Garden Party

“You may go down to the garden.”…(Peter Rabbit’s mother) Beatrix Potter

I confess that I did not have to make two trips to the Memorial Garden this weekend.

The temperatures are beginning to cool, which means the need for extra watering is diminishing, and even the weeds are growing a little slower.

But I’ll be taking a little break for some ocean camping, and our blooming days are growing shorter. I want to enjoy summer’s last blooms as long as I can.

Everyone else had the same idea; the dogs were everywhere in the Homeward Bound garden this weekend! Miss Macy with her ever-present toy,

Sunny with her sweet white face and disposition,

Blossom looking pretty,

and Hootie enjoying Laura’s company. (Laura’s the one with the hat!)

Sonny was back for more training classes. He is a certified Canine Good Citizen (CGC) who provides weekly therapy visits to a local Kaiser hospital.

Boulder and Phoenix are new arrivals; a pair who will hopefully find a new home together.

And Eastman – another new arrival who greets dogs and humans with a happy smile and wagging tail.

Even Axel and Bradley, who have perfectly good homes of their own, came by just to see what all the ruckus was about.

Party in the garden!

Some new things are blooming in Ina’s Cottage Garden. I believe this is Obedient Plant.

And this looks like an Aster…Ina?

The Roses are putting on a show; the result of Maria’s feeding them last week.

This contrast of blooms is beautiful in the White Garden.

The Hummingbird Garden was hosting more than birds…

can you find my little Dragonfly friend hiding here?

And of course…the Dahlias.

A riot of color. A splash of sunshine. And dogs. What a great way to celebrate the closing of summer. Does the party have to end?

Hunter’s Beauty

“Everything has beauty,

but not everyone sees it.”  ~Confucius

This is Hunter, a new arrival. He visited the Memorial Garden today and decided to stay awhile. I can’t tell you his story yet, as he has not been assessed. It breaks my heart to see older dogs like Hunter come in. They have stories; long ones. Whether by choice, necessity or happenstance, they arrive here confused, sad and anxious about their future.

He does not yet know it, but he is lucky to arrived at Homeward Bound, where dedicated and caring volunteers will work hard to ensure a loving home for him.

Like the petals of these spent flowers, he still has great beauty to offer.

I hope that someone will see it in him someday soon.

As Summer Sets

While the temperatures are still in the 90’s, there was a sure sign that Fall is approaching on the nursery shelves today.

Ready or not, its time to think about Fall color and plans for spring…again!  I may still add some perennials to fill in sections that did not fare well while beefing up fall color.

Chrysanthemum is always a fall favorite,

and would compliment the Gaillardia, Coneflower, Lavender, Nepeta, Coreopsis, Rudbeckia and Salvia that should still bloom for a couple of months.

I’d like to experiment with Aster and Sneezeweed which I cannot grow in my own garden. I planting some Aster a month or so ago for an early Fall bloom. Big mistake. Fried.

The Russian Sage, meanwhile, should bloom well into the winter.

Once the heat is past, it will be time to layer in some annuals: Calendula, Iceland Poppies, Pansies and Stock are good options in our zone 8.

It’s already getting late to shop for bulbs. In our area Crocus, Hyacinth and Tulips should be chilled for six weeks of so before planting.

The list of spring bulb options is so long, it’s hard to narrow down: Anemone, Freesia, Ixia, Tritonia, Lecojum and Ranunculus would be beautiful additions as we already have waves of Daffodils and Irises.

Once it cools, but well before it gets really cold and wet, overcrowded plants will benefit from dividing. In our garden that probably means Iris, Coneflower, Yarrow and some Daylilies.

Of course the biggest projects are now staring us in the face:

We’ve begged Ina to expand her Cottage Garden and offered help with clearing and digging (what were we thinking?!)

We’re hoping that Peggy and Steve will apply their Iris growing skills to a half circle near the entrance to the garden.

Paths are planned while expanding the beds and bringing in topsoil for seeding a grassy area in the center section. And finally: the dreaded Blackberry Bramble.

Thankfully, that is best done in the dead of winter, so there is still time for procrastination on that front!

Mystery Tree

We received a lovely tree donation to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden; something we were all unfamiliar with. We were told it was a Dove, or Davida Tree.

Without lifting someone else’s photo I can’t show you a Dove Tree, but needless to say it has leaves like a Dogwood and each flower has two bracts which look like petals. They hang in long rows, resembling handkerchiefs or little ghosts. They bloom in spring.

Having no experience with a Dove tree, we took the donor’s word for it, even though the leaves looked nothing like a Dogwood. Then it started blooming…in August! Time to do a little more research.

Tree identifier sites are wonderful, if you haven’t forgotten all of your high school botany.
Simple or compound leaves?
Lobed or unlobed?
Palmately or pinnately lobed?
Back to school!

Our mystery tree has double-lobed, long, heart-shaped leaves – like a very droopy valentine, or headless bunny ears.

It’s flowers have elegant, delicate, white stamens and petals.

A bit of searching finally turned up Orchid Tree; something not often seen in Northern California. It is apparently native to China and India, but can be found in Southern California and a few other, mostly southern states. It is supposed to be hardy to Zone 8b, so it just makes our area.

The tree can grow in moist, well drained, clay, loam, or sandy soils, under slightly acidic conditions. It will work well in our garden if we ensure it is watered regularly. It grows well in full sun or in partial shade with late afternoon shade beneficial to its blooms. We have just the spot as you enter by way of Ina’s Cottage Garden – where the shed’s shadow will give it a much-needed respite late in the day.

We’ll have to prune it to ensure it has a strong, balanced shape as it grows – but what a beauty it will be and a perfect tribute to the Memorial Garden. Mystery solved…with gratitude to its donor!

When Life Turns Upside Down

“Happiness is like a butterfly.
The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.

But if you turn your attention to other things,
It comes and sits softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes life turns on a dime and you find your world turned upside down.

On those occasions, the only choice you might be left with is how you view the turn of events.

You can wallow in failed expectations, or let them be turned into opportunities.

Golden Retriever pups come to Homeward Bound for many reasons – a foreclosed home; someone passed away; families split up or moved; or the cost of medical needs was too much. These beautiful dogs land here surprised, confused – but luckier than they know.

This is Brutas and his sister, accompanied by dog-walker Ashley. They visited us today in the Memorial Garden.

They will receive medical attention,TLC, training, and the help of people dedicated to their happiness. And with a little luck – as they turn their attention to walks, school and play dates, they will find a new forever home – together.


In my time volunteering at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden and chronicling it in this blog, I have encountered just about every breed – but  to my mind, those who foster are a breed apart.

These are people who reserve a place in their homes – and hearts – to take in, train, love and heal dogs while they await, and prepare for, their forever homes. They do this knowing that their time together is too short and that their attachment will grow long.

Not everything is meant to last forever. Like this Lupine that bloomed well past its expectation,

but has finally departed in the baking heat of August. Withered though it is, it will have new life again next year.

At a blog I follow, Foster Tails, Zeedle is struggling with the impending adoption of her first foster, Sunny. While Aleks at Love and a Six Foot Leash,  has been through the process many times. She chronicles her family’s quest to “open minds, win hearts and save lives through fostering”.  For people who think they could never bear the loss, she writes beautifully about the heartache – and the rewards.

There are many ways to be a part of dog rescue.  All important and all valued.  But to my mind, fostering is one of the most noble because it involves such personal sacrifice. Wherever you live, if your home is right and your heart big enough, talk with your local rescue operation. People willing to foster are universally needed.

As they say…it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. And to everything – there is a season.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
– Dr. Seuss

The Garden Rules

I like this: “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”  ~H. Fred Dale

I came across these “Top 10 Gardening Mistakes” recently and thought it would be fun to see how we stacked up in our first year effort at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden?

Mistake 1: Planting a Garden in the Wrong Spot

There’s nothing wrong with our garden spot. In fact, the land was probably flooded many times before the levies were built, leaving soil rich in clay and silt which we added amendments to. While young trees will eventually lend more shade, the plants thrive here in the full sun.  I heard that The Memorial Garden was once known as the dumping spot for the property. No more! And besides…we’re surrounded by Golden Retrievers! There couldn’t be a better spot for a garden.

Mistake 2: Accidentally Pulling Up Flowers Instead of Weeds

Yup. The rule of thumb is: if it removes easily, it is probably not a weed. You usually know that right after it has been lifted! I also purposefully planted “weeds” to attract butterflies. See the previous post What Is A Weed on Milkweed and Monarch Butterflies.

Mistake 3: Not Preparing the Soil

Not guilty. Maybe overly ‘not guilty’. In removing waist-high weeds to uncover garden beds, we turned a lot of soil and added amendments. Ina, our resident Master Gardener, suggested a more measured approach; digging amendments only into the spot you want to plant, and smothering surrounding weeds in mulch. She argues that turned weeds in newly enriched soil have a perfect environment for sprouting. She applied her approach to the nearly maintenance-free Cottage Garden. Good lesson.

Mistake 4: Overwatering

Check. But only for a few plants that were misplaced for their surroundings. Most of the garden is on sprinklers instead of drip. Not ideal – but it was the most practical approach. So we have to be thoughtful about plant positions. There was a little trial and error involved in the first year. A couple have been sacrificed along the way.

Mistake 5: Planting an Invasive Variety

Guilty, I think. I could not resist planting some California Poppies. If they reseed profusely, the other gardeners will be cursing me next fall. But aren’t they lovely?!

Mistake 6: Not Taking Wildlife Into Account

We were warned. We figured out how to co-exist with the Killdeer birds that lay their eggs in the beds;

and we made peace with the snake (who has been absent of late),

but the bunnies have occasionally gotten the better of us.

Thankfully, things grow so abundantly in the garden that we can spare some extras. But do they have to eat the herbs right down to the plant base? Moderation, please, little bunnies!

Mistake 7: Not Giving Plants Enough Sun

Definitely not guilty. Our garden was made for sun-lovers. Three years from now, when the many trees mature, things will look very different and we’ll have a lot of re-arranging to do. I can’t wait to find spots for Hydrangeas, Astilbe, New Guinea Impatiens, and Fuschias!

Mistake 8: Spreading Too Many Seeds

Maria. Sunflowers?

Enough said.

Mistake 9: Using Too Much Pesticide

Mulch is our best friend. It keeps out the weeds, and keeps in the moisture. We went through tons of it. For our garden, we found that shredded bark worked best. Light enough to layer on thick, but still workable. Next year, we might want to just truck it in.

Mistake 10: Planting Too Close Together

So Guilty! In fairness, nothing I have every grown in this Sacramento Valley has grown as profusely as it does in this garden. The verbena, marigolds and petunias in the bed above were started from a couple of six-packs. Sue was worried that they would never fill in. Surprise.

Same with the Hummingbird garden above. The rule of spacing plants at one half their expected height was followed; their expected height was just really misjudged. As a result, we’ll merge these two beds this fall, giving ample room to all.

And here are two more rules for good measure:

Mistake 11: Clumps of many different plants are less attractive than larger groups of fewer plants:

Says who?

And finally,

Mistake 12: Don’t put the brightest colors at the end of the border which will lead the eye right out of the garden.

Point taken. We will try to remember that in the coming year, thank you!

Very Inspired & Inspiring?

I don’t struggle with finding things that inspire. All I have to do is walk in a garden. But being a Very Inspiring Blogger? That never occurred to me.  And so, I was touched and more than a little humbled by Composer in the Garden’s nomination for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Lynn is a composer of both music and gardens; they come together beautifully on her artistically produced and beautifully written blog.

I’m fairly new to this blogging thing, and did not realize how surprisingly rewarding it would be. Begun as a simple chronicle of our Homeward Bound Memorial Garden project, I have been delighted to find a whole new community with which to share, learn from, and be inspired by. I’m happy when others enjoy the journey.

The nomination rules ask me to thank my awarder; easily done.  Sincere thanks to Lynn at Composer in the Garden.

Next, I am asked to reveal seven facts about myself. Much harder:

1. My real name is not Ogee – it is Audrey. Ogee is the name given to me by my godchild. I love it – and her.
2. I don’t really believe in reading palms, but couldn’t help but notice that my life line split in two. Now I know why. It’s all good. It brought me here.
3. Chocolate. Addicted. Utterly.
4. I sleep with dogs. Big surprise.
5. I make a mean Apple Pie.
6.I love ocean camping. There is no better sleep than drifting off to the sound of waves crashing against the shore.
7. I’m thrilled that the blog has brought more attention to the mission of Homeward Bound, but am embarrassed when it receives more attention than the dedicated trainers, groomers, feeders, walkers, transporters and placement teams who find homes for hundreds of dogs each year. To them I present the real “Very Inspiring Award.”

This is the best part. Here are some of the blogs that I enjoy. I’m asked to nominate 15 and pay it forward:

Romancing the Bee
Garden Walk Garden Talk
Leaf and Twig
The Grady Report
Two Black Dogs
Tales of Life with Cats and Dogs
The Soulsby Farm
Love and a Six-Foot Leash
No Dog About It
Paws to Talk
Foster Tails – the Life of a Foster Parent
Adventures of a Dog Mom
The Daily Golden
CtoC Friendspirations

Now, I am asked to notify each. Time to get busy!

Sincere thanks to all.