To Dream A Garden

“I knew it would be bigger…but…”

We had an honored guest in the garden this weekend.

Laure is a master gardener and the original architect of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden going back more than ten years.

Her design drawings are still housed in our shed, although the garden has morphed quite a bit over time.

The plan called for themed beds. Some, like the White Garden and Rose Garden bed are still as intended. We found that others like the Iris Bed were magnificent in spring but did not offer enough interest later in the season. Things got moved around, repeating patterns of color and shape throughout. It makes for a cohesive approach that moves in waves from one season to the next.

The original plan was much more tidy than the garden today. But crowded beds offer more cooling root protection in our hot summer (and fall!) months and help to keep the weeds at bay.

What Laure was marveling about most was the size of the trees. Back then, the garden was bathed in full, unrelenting sun all day long. Now, the trees have matured and we find we need to move plants into pockets of sunlight outside their shade.

She arrived just in time to see the asters in full fall bloom. And she marveled that a seed of an idea for what she called a “collar tree” became the metal weeping cherry tree whose branches are adorned with the tags of dogs who have come through our doors. To dream a garden and see how that it has flourished…

We learned the garden will be acquiring a new feature. A small chapel is planned as Jody wished to house the ashes of the Homeward Bound dogs who came to live with us in Sanctuary or who were helped to the bridge to end their suffering. Jody kept their ashes in her home all these years with dreams of a final resting place for them.

Life and family commitments pulled Laure away. But she laid the foundation of what this garden has become. We hope that she will return with the time is right. In the meantime, she has plans and plants to share that will assist our Monarch friends. A beautiful addition to our beautiful garden.

Live in Each Season

“Live in each season as it passes.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Having lived through the wet of winter, the erratic fits of spring, and the scorching heat of summer, it is time to rejoice in the mosaic of fall.

I love the chaos of the fall garden.

All the little starts and shoots have grown tall and wild.

Their well-defined contours are now a tangle of color and cascading form.

They lay all over each other like summer camp friends clinging on – knowing a goodbye is ahead.

Like the joy in seeing my little foster charges grow up and go home, the fall garden is the culmination of winter dreams, spring plantings and summer labors.

And then it starts again.
I walked through this weekend and made notes about what worked and what failed…
which to divide and which to let stand and go to seed.

Maria brought gifts from the plant sale that found new homes adding to next year’s bounty.

And planning is underway for a wedding in the garden next September.

Fall is full of chores – all in good time. First – a breath and a moment to sit, soak it up, and take it all in. Living in the season.

Beckoning Fall’s Glory

The Delta Breeze finally blew in off the Bay, bringing an end to the stifling heat and still air while providing welcome relief to the parched garden. The days are still warm, but the cool nights provide a long-awaited respite after the months long scorching summer sun. The ground holds its drink better; the wind breathes life back into exhausted plants.

Fall is my favorite season. Here, it is a second spring extending our flowering season from September through Thanksgiving. The vivid colors of summer give way to the richness of gold, crimson, and purple velvet.

Instead of the giddy anticipation of spring or the trumpeting of summer, fall is a time for soaking it all in as the sun turns gold and the season slowly turns another page.

“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life.” ~ Hal Borland

Which is not to say that fall is not busy in the garden. The beds must be raised in preparation for winter rains, the bulbs planted, and the leaves mulched. And then, there is all the catch up required after a summer of distracting puppies!

The garden work provides time for reflection while surrounded by the chirping of tiny frogs in fading rose blossoms,

the call of birds gathering by the hundreds, and the watchful eyes of a beloved friend.

The low asters beckon to their relatives towering above them – all started from one transplant from the Historic Sacramento City Cemetery.

They will soon create violet waves across the garden. And as the leaves change color and drop to the ground, the garden will remind us again of life’s impermanence.

“The days may not be so bright and balmy — yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.” ~ Northern Advocate

Here’s to warm afternoons turning to sweaters, and green turning to purple and gold glory. Here’s to fall.

Fall’s Last Loveliest Smile

“Come, little leaves,”
Said the wind one day,


“Come over the meadows
With me, and play;
Put on your dresses
Of red and gold;


Summer is gone,
And the days grow cold.” ~ George Cooper

The garden is looking splendid, adorned in its fall colors. Ina’s asters have spilled over the fence in a wave of purple…


The roses are on parade and playing host to all kinds of creatures (look closely)…

Praying Mantis_DSC_8455

and our golden pups are happy to lay in the garden and yards, soaking up the autumn sun.

Sleeping Puppy_DSC_8194

We played host to special visitors today. Greg Gayton is a manager for Green Acres Nursery. I’m sure many of our plants looked familiar to him – their three area stores are a little too conveniently located near me and Ina. In fact, the flowering plum that we planted last weekend made its way here from there. Although Greg has donated many plants personally, he had not seen the Memorial Garden in three seasons. Back then, I’m not sure he gave it much hope. A lot has changed!


I was sorry that Ina and Maria were not here to meet him. He and Ina speak the same language; Botanical Latin. It’s Greek to me. And I’m sure Maria would have enjoyed touring him and picking his brain about her new California Natives yard. Brody, his beautiful Golden, originates from Homeward Bound.


His family is equally stunning.

Gregs Family_DSC_8491

“Autumn. The year’s last loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

Gregs Family_DSC_8484

Divide and Conquer

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.” ~ Elizabeth Murray


The garden looks especially beautiful and welcoming in the fall light.


Though the blooms are fewer, their rich colors pop against a canvas of turning leaves and warm brown grasses.


Ina’s asters have finally arrived, draped over the fence like a bee’s blanket of purple.


Maria, has of course, dressed the garden for fall.


Her holiday displays may not bespeak a memorial garden, but they certainly make a beautiful backdrop for our posing dogs. This is Ella.


Princess and Duke – all new arrivals.


With Maria and Ina both on hand, it was a perfect time to tackle the iris bed.


Peggy and Steve had a good start, but work has called them away. With three of us on scene, we decided to finish the lifting and dividing. From the size of the bulb clumps, it was pretty clear they had been left for years – a first, forgotten effort in the garden.


While Ina and Maria divided, I dug trenches and raised berms in a semi-circle.


We have decided to plant the sunflowers in the center next summer as the Willow Tree has taken their sun. During the other months we will fill with annuals to keep color in the garden year round.


It’s pretty amazing what the three of us can get done in a day when we put our minds (and backs) to it. We went home dirty, tired, but satisfied.

Ina Iris Day 10_13


“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” ~ Emile Zola

From Whence They Came

Ina shared with me that the beautiful Asters spilling over the Cottage Garden section of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden are actually second generation from the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery. I have lived a stone’s throw from the cemetery for years, but it took a plant scouting trip to finally inspire me to visit. I can’t believe what I have missed.

The Sacramento City Cemetery was established in 1849 with a donation of 10 acres by Captain John Sutter. It follows the Victorian Garden style, and is the final resting place of more than 25,000 pioneers, immigrants, their families and descendants. Among the first interments were over 600 victims of the 1850 Cholera Epidemic.

Today, the cemetery covers 44 acres. The grounds are maintained by more than 100 volunteer gardeners, and a small army of the Sheriff’s friends doing a little community service. An Adopt a Plot program was instituted to help restore and preserve the grounds. This is the structure that finally got our Memorial Garden moving forward. Pride of ownership inspires commitment.

There is a lengthy list of approved and forbidden plants – which allows for variety while ensuring consistency across the acres. The Historic Rose Garden section is also home to some of California’s most noteworthy roses. Unfortunately, most of these were no longer in bloom during my visit – but the perennials more than made up for it.

The Perennial Garden in Hamilton Square was my first destination, and it did not disappoint. The Asters were quickly spotted. They dotted the landscape, overflowing their confines –

including this striking White Aster.

Sages surrounded touching groupings of family stones –

Butterfly bushes grew as large as trees –

and beautiful combinations of foliage and color.

There are many varieties of Sage,


and even Cactus – unusual for these parts.

The deep yellow Rudbekia reaches skyward,

and compliments the blue Plumbago.

But the perennials and plantings are not limited to certain sections. They are carried throughout – turning a short trip into a long stay. I imagine this stone beautifully enveloped in Geraniums must belong to a one-time gardener.

In every corner there is a different find. Ajania Pacifica…

fragrant Lavender…

still blooming Coneflower…

blazing orange Lantana…

and this well-behaved Morning Glory.

Not sure what these mystery plants are…perhaps you can help:

On my way out I stopped to talk with and compliment four of the volunteer gardeners. “You should see it in spring,” they said. I will definitely be back.