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.

Late Summer’s Tiny Gems

After a blazing hot summer, the garden is in that in-between moment when the summer riot turns tiny and quiet until the fall steps forward in all its glory. You have to look closely in a sea of green for the garden’s little gems.

Hummingbird-loving Cuphea ignea.

Butterfly favorites Jupiter’s Beard,


and Butterfly Bush.

The purples and pinks of Pentas,



And Cosmos bespeckle the beds – their large drifts long gone.

Dainty Veronica tries to stand tall,

while bright Rudbeckia hides under the White Orchid tree to escape the hot sun.

Only the Dahlias and Sunflowers dare to be bold.

And if you look very, very closely – you might just find some other tiny little gems hidden in the garden.

But that is a story for another week. Stay tuned.

To Rule A Garden…Or More

“Anybody who wants to rule the world should try to rule a garden first.” ~ Author Unknown

I found this unattributed quote and it struck me as true. Nothing humbles like a garden – a tiny microcosm of the world where distinct forces work best in harmony, but are sometimes pushed into doing battle for survival and the chance to ensure future generations.

I’m not really sure that anyone ever rules the garden; to assume so would tempt Mother Nature’s scorn. But to tame and transform a garden calls upon many of the same qualities required of great leaders.

1. Collaboration
A successful garden requires a close union with nature. To be truly connected to the earth demands a genuine interest and care for the welfare of all who live there: the flowers and trees, the birds, bees, butterflies, and tiny toads. Each has a role in the lasting success of the garden. Learn to live and work together.

2. Vision
A gardener must be practical and grounded – making the best of what they have been dealt in wind, water, temperature, and soil. But a gardener also keeps one boot firmly planted in the future – looking seasons ahead in decisions about where to plant sun and shade, laying a good foundation with well-nourished soil, and considering the needs of all for space, habitat, and life essentials.

3. Observant
Mother Nature will not be controlled. But by studying with patience and watchfulness, she will share her lessons. A gardener earns her respect by being gracious and persuasive, but never controlling.

4. Empathy and Tolerance
We share our gardens with countless creatures – each simply going about the business of living their lives, feeding their families, and ensuring their survival.

This is their home, too. Share with empathy, compassion, and an appreciation for their unique contributions to the garden.

5. Innovative
A gardener’s failures are many. Learn to accept them with grace. To succeed means to be a perpetual student, tester, and inventor. What you can’t renew: transform. For the things you can’t (or shouldn’t) change: learn to adapt.

6. Ethical
We have but one earth. Treat it with care. Make sustainable choices and live by the motto: do no harm. The passerby in awe of that oversized, out-of-season flower does not know – but the earth does and carries any lie.

7. Passionate
A garden is built of passion and purpose reflecting the heart of the gardener who is blessed to work and walk among its inhabitants.

Without passion, a garden is merely a chore. Be motivated by passion, but lead with humility.

If only for a season

At the rescue, people and dogs pass through our lives. Some we know only for an instant; others stay on for years. Each makes a special impression – often in often unforeseen ways.


I was touched and honored this week when a woman reached out to request a copy of a “going home” day photo I took earlier this year. I remember the day so clearly. The woman was 80; the dog she chose was also in her sunset years. I will never forget the look of sheer joy on the woman’s face and devotion on the dog’s. The connection was instant; captured in the click of a shutter.

While she and the dog are both in good health, she is making her final plans so her family will be spared that responsibility when the time comes. She would like the photo to be present at her parting because it “reflects so much of my life.” I cannot share the photo here as she wants to keep her plans secret for now. But I told her I would happily provide prints – which I hope she will not need for a very, very long time. I had no idea that our simple meeting would present such a gift to each of us.

In the garden, some blossoms last but a season –


others return year after year.


Annuals fill in when perennials take a much-deserved rest.


What would this Feather Grass be without Amaranthus?


Or the purple of Barberry without the compliment of Cosmos?


Or summer without Sunflowers and Dahlias…though there stay is always too short.


With new volunteers, you’re never sure if they here for a moment, or will return season after season.


They require the same amount of initial nurturing and care – an investment of time and effort, and a bit of a leap of faith – not knowing how long someone will stay. Yet, you never know what gifts they have to share.


I have tried on lots of different volunteering opportunities in my life. In fact – I tried on Homeward Bound years ago. It was the wrong time to be the right fit. I wasn’t even an annual; I lasted about as long as a cut flower. When I returned three years ago, I found my place. And it found me. I want to continue to be a welcoming “perennial” – finding room for, and appreciating, those that come in and out of our effort – even for a short while.

“Some people come into your life for a season, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. But only for a season.” ~ Ritu Ghatourey

November Notes From The Garden

Maria and some other Homeward Bound volunteers traveled to Tahoe today to join in the search for Murphy – a Golden on the run since a family camping trip in early October. So I was holding down the fort alone in the Memorial Garden today.

A large shipment of newly arrived commemorative bricks were lined up and ready to be installed.

The messages are so touching. It truly is a great way to honor our departed pups.

Maria’s sunflowers have begun a second showing. What a treat in November.

Meanwhile, the Dahlias are saying their farewells.

There are just a few blooms remaining,

and the emerging buds get tinier and tinier. What a beautiful show they gave us this summer and early fall. We’ll over-winter them carefully for next year.

The Mums, on the other hand, are in their glory. This one from Jody’s garden bed is especially pretty in pink with its sunny yellow faces.

Tomorrow, Ina will move the Rock Rose from the Tree Circle Garden.  With the tree getting larger, they don’t get enough sun to bloom successfully, and they are already growing too large for the spot. Ina thinks they will look beautiful in the California garden she is planning for the front section. Shhh…don’t tell her that they are not California natives!

It was pretty lonely in the garden today – so the dogs kept me company. Bones gave the Sunflowers his sniff of approval.

Hope – a really sweet girl and new arrival – paid a visit.

Cisco was showing off his much-improved coat…

While Goldie showed us that she has a few previously unknown tricks up her paw: like this adorable rollover.

It was bath day at Homeward Bound with a new grooming team in training. So much pampering and primping…

what better place for Bo-Bo to air-dry than in the garden?

And finally, Wedo came to say the words we can’t wait to hear: “Goodbye”. He went home today with his new family. We’ll miss you sweet boy!

Side note: Ina told me know that the beautiful Asters in the Cottage Garden are second generation cuttings from the old Sacramento City Cemetery. I visited there on Saturday to see the originals. The grounds are absolutely beautiful – maintained by more than 100 volunteers and a few Sheriff’s friends doing community service. Look for a post this week on the blog.

Thinking good thoughts for Murphy’s rescue. It was too quiet at the ranch today. Bring that girl home, and hurry back everyone!

Garden Party

“You may go down to the garden.”…(Peter Rabbit’s mother) Beatrix Potter

I confess that I did not have to make two trips to the Memorial Garden this weekend.

The temperatures are beginning to cool, which means the need for extra watering is diminishing, and even the weeds are growing a little slower.

But I’ll be taking a little break for some ocean camping, and our blooming days are growing shorter. I want to enjoy summer’s last blooms as long as I can.

Everyone else had the same idea; the dogs were everywhere in the Homeward Bound garden this weekend! Miss Macy with her ever-present toy,

Sunny with her sweet white face and disposition,

Blossom looking pretty,

and Hootie enjoying Laura’s company. (Laura’s the one with the hat!)

Sonny was back for more training classes. He is a certified Canine Good Citizen (CGC) who provides weekly therapy visits to a local Kaiser hospital.

Boulder and Phoenix are new arrivals; a pair who will hopefully find a new home together.

And Eastman – another new arrival who greets dogs and humans with a happy smile and wagging tail.

Even Axel and Bradley, who have perfectly good homes of their own, came by just to see what all the ruckus was about.

Party in the garden!

Some new things are blooming in Ina’s Cottage Garden. I believe this is Obedient Plant.

And this looks like an Aster…Ina?

The Roses are putting on a show; the result of Maria’s feeding them last week.

This contrast of blooms is beautiful in the White Garden.

The Hummingbird Garden was hosting more than birds…

can you find my little Dragonfly friend hiding here?

And of course…the Dahlias.

A riot of color. A splash of sunshine. And dogs. What a great way to celebrate the closing of summer. Does the party have to end?

Perennial Progression

Here is another in the series of garden bed transformations at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

When we read about the need for volunteer gardeners in the Homeward Bound Newsletter last Fall, a group of us showed up to see and select “beds” that we would assume responsibility for. It was a little hard to find the beds! This is how the Perennial Garden began.

Soon to be garden
The (very loose) vision. We wanted a palette of intense color, breaking every garden design rule.

Garden Watercolor
Work gets underway.

Tulips surprise us in early March, poking up through the bark that keeps the weeds at bay.

Planting day finally arrives in early April after rain delays. The plants looked pretty puny in nearly 400 square feet of space.

Two weeks later.

In May, the plants are loving the moisture-retaining clay soil. Deb installs branches for Dahlia stakes in anticipation.

Things are filling in. Watch how the flooded rice field in the background changes over time.

Early June; not looking so puny anymore!

Mid June. Still waiting on the Dahlias, but the Coneflowers are magnificent. Look how the rice field has turned a brilliant green.

And July.The Dahlias have arrived, joined by Delphinium, Bee Balm, Coreopsis, Cosmos and a few Zinnias that snuck in.

On the other side you can see the Yarrow, Dianthus, Lavender, and Salvia.

And on the corners, Verbena and Gaillardia. OK…so maybe we went a little crazy this year.

All in all, not too bad for a first year effort. Just imagine what next year will bring!

We Rescue

Jody visited with me in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today.  She has acquired yet another tree that needs a home and we were surveying the landscape for a best spot. As the co-founder of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary, Jody specializes in rescuing, repairing, and giving new life to those that others have given up through one circumstance or another. Like Scrubs, who started “school” today.

We were marveling at the fruit trees that were long ago given up as dead. Yet with weekly deep watering, we see new hope for peaches and lemons in the future.

“Now you get it,” she says. “We rescue!” Apparently the birds are very happy about this mission. Look how they have been enjoying the rescued grapes, now abundantly producing.

I’m solo in the garden this weekend with our other volunteers scattered like seeds in the summer breeze. It’s a long list, but broken up over two visits, all was accomplished. Deep watering, weeding, staking Maria’s sunflowers (yet again!) and chasing bunny rabbits…

who have begun another home – this time in Jody’s garden. “Just leave them,” she says. Naturally.

It was family week in the garden, with visits from brothers Bubba and Bones,

and siblings, Marie and Mo.

It’s harder to find homes for two dogs together, but Homeward Bound is committed. For people who know that their long-term goal is having two, there is a lot to be said for taking a pair that you know are already crazy about each other. Both sets are as sweet as can be.

Cisco joined us again,

And dog-walker volunteer Karen brought through this gorgeous pup who wanted nothing but tummy rubs.

The Dahlia that Deb gave Ina has finally blossomed in the Cottage Garden,

And when Ina told us that Naked Ladies pop up everywhere in July and August, she wasn’t kidding!

They are everywhere in the Willow Garden now, so watch where you sit!

Despite missing the extra hands, we’re looking pretty good thanks to some milder weather.

Holding down the fort…

In the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

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.