The Lost World

The failing 40-year-old fence had to be taken down before it fell down. Shared with our 92-year-old neighbor of 20 years, it took some convincing, first – and then it took some major clearing.

While our side was relatively clear of vegetation, her side had become a jungle of tangled, massive ivy that had swallowed what was once one of the most treasured and admired gardens in the neighborhood.

I’m now sure exactly when her husband passed; I knew that she had already been living alone for at least ten years before we moved in two decades ago. The garden was her pride and joy. She would spend hours tending to the magnificent azaleas, rhododendrons, ferns and hidden treasures. This is the view of one of them from our side.

Until about 10 years ago, she would bring in gardeners to do major clearing, pruning and tending. But as time went on, that ceased and the ivy began swallowing up the garden and the fence with it.

When our Yogi threatened to bounce it to the ground in his hunt for critters, it was time to address it.

And just about the only way she was going to allow it to be cleared for the replacement was if someone she trusted did it. So the task fell to me.

She is of surprisingly good, but frail, physical health. Especially considering that she has smoked her whole life and had heart bypass surgery 10 years ago. But the years of living alone have taken their toll. While she can recount stories from decades ago, her short-term memory now fails her. If I work when it is cool in the morning, she keeps watch from her patio, calling me over every few minutes to ask the same question again and again. I am happy to abide her, but found that my most productive time is after she has “gone up” for the night…at 3PM.

Part of the offer was to do a kindness to a long-time neighbor on a fixed budget; part was to see if I could recover her lost gem – something I knew she would appreciate and a gardening challenge for me. I got more than I bargained for.

The first task was to ensure the required clearance for the fence work so it could get underway. It began with providing a clearing from which I could branch off left and right, and a way out when returning all of the cleared vegetation – some alive, some very much dead.

I uncovered mature trees that were never planted – they just burst their containers and found ground for their roots;

a tree limb, the weight of which was the only thing holding an entire section of fence in place;

and ivy trunks as thick as trees.

So far, three towering piles have been taken away. And that is from a single small section of the yard required for the fence project.

While the fence was able to be replaced and Yogi secured, the project of reclaiming the garden will continue as time allows. I am careful not to prune too much from her treasured shrubs and trees, but as the light can now enter, the structure and beauty begin to show through again.

The lost world, rediscovered. And with it, a treasured memory will hopefully be restored.

Launching Pad

My author friend met through this blog, Stanley Horowitz, has just completed his new book. Titled “Can You Read the Tea Leaves of Autumn: The Poetic Wisdom of the Four Seasons,” he shared a copy with me. I’m not sure of his plans for it, but I hope he finds a way to publish it. The book is a continuation of the theme established in his now famous quote with his keen and poetic observations of each month of the year. The final chapter is “The Poetic Wisdom of a Good Life,” written by a man who says he has been blessed with good friends – life’s perfect gift.

I turned instantly to April, and found this: “April is the launching pad of gardens.” And now the garden has brought those words to life.

The roses are in first bloom,

the trees (save one which is worrying me greatly) are in full leaf,

and the garden is exploding with purple,





and white.

Through the winter and early spring when people are kind enough to compliment the garden, I say “just wait.” Well the wait is over and it simply takes my breath away.

Now “just wait” until these little sticks on their own launching pad turn into summer Dahlias!

We launched a few more pups into new chapters as well, saying “happy life” to Gridley,



and Norman this weekend.

Rusty went to a family that has been adopting from us since 2000, and Norman to a wonderful gentleman who posts a “happy life” comment on every going home photo we put up on Facebook. He was looking forward to his own photo when the time was right – and he hoped that he could help one of the dogs who came to us from China. He got his wish on both fronts today. Knowing the conditions from which those dogs are rescued, he is looking forward to giving Norman the life he deserves (in other words, he will be spoiled rotten!).

We also said goodbye to our dear Old Bud.

Found by a good Samaritan on New Year’s Eve, he went unclaimed – but a number of people noted that he had been seen wandering around for some time. He was microchipped, but the phone was disconnected and the people no longer there. He was at least 12, maybe older. A matted mess who could barely walk when found. His kind person took him to the groomer and to the vet. He had an irregular heartbeat, cataracts, and weakness in his back legs. And while his body would not do as he commanded, be thought he was large and in charge and had something to say to every dog at the fence! His “only dog” attitude is why he stayed with us instead of being scooped up by one of our volunteers or fosters: everyone has dogs – an occupational hazard. But he was cared for and spoiled during the time we were able to share with him. Safe journey, sweet boy. We’ll see you at the bridge…and play nicely up there please!! You were loved.

“Dogs leave paw prints on your hearts.”

Spring Tuning

There is a magical moment, just before the orchestra begins, when the oboe gives a note and the instruments are tuned in a chaotic staccato of strings, horns and reeds. A short, breathless pause follows as the conductor raises the wand – before a symphony explodes in synchronized waves of sound. The gardener knows this as early spring.

A tulip appears,

then an iris,

an apple blossom,

and tiny Clematis buds unwind –

as if the whole garden is standing tall and ready – preparing to come alive.

We are firmly in that magical period of early spring now.

The heart can literally skip a beat in anticipation –if only the back didn’t ache from the thought of the overwhelming work ahead! Roses and fruit trees to be fed – weeds to be pulled – lawns to be seeded – paths restored – mulch laid. The list is endless. But attacked with joy.

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” ~ Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

There is another sign of early spring – even more miraculous. More to come.

Peace and Results in the Garden


Yes, Gunther. You still have to go to dog school today, even in the rain!


Yes, rain. California rain. Two weekends in a row! Come on El Niño!


Just as the garden was about to succumb to winter brown after a summer of scorching drought,


the rain has brought it back to life.


As one thing falls away – another comes to life.


Fall is a gardener’s busiest time of year, I think. Even more than spring. This weekend – before the rain – we enlisted the help of three hard-working youth volunteers to cover our well-worn paths with a fresh layer of bark and shreds. It has been three years since we last did this. And El Niño threatens a season of muddy walks. Take a look back to see how much the garden has changed.

This time, the load was only half the size – as the beds are twice theirs.


But everyone pitched in to get it done in record time.

Youth Volunteers_DSC_8035

Their reward? Dogs. We lunched with Scrappy.


got bowled over by Bailey…


And witnessed just about the sweetest “going home” ever.

Holly is one of our Taiwan rescues. She came all this way to find a forever home – but no one seemed to understand her. That is, until two adorable and smart young girls came in and spoke to Holly in her native Mandarin! They have been studying the language at school and are already quite fluent. When they sang “Happy Birthday” to Holly in Mandarin it was as if someone unlocked her world. The deal was sealed and Holly found her home.

Holly Going Home_DSC_8056

Awesome youth volunteers. Paths dressed. Holly’s adoption. Rain. And more tiny frogs.


“There is peace in the garden. Peace and results.” ~ Ruth Stout