Whoever Makes A Garden

To my wayward gardeners (one excused for her good work with the dogs)…

I understand your spring fever, but while you are away, the weeds grow wild and tall.

The garden and I carry on without you – because a garden doesn’t make itself.

The roses have been fed their poo tea and the narcissus tied back.

The paths have been freshly laid. The weeds have been are being pulled and the beds mulched.

And the new entry has been planted while the lilies and lilac begin to bloom.

But be warned – you leave me alone at your own peril –
lest the Dahlias find a new home…

and the poppies multiply…

and the new bed is planted too tight and too tall…

while that hideous shrub that you love is allowed to wither and die.

Don’t worry about me alone…I am in good company.

But be warned: it shall all be mine if you stay away too long.
Possession is, after all, nine-tenths of the law.

“Whoever makes a garden
Has never worked alone;
the rain has always found it,
The sun has always known;
The wind has blown across it
And helped to scatter seeds;
Whoever makes a garden
Has all the help he needs.”
~Author Unknown

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

In the garden, opposites attract, like the purple aster against the yellow bush marigold –


and things that are alike complement each other: two different varieties of Gaillardia:


Dogs: not necessarily so. Dogs that don’t want to live with other dogs take a little longer to get home. Like our beloved, Barnaby here.


But dogs that react negatively to other dogs, require dog-savvy humans committed to their training. Their journey can take longer still.

Some dogs have had very troubled pasts, with understandable reactivity to all other dogs. But some, just pick and choose. What is it about a dog that makes it holler at another dog: “Hey, Dude! I really don’t like you!”? (These two are just playing!)

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We have four of them right now: the fearless foursome. Dogs that are okay with some dogs…but really don’t like selective dogs.


Finn hates Bear.


Bear hates Jackson.


Jackson hates Finn.


And sweet Gunther isn’t sure he likes any of them.


Because reactivity can seriously limit their adoption chances, we also have devoted dog walkers and trainers who are working with them to help them learn how to co-exist.


They don’t have to like each other…


but take a lesson from the garden, boys:


can’t we all just get along?


Thanks to Rob Kessel, of robanddog.com, for use of the Bear and Finn photos.

UPDATE: All four of our fussy friends have been adopted to loving homes. Happy life, Finn, Bear, Jackson and Gunther. BE GOOD BOYS!

More to Love

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Peggy’s got to take home a senior tub-o-love.


Peggy – one of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden volunteers – was out last weekend. She is an excellent gardener, and a long-time member of our rescue family. She also has a well-earned reputation for working miracles with the senior dogs that have either been loved or neglected into obesity.


“All we ever get are the old and fat ones,” says her husband, Steve. (Excuse me?!)


Not exactly correct. Rumor has it that all Peggy picks are the old and fat plump ones. Just more to love.

A week ago, a parade of svelte, fresh arrivals paraded past Peggy as she worked in the garden. Nothing.


Then Mary came waddling through, and from across the adjacent yard where Peggy had moved to prune the roses we heard: “Hey, who’s that?” Peggy has an eye for our butterballs like our dogs have sniffers for cookies! (Did someone say ‘cookies?’)


So guess who returned this weekend to bring Mary home to foster? You guessed it…


with Steve issuing his pretend protests all the while. You can’t take that man seriously…unless you happen to be a tree that needs to be removed. Then watch out!


Mary was one of seven dogs that went home this weekend. Happy life as well to Buffy…


Max and Libby (a twofer!)


Tabby, now Annie – another foster failure we hope!(You rename ’em…you keep ’em!)



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And our favorite “Not-a-Golden”, Nigel!

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Dogs going home…time in the garden…

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Makes Monday almost bearable.

Going Home Parade

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer, with the return of the Asiatic lilies,




Monarch butterflies,


and snakes.


There is just one thing missing: my dahlias!


When I last saw them, they were healthy, six-inch tall plants shooting rapidly skyward. Upon my return this weekend, they were barely stubs. Maria says they fell prey to snails. I’m not so sure that bunnies weren’t involved.


There certainly are enough of both in the garden. Do you think we can help the snake develop a taste for escargot? I brought out six backups that had been started at home and created fortresses of chicken wire and Sluggo.


They made it through the night. We’ll see if they make it through the week. Saturday was such a blur of “going home” photos that I got little accomplished. A parade of happy faces marched before my camera. Thankfully, Ina parachuted in to rescue me on Sunday with both Maria and Anna away.


“I am joy in a wooly coat, come to dance into your life, to make you laugh” ~ Julie Church

Congratulations to Roxie,

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Marcus_Going Home_Crop_DSC_0108


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and Romeo.


But the sweetest of all was Simba’s going home with Lyana – one of our devoted volunteers. She has renamed him Balou, after our beloved sanctuary dog who recently passed. We think it is a fitting tribute, and we suspect Balou approves too.


“And then it happens all at once and unexpectedly. You pack your bags and find yourself walking yourself home.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Happy life to you both.

Promises Kept


It wasn’t a lot … but it was something … and in our current state of drought, we are grateful for anything.


Just after all the dogs were walked,


dark skies turned to a quick downpour –


with the promise of more on Tuesday. Every drop and every cool day extends our hope for the garden (which looks lush and full in spring) to survive another California summer.


“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” ~ Thomas Fuller

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Sixty five roses fed on Saturday before the rain … perfect timing.


And, five of our longer-term residents found their way home this week, including two pairs that we promised to keep together: Lucky … who I wrote about in January

_lucky_Going Home

Dexter and Pogo …

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And handsome Finnegan and Seamus.


Promise made. Promise kept.
“All that we behold is full of blessings.” ~ William Wordsworth

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Do you suppose Saint Francis can request water on behalf of the dogs’ well-being as well as the garden?

Perfectly Imperfect

There has been a lot of discussion recently about sun dial which was donated to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

We set the dial in position – but it did not move correctly with the hours of the day. We read up on it a little and set it again. Still no luck. We assumed it was made incorrectly. Not true. We read some more and learned that it can tell time precisely – in its own way.

It definitely requires some extra effort and calculation to understand and make it useful in the way it was intended. It has to be aligned with the axis of the Earth’s rotation and point toward true Celestial north (different from the magnetic north pole.) Of course, the Earth’s orbit about the Sun is not perfectly circular, so the reading is not precise to standard clock time. Adjustments are also needed four days each year, and again for daylight savings time if you want it to deliver a perfect reading.

Perfection, however, is a relative thing.

I’m not particularly concerned about the exact time of day when I am in the garden. The position of the sun and the slowness of my pace tell me when it is time to take a break or retreat. So if the sun dial time is imperfect, it makes no difference to me.

I like this quote:

“Even imperfection itself may have its ideal or perfect state.”
-Thomas de Quincey

Like this bent, but still beautiful and blooming sunflower resting on our garden ground.

It’s the same with the dogs of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary. Like Zander, the three-legged wonder recently adopted.

Three legs or four make no difference to his ball-chasing abilities, or his gigantic heart. One lucky family figured out that this was his perfect state. There are more waiting. Rescue. The compassionate (and perfect!) choice.

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.

Confession of a Dog-Loving Gardener

I have a confession. This has been bothering me for some time, so I thought it best to come clean. An observant follower of this blog will likely notice that despite our volunteering at the Memorial Garden of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary – there are plants among us that are not dog-friendly. Like these evil lurkers: Clematis, Iris and Daffodils:

In our defense, the dogs who visit our garden are always on leash and accompanied by dog walkers. Lest you feel that they are completely deprived; they have beautiful grassy pens with splash pools to frolic, run free, chase balls, and play with each other in. They visit us on walks to get some quiet exercise and human socialization time.

In my own garden at home I am very aware of dog friendly and unfriendly plants. Our two Goldens have never fully outgrown the puppy stage.  For love of them, I have willingly sacrificed Hydrangea, fenced Azaleas, and raised Geraniums out of reach.

A close look at the Memorial Garden will also reveal Calla Lily, Chrysanthemum, Dahlias, Geraniums, Lantana and even evil Apple Trees! All on the bad list. Guilty as…well you know.

If you did not know, there is a very long and helpful list of toxic plants on the ASPCA website: http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/plant-list-dogs (cats and horses have their own lists). The emergency poison hotline number is also posted. I keep it taped to the inside of a cupboard, just in case.

So what is a dog-loving gardener to do? Well, on the same site, you will also find a pretty lengthy list of non-toxic plants. There are more than enough options for gardens of any style. Here are just a few of my favorites from the list, many of which have found their way into our Memorial Garden:

  • Canna
  • African Daisy
  • Alyssum
  • Snapdragon
  • Bachelors Buttons
  • Gerber Daisy
  • Climbing and Trailing Begonia
  • Blue Marguerite
  • Butterfly Iris
  • Camellia
  • Aster
  • Star Jasmine
  • Heuchera
  • Coreopsis
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Bottlebrush
  • Sword Fern
  • Day Lilies
  • Desert Trumpet
  • Elephant Ear Begonia
  • Marigold
  • Globe Thistle
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle Fuchsia
  • Ice plant
  • Impatience
  • Japanese Pittosporum
  • Magnolia Bush
  • Phlox
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Pampas grass
  • Petunia
  • Pincushion Flower
  • Verbena
  • Purple Passion vine
  • Roses
  • Sunflower
  • Scarlet sage
  • Torch Lily (red-hot poker)
  • Turf Lily
  • Zinnia

So forgive our transgression, but rest assured that dogs who visit the Memorial Garden are safe. Keep yours safe too with picks from the good list – and happy dog-proof gardening!

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!

It’s Official

Note to self: polls are not all that popular with our volunteer gardeners. By a margin of one, our Homeward Bound Memorial Garden snake has earned the name “Rocky” because he enjoys hanging out on the warm stone.

There was no Rocky sighting this weekend. With temperatures in the high 70’s, perhaps he had warmer places to be.  He did leave behind his skin, however.  I guess he found a new, warmer coat!