In honor of Presidents Day, we threw a bit of a Homeward Bound garden party (while Penny slept!) extending our reach beyond the Memorial Garden boundary in support of the Sanctuary’s struggling trees. Seven of us gathered to free the ‘Scarlet Sprite’ (Grevillea rosmarinifolia) and Crepe Myrtles of their Morning Glory tormenters…


and clear the trees in the dog pens of their choking weeds. Before…


and after.


Capping off the day – the long-awaited Highbush Blueberries were finally installed. Regular readers will remember our battle to remove invasive blackberries from the site. Before…


and after.


Triumph was not ours alone today. I watched with delight as one of our trainers, Chris, played and worked with Lucy – one of the breeder pups who came to us just a few short weeks ago. Before…


and after.


“The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.”
― George Washington

Our work outside the garden is not quite done; the day was called due to a change in weather and the fact that we ran out of room in the refuse pile. Nor is Lucy’s transformation complete, but great progress was made on all fronts. Special thanks to gardeners Randy, Vonnie, Peggy, Pat, Ina and Maria today. It makes the exhaustion so worthwhile.

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.


“We don’t kill things. We rescue them. Just bring them back.”

These are the words of Jody, the co-founder of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary when I fessed up about the status of the donated grape cuttings. Left in a bucket of water a few weeks ago, I brought them home to help get them rooted while we contemplated their new home in the Memorial Garden.

I soaked them in rooting compound for a few minutes and placed them in a light, quick draining planting mix, as instructed by the nursery.  I put them in a protected area, and kept them moist – not wet. For a couple of weeks, I was pretty proud of myself as little buds formed and tiny leaves looked healthy. And then disaster struck. Last week, all of the green suddenly looked wilted and sad. I would categorize them as currently on life-support.

There were apparently wagers that I would fail. I have developed a bit of a reputation having broken the shovel and the picnic table. In fairness, the picnic table was itself declared on life-support as it was being bolted back together.

Reading up on grape transplants I see these words on almost every online article: “Grapes are easy to grow from cuttings.” Apparently for me – not so much. I am appropriately humbled.

I will return them to Homeward Bound, where my guess is that Jody will place them without any preparation in the soil, and they will somehow survive and thrive. She and the dedicated volunteers there have that way about them. Which is how this sanctuary has become a recognized leader in rescuing Golden Retrievers, and why I will leave grapes to others.

The Best Part of the Garden

It was a very hot, sunny day in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today with temperatures over the century mark. Not ideal gardening conditions – but nothing that a margarita and a nap won’t cure.

With all of the beds finally planted and the major projects done until cooler temperatures in the fall, it is nice to be in maintenance mode at last!  Maria and I used a weed whackers to clean up the edges and the section in between the orchard trees. A garden that is tidy on its paths and edges hides many imperfections and just looks happier.

We adjusted some drip lines, added some mulch and addressed some issues with a few of the roses. Given the heat, we ensured that everything was well watered. The sprinklers and drip lines have been doing a good job. Still, the cooler weather next week will be welcome after today’s furnace.

The best part of the day are the dog visits. We see more of the older, sanctuary dogs in the garden, as they like to come sit in the shade while the younger dogs prefer romps in the adjacent yards and splashing in the kiddie pools.  We’re very happy to welcome these regal dogs who will live out their lives here at Homeward Bound due to advanced age and/or significant health issues. Dedicated walkers like Tatia are drawn to them. Here she is in the shade of the Willow Garden with Baron and Maria.

The only thing better are the sounds of families who have come to bond with a dog matched just to them. Word spreads quickly through the pens and gardens, and we are all delighted to hear when another Golden Retriever leaves to go to its forever home.

Too Hot!

Almost five hours in the Homeward Bound Memorial Gardens today, working with Maria. The temperature when I left with Maria still working: 104 degrees. This is how I feel…

…rescued Goldens like Hootie are our motivation to carry on!

Look for an update later, after liquid refreshment and a nap!

Dog Rescues Volunteer Gardener

As volunteers at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary, we should know about the “occupational hazard” of being around so many wonderful dogs in need. One of our volunteer gardeners showed up a couple of weeks ago with spade and shovel; she left with a dog.

On a pretty Sunday in early June, Sue planned to garden, walk dogs, and then join other volunteers training shelter dogs in the obedience class. If you are a regular reader, you’ll remember that  Sue has a special needs Homeward Bound rescue named Brock, a couple of cats, a very active grandson, and is a devoted volunteer. She also has a huge heart for those in need.

The dog she expected to work with that day was “taken” – or was it? The dedicated teams at Homeward Bound have a special knack for match making. Winston, a puppy, was suggested instead. Not exactly a Golden Retriever on the outside. But he has the heart of one on the inside.

This chocolate pup was a stray, picked up by the City of Stockton Animal Services and named Mateo. The shelter has few resources, and dogs are not kept long. He was lucky to make his way to Homeward Bound where he was renamed Winston.

Sue caught her first glimpse of Winston shortly after his arrival and evaluation in late May. He had been momentarily confused with Brock – who was with Sue while she was gardening with her grandson that day. The confusion was quickly cleared up, but the resemblance shared by the two was unmistakable. That should have been a clue.

“By the end of the hour, Winston had shifted from feisty, flighty and floppy to calm, collected and charming,” said Sue. “He epitomizes ‘puppy eyes.’ When I returned Winston to his kennel, I sat with him a loooong time.”

We expected Sue to stop by the garden before leaving for the day. Instead, she was captured with this bundle of energy packed in her car and a huge smile on her face. “Winston drove home with me that afternoon. I later realized that Brock came home with me two years ago on the exact same day – June 3rd.”

He has since been renamed Cooper. He has all of the usual puppy behaviors to work through, along with other issues resulting from lack of attention and training. A work in progress. But he also loves snuggling, is a velcro dog, is great with Sue’s grandson, adores Brock who looks like his twin, and now has a forever home.

You just never know what the garden will turn up.

Things Learned in the Garden

First, as the tile says, “a garden is meant to be shared.” All kinds of two and four-legged creatures are drawn to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. Some to toil, some for reflection or remembrance, and some simply in search of stray tennis balls!  All are welcome – even those that don’t have legs (snakes) as long as they are friendly.

Be adaptable. Things change in the garden. The tree that was a twig now covers the garden bed in shade. A rice field overflows and changes the composition of your soil. Time and nature have their way. Fighting is futile. Things that worked in the past, might not work in the present. A garden teaches you to adapt, adjust and move on.

Plants are like dogs; they need the right home and elements to thrive. Put two vigorous and bossy plants side by side and something is going to get overrun. Try to plant a shade- loving plant under the hot sun, and it will wilt, then sizzle. Find complementary matches and settings – and you’ll be amazed at what blooms.

Listen and learn. Our volunteer gardeners have all level of experience and much to share. If you pay close enough attention, the land itself will tell you what it needs to put forth its best effort.  Similarly, the way a dog looks or leans in to you will tell you just about everything you need to know about what it needs to feel loved.

Finally, volunteer dog rescuers, walkers, groomers, feeders, trainers, vets and placement teams have hearts as big as the dogs they care for. They absorb the trauma of whatever brought these dogs to this special place, stare down countless hurdles, and with patience and nurturing, bring out the best in every dog at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary turning ends, into new beginnings.

Sunset in the Garden

With the temperature over 100 for the past two days, I made an after-work trip out to check on the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. I wanted to lay eyes on the new plants in the Willow Garden and make certain that the Herb Garden with its still young plants were surviving the heat.

I passed a bunny as I was walking in (too quick for the camera), our snake (we have to name that guy!) and something was most definitely lurking in the Iris Bed. I have no idea what. It wasn’t coming out, and I was not going in! I guess they were telling me that this was their time in the garden – and what a beautiful time it is.

I thought mornings were spectacular in this country setting, but they are nothing compared to the magic of sunset streaming through the sunflowers.

The beds looked good for the most part, but the trip was worthwhile. Everything in the Willow Garden got some extra water, and a few thirsty friends got an assist. Things will be a bit more mild over the next few days, thank goodness.

I found another gem in Maria’s bed. A painted tile that magically appeared. Very fitting.

Chance Encounters

There were few people, but lots of creatures in Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today. Most everyone was at the Homeward Bound Reunion Party, where adopted dogs and their human friends get together to reconnect and trade stories.  In the garden, the most delightful encounter was with a boy named Chancy.

He is total sweetheart and a complete gentleman with some special, but manageable needs for the right human match. You can read about him here, and see additional pictures here. His sad, but regal eyes say it all: take me home. I’m a great find and loyal friend.

I arrived early today, as the weather was expected to heat up. The wind has been blowing for two days – keeping things cool while I installed the rest of the Willow Garden, but wrecking havoc on the Sunflowers. I staked them loosely and set about planting: Lily Turf, Mondo Grass, African Iris, a Chartreuse Huechera and Barberry. Soaked well, with drip line installed and heavily mulched – I hope they will weather the next few days of high 90-degree temps in their new home.

As the beds mature, there are more bees, butterflies and even a Hummingbird spotting. With the quickly rising temperature, others arrived; a camera-shy lizard, and our resident snake. This guy used to scurry away when we walked by. Apparently snakes like warm stone, and this one was not moving! Stare down.

Deb’s Dahlias are taking off. It won’t be long before they tower over the rest of the perennial garden and grace us with a bold display of color.

The Tree Circle Gardens are freshly weeded and filling in; in the Bulb Garden the spent bulbs are tied off with the daylilies now blooming; and the Cottage Garden is growing large and full.

Everything got a deep soak in anticipation of hot days ahead. Think good thoughts for our Memorial Garden under that hot Sacramento Valley sun!