Obsessed? Yes.

“The trouble with gardening is that it does not remain an avocation. It becomes an obsession.” ~ Phyllis McGinley


You know how you can become so accustomed to something that you don’t even see it anymore? Today, I suddenly noticed how neglected the entry way to the entire Sanctuary has become. While we did not exactly sign up for this duty, it desperately needs to be done.


Morning Glories are literally choking the Crepe Myrtles along the drive; shoots have grown out of control; and the bird-spread seeds are threatening to become full-grown trees.


I know we’re in the country, but this is not the first impression we want to make when adopting families come to meet the dogs. So out came the clippers and the under/over brush was cleared enough to see that this will take a garden clean-up day to complete. Time to put out the call for volunteers!


Obsession? Yes. But wait until I show you the ‘after!’

Evening Meeting in the Garden

Ina, Maria and I called an evening meeting in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. Over delicious Turkey, Pesto and Tomato sandwiches (thanks, Ina!) we talked through future plans.

We had our first sighting of a Monarch butterfly, but it would not sit still long enough to be photo-captured. We certainly have created a haven for them, and we hope to see more in the coming weeks.

Surrounded by Robins, Quail, and Bunnies who kept their distance, it was nice to simply enjoy the fruits of our labor as the sun dropped in the sky…

when everything takes on a golden hue…

including my Jackson, who accompanied us tonight and enjoyed Maria’s Elfin Thyme!

I’m a little biased, but I think he looks as pretty as the flowers, don’t you?

The highlight of the evening was Ina’s confession that she added another plant to her Cottage Garden bed.  A talented gardener, she was concerned that the ideal sun and soil conditions were quickly creating monster successes. She issued strict warnings to us: “no more plants!” Ha! Busted.

There is always more work to do in a garden…

but tonight was more about fussing, photos, pups and friends.

A rare moment to soak up the sunset and enjoy all that has been created in the garden. Apparently, we are in good company.


I have to admit, I was a little discouraged Friday night when I arrived at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden; by the destruction being inflicted on Maria’s sunflowers, the paths that are in disarray waiting for our fall project, and the never-ending weeds that grows like trees in this country garden.

Unlike maintenance at our home gardens where we just step outside the door – the trek out to this country garden takes time. As a result, we generally are limited to one full day of gardening per week, and one weekly, evening visit. Things pile up fast and it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed.

Sometimes , as they say, it is hard to see the forest for the trees. I’m sure the volunteers who waited Friday night for an expected dog drop-off sometimes feel similarly. It is not unusual for Homeward Bound to welcome 10-20 rescues a week. So much good accomplished; and always so much more to do.

I know for the dedicated volunteers of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue, the reward of seeing rescued dogs go to their new forever homes far outweighs the long hours and occasional discouragements. So I stopped feeling sorry for myself and hit the garden early with Maria, weed whackers, trowels, and beads in hand. Beads? Read on.

First, it is amazing how much better things look when the paths are closely trimmed – even if the “lawn” is really weeds. At least they are (mostly) green and neat for now.  Our plan is to create an isolated grassy area next fall, and surround the beds with mulched paths, letting them grow larger and closer together. This will greatly reduce the amount of weekly maintenance, and hopefully create a cool resting point for the eye in a sea of color. Can’t wait!

Close observation confirmed Maria’s and Ina’s suspicions; the damage caused to the sunflowers was done by Finches who leveled their bold attacks in full view of us today.  (Thanks to our readers for your suggestions.) Maria’s counter attack includes hanging beads, metallic spirals, CDs and putting an owl sculpture in place to watch over the garden.  The Sunflower bed looks a little like Mardi Gras, but Maria assures me the beads were purchased, not earned. If that needs explanation, please visit New Orleans.

Roses were fed and they, along with the fruit trees and beds were deep watered as we expect a week of 100+ degree weather ahead. This is when we are grateful for clay soil. Still, we will be paying extra visits to the garden this week.

Toward the end of the day, Maria planted some Elfin Thyme between the stone patio slabs. This will be beautiful when it fills in.

The hard work pays off in more frequent visits from dogs and dog walkers.  Today we welcomed Maggie,


Brothers Bubba and (another) Bones,


And Cisco.

All is right in the Memorial Garden again.

Thanks for Sharing

I don’t know which someone(s) linked our blog to their Facebook page, but we wanted to say…

It was our biggest single day for traffic. It’s great to share the chronicle of our Memorial Garden with others; it’s even better when it helps to spread the word about the good work done at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary.  From what I hear, they have their hands full with the arrival of nearly 20 new dogs this week.

I took the opportunity to bridge the weekend with the 4th of July holiday for five days off of work. Two of them spent in the Gardens working with Maria. I don’t know how many loads of dirt I moved to level out ruts in the paths, but my feet might be able to tell you:

On Monday, we met a whole new group of dog walkers and dogs, including Goldie,


and Isis.

Funny. The dog walkers are just as camera-shy on the weekdays as they are on the weekend. Maria too. Can you spot her here?

Everything else was happily showing off. Bunnies…

birds nests…

and this beauty from the rose garden, which unfolds from deep yellow with a hint of orange, to bright yellow, and then a pale cream.

These country garden beds look so bright and full right now, especially since the Crape Myrtles came into bloom. With luck (and many more loads of dirt and mulch) we’ll have the paths and grassy areas looking equally as good this fall.

On behalf of the many dogs waiting to be adopted at Homeward Bound – thanks for visiting and sharing our blog with others!

A Summer Evening in the Garden

There is nothing I would rather do after work on a warm summer evening than avoid exercise and putter around in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

The sun baths everything in this warm glow which coats the imperfections so you can relax instead of focusing on the weeding and projects you know will have to be done.

Out in this country garden, a light breeze picks up late each day off the cool Sacramento Valley rice fields.  Quiet as it is, the bees and birds are still hard at work getting their last meal of the day, while the shadows get long and the plants tuck in for the evening.

The gardens are full of surprises at this hour. You just never know what you will find.

NBA Draft Day Close-ups

It is NBA Draft Day, an official holiday in my house. In other words, I might as well be invisible. So I took the opportunity to make an evening trip to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden to get up close with some of our blooming friends – beginning with Deb’s first Dahlia’s of the season…

Susan and Jeff’s Miniature Dahlias…

Maria’s Sunflowers,

Vonnie and Randy’s Roses,

Sue’s Marigolds,

and a host of others:

Next up…wide shots of the garden as the sun sets. Y’all come back now.

A Thorny Challenge

The blackberry bushes at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden are surprisingly surviving the birds to produce fruit (perhaps they are too full from lunching on the nearby grapes to care).

We’re anxious for their season to start – and to finish. The bramble has taken on a life of its own. Now home to bunnies – and who knows what else – it is overgrown and unmanageable. We are told that there are two raised beds in there. Who knew? Worse still, it is front and center at the entrance to the garden. It started as a beloved project, but countless other priorities preempted it. Hopefully, we have proven ourselves worthy of tackling this mountain of thorns this fall.

Blackberries produce fruit on 2-year old branches or canes. First-year canes don’t flower. Second-year canes flower in the spring, produce fruit in the summer, and then die. Once a branch has produced berries, it won’t produce anymore. To keep the bushes productive, the canes should be pruned after they’ve been harvested each year.

Wading into this mess will require armor, but once tamed, it will open up the view to the garden from the road – and likely produce larger berries in the future. Put in a good word for us and wish us luck!

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.

Today we installed the beginning of the Willow Bed at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. That meant 20 bags of shredded bark to keep the weeds from re-appearing; a stone path surrounding a beautiful relocated bench built by other Homeward Bound volunteers; and the first of many planned plants joining the Bearded Iris, Japanese Maples and Redwood including Japanese Forest Grass, Heuchera, and a few small compact bamboo shrubs. These will multiply, and will be accompanied by African Iris, Astilbe, Black Mondo Grass, Lily Turf and more.

It instantly created a welcome, shady spot at least 10 degrees below the surrounding sunny paths. How welcome? We saw more dogs and dog walkers in the garden today than we have in the past few weeks! Each stopping to rest on the bench, enjoy the breeze, and take in one of the best views of the Gardens.

When it is done, this will be one of my favorite beds. It is already dog-approved judging by Butterscotch’s reaction.  She decided to take a roll in the bark, like most dogs roll in grass. Butterscotch is not exactly a pure bred Golden – more like a “Golden Plus”,  but her volunteer dog walker Allie doesn’t mind. They make a great pair!

The Gardens were also packed with camera-shy volunteer Gardeners. Joanne came by before the dog training class. These dedicated volunteers increase the odds of placement by bringing out the best in each dog.  In fast order she weeded several of the beds. (How do you not love a volunteer gardener with a preference for weeding?!) Sue is in the same training class, arriving early to spend some time weeding and deep watering. She left with a surprise – more on that later. Vonnie and Randy came out with son in tow to add some more plants to the Butterfly Garden – over the very loud objection of the Killdeer Bird who guards her nest in their bed.

While we have attracted bees in droves, and spotted a few Hummingbirds already, Vonnie was worried about the shortage of Butterflies so far. Not to worry. This little white one was spotted not long after you departed. Perhaps a Cabbage White one? Please weigh in if you know your butterflies!  We’ll see many more, I’m sure.

It was a long, very warm, day in the garden…with lots accomplished including drip lines to three of the beds, thanks to Maria’s expertise. (I’m sure she left near sunset…again!) More pictures and stories to follow. One blog at a time!

Thanks to all the volunteer gardeners. Things are looking great in the Homeward Bound Memorial Gardens!

Saturday Morning Finds in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden

You never know what you will find in a country garden on a very early Saturday morning. While tomorrow will be my true work day out at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, I made a quick trip this morning to check on things after a several very hot days, with June 1st temperatures reaching 100 degrees.

I was greeted by a snake in Maria’s Bed Garden,

buzzed by a plane flying low over the sprouting rice fields next door,

welcomed by the smiling face of the sunflowers, now blooming,

and to my delight and amazement, I found happy garden beds looking perky and no worse for wear, despite the recent heat. On the contrary – the Salvia that has struggled for the past month went from sad to sensational. Well, almost sensational. Give it one more month!

Best of all, I found our pallet of stone, delivered. Next project: a stone patio under the plum tree where rescued Golden Retrievers and their human dog walkers can take a shady break while enjoying the gardens.

Time to get to work!

Snips, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails…

That’s what boys are made of! Or so the saying goes.

Dogs and dog walkers had company in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today. One of our volunteer gardeners, Sue, brought her grandson along to help her tend to her garden bed and fountain.

As often happens, a “quick trip” became a few hours. It’s easy enough for grown gardeners to lose track of time out here; imagine what a playground this country garden is for a little boy, masquerading as a scarecrow!

Wide open spaces, water attractions, and colorful birds. Funny – the same things that delight little boys delight our beloved Golden Retrievers! Happy Tuesday in the Gardens.

A Long Weekend in the Garden

The long holiday weekend meant being able to devote two days to the Homeward Bound Memorial  Garden, working side-by-side with the indefatigable, Maria.

Earlier in the week Anthony (the EMT son of one of our volunteer gardeners) cleared the remaining circle bed and Willow garden.  He did an amazing job of loosening the packed clay soil and removing all traces of weeds. Inspired, planting and mulching the circle garden became the first priority to ensure that his hard work would not go to waste. Newly christened the Hummingbird Garden, it is now filled with Lantana, Asiatic Lily, Verbena, Bee Balm, Salvia, Coreopsis, Red Sage, and a Butterfly Bush, all of which seem to attract more bees than Hummingbirds so far! Everything received a dose of organic soil conditioner and a thick layer of shredded bark mulch to block out any chance that weeds will see the light of day.

Bitten by the same bug, Maria delivered a couple car loads of plants to her Bed Garden and Whimsy Garden – now taking shape as an Herb Garden.  Her sunflowers are about waist-high now and beginning to bud. Every time we turn around, they seem to have grown another six inches. Between plantings she managed to attack weeds under the Grape vines and around the beds, while I fed and deep-soaked the roses which take a lot of abuse in the hot sun and wind of this country garden.

Joanne, a cheery dog-walker volunteer, made her way into the garden with one of her dog wards.  We quickly surmised that she had more garden knowledge than she professes, and when she said that she didn’t mind weeding, we put her to work. Unexpectedly enlisted, she managed to clear half of Sue’s garden before she had to leave.  We thickly mulched it to ward off their return.  Hopefully, we didn’t scare Joanne off and she will return for more! We are always in search of dedicated dog and garden lovers!

A beautiful Golden Retriever topiary now graces Jody’s garden, and will soon be covered with a vigorous Creeping Fig Vine.  She continues to bring shrubs and perennials weekly and each find their place as the bed takes shape.

Plans were made for the delivery of stone to create a simple patio laid in the earth under the shade of the fruit trees, and a pathway in the newly cleared willow garden, setting the stage for an Asian-inspired bed.

Thanks to Dick, the table that we planned to use under the trees was rescued and reconstructed when it literally fell to pieces as I attempted to move it. Dick was also gracious enough to replace the shovel I broke in the clay soil. There will soon be an entire crew dedicated to repairing all that I touch.

Dick and his volunteer crew are kept constantly busy building, repairing and maintaining all in support of Homeward Bound and its mission to rescue displaced, abandoned and homeless Golden Retrievers and their Golden+ mix friends.  The hard work is gratifying as you are constantly surrounded by the rewards of your efforts; like the three-legged Golden, happily chasing a tennis ball this weekend. These dogs have such enormous hearts and spirit. They spur us on.

Updated pictures follow for all that track our progress turning a patch of hard clay country earth into a Memorial Garden for Homeward Bound.