that the rains have largely passed and the irrigation system is in, I expect we’ll see a steady stream of volunteers planting their beds with summer color. Something tells me that Sue’s new fountain will be a gathering spot for more of her new feathered friends as well!

Despite the rain last week, it looks like more than half the work on the irrigation installation was completed at the Homeward Bound Memorial Gardens. A giant trench digger cut quick paths through the clay soil; however those that were not finished are now filled with water. Thankfully, the Sacramento forecast calls for sunshine all week. Fingers crossed that the crew can finish.

The paths that were so cleanly manicured two weeks ago look a little worse for wear as a result.  It is a small price to pay to ensure water for thirsty plantings this summer.

The plants did not mind the rain at all. The perennial garden we planted last weekend is thriving. I added the Gaillardia and Delphinium today. The colors are so rich. I can’t wait to see them set off against Deb’s Dahlia’s this summer.

The trees have all leafed out, and the roses along the fence are beginning to bloom.

Maria’s snow peas are making good progress, and luckily appear either undiscovered, or unappealing, to bunnies.

With the warm sun shining, there were lots of volunteer walkers and dogs coming through the garden today.  They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are what Homeward Bound refers to as “Fool’s Gold” – not-quite Goldens who find their way to this sanctuary. One of them is Chester, apparently from champion hunting stock, this Lab boy desperately needs to find a home. You can see pictures of him here, and read about him at Available Goldens. Much as I enjoy his company in the garden, it’s clear that he would be much happier in an open field with a job and a mission in mind. I hope this loyal pup finds an equally dedicated human soon.

Details in the Garden

The best thing about spring in the garden are the little surprises that appear each day. Upon close inspection today at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, Maria’s snow peas have made their presence known. Pushing skyward, they are preparing to climb the couch relic that she has strung to encourage a living slipcover of delicate flowers and bunny snacks.

A very protective Killdeer bird laid her eggs in the bark of one of the beds. She tried to distract me away with her “broken wing act,” but I was able to quickly capture her speckled treasure.

Among the last weeds remaining in her bed, Jody discovered a rabbit hole. It’s not clear if it is occupied or not, but I did not have the heart to unearth the weeds that hid it. Hopefully, any furry friends will remember that I put my faith in peaceful co-existence.

Finally, a new addition that reminds visitors of the garden’s purpose; a place to remember and enjoy the hundreds of Goldens that pass through Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA. This weekend, that included two older, special needs dogs who left with their new families for their forever homes.  A perfect end to a beautiful weekend in the garden.

Planting Day!

The weather has been clear for the past week. The clay soil is dry enough to work. The sun is shining. And the irrigation system will be installed on Monday. It is finally time to plant our perennial (with liberties) garden at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden!

I loaded 60 plants in the SUV on Friday evening. By Saturday morning, my vehicle was a bona-fide greenhouse.  No matter; I was anxious to get going and did not want to waste time at the nursery or loading. By 10AM, I was in the garden and laying out plants according to the design my garden partner, Deb, and I have been  tweaking all winter long. Version 7 is the keeper. I’m sure it can still be improved, but at some point, you just have to commit!

Deb ordered and prepped the Dahlias; to those beauties, she added Lupine, White Lavender, Yarrow and Purple Coneflower. They join: Verbena, Dianthus, Geranium, Lavender, Day lily, Salvia, Arctotis, and Coreopsis. Room has been saved for Campanula, Black-eyed Susan, Mexican Sage, Bee Balm and Gaillardia. For the late summer/fall, we will incorporate some Creeping Zinnia and Chrysanthemum. By next spring, more bulbs and Anemone should add early color.

It seems like a lot…and it is! But the bed is huge, and at the heart of it is a palette of rich oranges and purples to tie things together, with smatterings of equally intense deep yellows, blues, and hot pinks to carry us from spring to fall. Now all we have to worry about is whatever beastie ate some of the tulip heads off. Something tells me that today’s hard work was, in part, a sacrificial salad offering for a very fat and happy rabbit.

I’m not alone in looking forward to the spring. Every spring, a generous group of supporters, businesses, trusts and foundations commit to “Double the Gold” with matching funds for contributions made to Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary. Making spring a great time for gardens – and Goldens!