Taking the Hill

Originally, it was a mountain of tangled blackberries – home to snakes, thorns and the occasional bunny.

The brambles were replaced with raised blueberry beds – that fried in the summer heat and invited Bermuda grass, morning glory weeds and few blueberries.

Last fall, the bed frames were demolished to begin anew.

The vision was an extension of the adjacent California-themed garden.

The challenge: that bed sits near the top of the garden. When we get big winter rains, the water passes through and collects where the raised planters were until our clay soil will finally absorb it.

The solution: Mounds. Hills. Berms. Whatever you want to call them. They are raised high enough that the soil drains well.

Last fall, I brought in fresh soil and compost, covered them with cardboard, another layer of soil on top, and a final layer of mulch to let them “cook” over the winter, planting only those things that truly required fall planting. Maria and I created paths between the bed sections for weeding and planting access without compressing the soil.

And this spring, I filled the new beds to the brim with California natives and the Mediterranean standouts that I have long coveted.

The result exceeds my expectations already.

I know that I have installed more than the bed can handle long-term. But crowded beds ensure cooler roots in our hot, dry summers. And things can always be divided and moved in coming seasons.

The new beds are already bountiful and thriving in the conditions created for them.

Native Ceanothus, Poppy, Erysimum capitatum (“Western Wallflower”), California Fuchsia, Penstemon eatonii “Firecracker Penstemon,” Delta Sunflower, and Salvia spathacea  “Hummingbird Sage.”

Mediterranean garden favorites: Crape Myrtle, Cerinthe major, Verbascum, Lion’s Tail, Blue Fescue, Verbena, Gaura…

And a little happy Penstemon and Geum thrown in for good measure.

It’s not to say that the Bermuda grass and morning glory weeds have not attempted a comeback. But it is just so much more enjoyable to do battle with them when surrounded with this beauty.

Lesson: Never be afraid to start anew.

Like our friends Bodie, 14

and Summer, 15 –

both beginning new chapters in their glory years because kindhearted people believed that their best beauty was still within.

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.” ~ Louis L’Amour


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I am a nascent gardener, rescuer, and photographer, chronicling the journey of the dogs at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA - and the Memorial Garden we have devoted to them.

15 thoughts on “Taking the Hill”

  1. Wow, absolutely SO gorgeous!!! You guys work so very hard to make it beautiful. I’m very impressed! Wish my yard looked like that. Thank you for all you do!

  2. I absolutely love this post! Not only is the garden incredible as always, but I am so grateful for those that see the beauty and the amazing reward that comes with providing a home for our seniors.

  3. A, Why didn’t you come up with this idea 5 years ago? it has really come together. Love those colorful poppies.

  4. What a beautiful garden!!! Wishing Bodie and Summer a wonderful life in their new loving home XOXOXO.

  5. I love the story of new gardens – through vision, tests, and finally success – what a wonderful story and a beautiful new garden! And of course the sweet faces of Bodie and Summer with a happy ending 🙂

  6. Simply gorgeous! I have many, if not all of the same plantings in my Southern California garden, but I don’t have nearly the same amount of space. Your overall effect is stunning!! And those precious pups delight me, as well. I wish I lived closer. Sometime in my future I am coming by for a doggie and garden visit. LOL!

  7. Wow, such great garden photos – you and the whole Garden Team do an amazing job. Its such a nice place to sit calmly with a dog when its too hot to exercise them. Thanks to all of you!

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