Magical Friends

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The first time I saw these towering plants, I thought I had entered a fairy tale land.

The Pride of Madeira (Echium) generally grows near the coast in California. But as a native of Madeira and the Canary Islands, it found a welcome home in Sacramento’s WPA Garden. We tried, without luck, to grow it in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. But it thrives in this enchanted garden tucked inside William Land Park, an urban oasis, creating a perfect climate for Mediterranean and coast-loving plants in our otherwise hot and freeze-sensitive valley.


Pride of Madeira begins blooming in April with towering spikes of violet-blue flowers. At the coast, it is considered invasive. But here, it stays pretty well-behaved.

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Its hundreds of tiny flowers cast a magical spell over bees and butterflies.

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And this one in particular:

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The Pipevine Swallowtail. This tailed beauty has an iridescent blue blue body, white spots on the upper side of the hind wings, and a row of orange polka dots.

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I can almost always find one flitting from flower to flower: two blue beauties – magical friends.

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“The butterfly is a flying flower,
The flower a tethered butterfly.” ~ Ponce Denis Écouchard Lebrun


Butterflies appear like flying petals flitting through the air. So beautiful – we forget the transformation required to achieve that beauty. From cocoon to caterpillar – their beginnings are far more humble.


“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” ~ Richard Buckminster Fuller

We chuckle when people meet their perfect pup at Homeward Bound and think the dog was always so. Sometimes that is the case. But more often than not, a transformation is required – to deal with medical concerns –

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or socialization needs, and sometimes, behavioral challenges in order for them to be their perfect selves.



This class is nearly ready for graduation. Test day is rapidly approaching and, from the looks of things, they should do just fine!


Gardens also require – as they say – equal measure of inspiration and perspiration. But we are reveling in our third season and the transformation that continues to unfold.

The Rose Garden.


The Cottage Garden.


The Fragrant Garden.


The Perennial Garden.


The Hummingbird Garden.


The Entry Arbor.


“Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.” ~ Jeffrey Glassberg


Where Friends Gather

“Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade.”- Rudyard Kipling

Maria lost no time today prepping the garden paths for our installation project, only a week away now. She removed buried rock, the few remaining weeds and leveled some hardened clay bumps and lumps.

Meanwhile, I set about expanding the Hummingbird Garden, giving the plants a little more breathing room, as the Russian Sage continues its skyward march.

Nothing gives us greater joy than seeing that the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden has become such a gathering place for friends – of all kinds. Today, in addition to walkers and trainers, we played host to frogs,

butterflies –

and our newest volunteer gardener; Pat’s newly adopted Penny.

If you’re a regular reader, you may remember her as Blossom. She’s a beauty – and great company in the garden.

The Hummingbirds returned,

this time displaying an amazing courtship ritual of aerial acrobatics. While the female sat on the wire playing hard-to-get;

the male rocketed high into the sky,

and then dive-bombed back to earth and to her…over and over and over again.

Some honored guests shared photos with us of the garden when it was nothing but a field of mud and weeds. We have come a long, long way.

The best friend visits of all, of course, are the dogs. Today’s line-up included Sanctuary pups Bebe and Veronica,

Hank Spoon…now Hank, The Spoon (more on that in another post),




Susie and Hope,


and two extra-special friends. This little girl was found by one of our trainers on the side of a country road.

There’s not a stitch of Golden in her – except her obvious affection for people –

so we’ll have to craft a rescue plan for her. We call her Sanka – for her coffee-colored spots.

But the most heart-warming moment of the day belonged to Snuffy.

You saw him here a few weeks ago; shaved and obviously in need of adding a few pounds.

We watched him, hopefully, visiting the garden with a family considering fostering –

then saw them leaving together a short time later. That people can see beyond Snuffy’s missing coat and temporary rat-tail to see the adoring dog within, makes all efforts worthwhile.

Make a volunteer gardener’s day: adopt, foster, rescue. Who knows? We might even plant something in your honor.