Land of Giants


I don’t usually have a great luck starting flowers from seed. Maybe it is my impatience – or just bad luck. But this spring, inspired to help out the bees, I found a “no-GMO” mix of bee-favorite flower seeds and sprinkled them in the Hummingbird garden where I thought they might thrive. Some Cosmos and Borage surfaced. Little did I dream that the few little sunflowers seeds in the packet would sprout these towering giants – now completely out of place in the small Hummingbird bed.


I planted Amaranthus as I did last year. These fast-growing plants with their pearl-like flower reached only about a foot last summer.


I thought they would be a pretty addition to the annuals section of the iris bed. This year, they look like small trees and are completely ridiculous in their space.


They would look even sillier, if it were not for the gigantic sunflowers that Maria placed behind them. Most of her sunflowers this year are a bit shy on growth. But not these jack-in-the-beanstalk monsters which tower over everything in the garden.


We had to put her on a ladder to give a true sense of their height.


Sometimes big is just too big.


Same for this pup.


When Ned arrived, he weighed in at over 95 lbs. and was experiencing seizures. A charming young woman named Lesley chose this giant ball of fur as hers to take home and care for.


Over the course of a year, she helped him to lose more than 20 lbs. through better diet and exercise. In the process – he also shed the seizures.


She wrote a lovely letter to us sharing their journey. It seems that in rescuing Ned (now Chewie) – Chewie rescued Lesley and was her support through a very tough year. You can read her story here.

Giant size…sometimes too much.

Giant heart…never enough.


Second winds

After weeks of scorching hot and dusty dry – we caught a weather break and had unseasonably mild temperatures for a bit. The garden got its second wind, and sent blooms skyward again.


Spectacular Sunflowers…


Dazzling Dahlias…




A second round of Delphinium…


And the long-awaited appearance of those elusive Naked Ladies.


Then – on Sunday – something truly amazing: clouds and a very light rain. You don’t realize how much you miss those drops until you live in California through three years of drought. It was short-lived, but spread a hush of gray over the garden.


From riot to quiet.


“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” ~ Benjamin Franklin (Lucky agrees!)


Even the dragonflies were smiling.


If a dog was the teacher…

“Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like: When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.


Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.


Take naps.


Stretch before rising. Run, romp, and play daily.


Thrive on attention and let people touch you.


Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.


On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.


On hot days, drink lots of water…


and lie under a shady tree.


When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.


Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.


Be loyal.


Never pretend to be something you’re not.


If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.


When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.”


~ Author unknown. From a larger story found frequently quoted but without attribution; you can read it here.
Several photos were contributed by my friend, Rob Kessel – with thanks and appreciation for your talents.

Doing our Part

Our garden not only provides a welcome place for rescued dogs – it supports them through donations for commemorative bricks in our Memorial Garden Path and plaques on our Garden Wall.

This is Sally.


This young, puppy-faced dog has already had a lifetime of breeding. Those days are over. Pampering and TLC are our orders for her moving forward.


But pups are not the only creatures helped by our garden.

Monarch butterflies have a symbiotic relationship with Milkweed – their host plant.


A female monarch lays its eggs on a sprouted milkweed plant. The eggs hatch in four to five days producing tiny yellow, black and white banded caterpillars which feed solely on Milkweed. After three weeks of voracious munching, the caterpillar enters the pupa stage and gradually changes into an emerald-green case ringed with golden dots. After five weeks old, the transformation is complete and it emerges as a butterfly.


Two or more summer generations might be produced in the North before the migration begins for over-wintering in the South. Their principal winter vacation spot is Mexico, with some finding warm refuge in Florida, Cuba or Southern California.


Today, Monarchs are disappearing in huge numbers. Their habitat is being lost due to development, overuse of herbicides, climate change and roadside clearing programs. Once common, this beautiful butterfly is on the verge of collapse. We can all help by creating Milkweed “way stations” – which is exactly what we have done in the Memorial Garden.


While it is a perennial, hardy for zones 3-9 – the Milkweed we planted last year did not reappear. So we reinvested and have installed a couple dozen more plants in small patches throughout the garden.


The brilliant Gulf Fritillary, which flourished in our area until the 1960’s actually became extinct in our region.


For reasons unexplained, it made a reappearance around the year 2000. Its host plant is the Passionflower vine – which graces one of the entries to our garden.


The Gulf Frit has a particular taste for the nectar of Lantana, Mexican Sunflower and apparently, Verbena.


It’s no surprise that it has found a welcome home here.


And then there are the bees. Colony collapse is threatening honey bees everywhere. Honey bee pollination is critical for tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables. The loss of Honey bees threatens crop production and other species who depend on it as well.


There are many theories surrounding the cause of the disappearing bees, but little certainty. We can support them now by improving their health and habitat – and reducing the things known to be hazardous to both. Give up or severely limit the use of pesticides. If you must use them – avoid applying during mid-day hours, when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar and pollen on flowering plants.


Plant bee-friendly plants – those that are good sources of nectar and pollen such as bee balm, coneflower, goldenrod, aster, borage and sunflower.


Finally, there are those that we unintentionally support in the garden. Bunnies, lizards, snakes and birds are welcome guests – as long as they keep a respectable distance or don’t eat more than their share. The birds – which have been knocking off the grapes and gobbling them up – may be pushing their luck this year.


They better watch out. I bet we can find some bird-dogs around here somewhere!

To You, Who Surrendered


I met you only briefly. I didn’t want to. I knew instantly that you represented the hardest part of rescue for me – surrender. But there was no one else there, so I could not avoid you.

There is great joy in the work we do – and some parts that are really difficult. My heart is pretty strong. But to see a newly surrendered dog in a yard, pacing back and forth, searching – it is too much for me. I try to avoid it.

Where did my human go? I’m not sure where I am. Come stay with me. Waiting by the gate. Eyes hunting. The car drives off. Alone. Where are you going? These are nice people; they are kind. They speak softly and have treats. But where is my human? What is this place? Who are these other dogs? A kennel? I have a home. I’m scared. Don’t leave me. What happened? Did I do something wrong?

The process used to fill me with anger for the dog left behind. Now, people in your position fill me with sadness – for what you left behind. You clearly did not want to say goodbye. Your life changed in ways you didn’t expect or plan. You thought you could manage, but it wasn’t working. You knew you were neglecting the dog you had loved for so long. You made the heartbreaking choice. You try to be upbeat and brave for him. One last toss. One last hug. But when you leave, you can barely see the road – your eyes are so flooded with tears.

I want you to know that your boy was adopted. You raised him right; you did a good job; you loved him well. It was clear he would not be with us long.

His new family is overjoyed. He has two beautiful girls who will dote on him and play with him. They have waited a long time for your beautiful, perfect boy. They don’t know how they got so lucky.

We told you it would be alright. We kept our promise. He is safe. He is home. He will be loved. The look in his eyes says he has not forgotten you; he will not forget you. But he will be cherished and he will find that he loves his new family as well.

You remind me that the right thing is sometimes the hardest thing. Your surrender was ultimately an act of love. I hope this brings you some peace. I wish you well.

Beating the Heat

It was 110 here in the Sacramento Valley on Monday. Fellow gardener, Maria braved the heat the next day to do an evening check and give a little first-aid to anything that had not weathered the weather! She’s also turning into quite the camera bug. She captured this funny-faced Robin who found his own way to keep cool!