Laying Out Grounds

“A garden is never so good as it will be next year” ~ Thomas cooper

We officially cannot stop ourselves. Every visit to a local garden – like the recent outing to the WPA Garden and Old Historic City Cemetery Gardens – provides fresh inspiration and undercuts our well-earned fall rest!

This weekend at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, Ina got busy laying out the first plantings for the entry-way California Natives Garden.

Wordsworth said: “Laying out grounds may be considered a liberal art, in some sort like poetry and painting.”

Ina’s beds are certainly a work of art with carefully selected blue-green Festuca’s, silvery Artemisia, and the deep evergreen of Ceanothus. Soon, she will add feathery, copper-colored grasses – and who knows what other surprises?

Susan and Jeff are busy picking out bulbs to bring spring color to the tree circle gardens; Jody’s garden is sporting a new Erica Heather addition.

And someone needs to inform the Sunflowers and Daylilies that the season is ending.

Today, we were blessed with hidden bounty: The birds must have taken some pity on us.

The nights have turned cold, and the days short. As they fade, so does the garden color. Everything looks a little more subdued since last week.

As if to brighten up the place, a transport of ten new dogs arrived yesterday at Homeward Bound. The garden was literally overflowing with them! Some, like Sheeva and Chickeeto are still unsure of their new surroundings. You can see the worry in their eyes and tucked tails.

But most seemed to get right into the swing of things. Lovers and huggers include River…




And Champ.

Shadow – an old hand at this – can’t figure out what the fuss is all about!

It was a beautiful day to be laying out gardens with the Goldens. Even the squirrels say so!

Where We Have Ended Up

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be.” – Douglas Adams.

“Homeward Bound desperately needs help with their Memorial Gardens.” These were the words written in the November 2011 Homeward Bound Newsletter, recounting two years of fits and starts, and multiple set-backs in the establishment of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

Volunteer groups had been mobilized, and projects started, but without a dedicated effort, nature quickly erased all that had been accomplished.

Soon to be garden

“By the time the gardens dried up enough to work in, we couldn’t see a single plant that was planted last year; everything was overgrown with 4‐foot tall star thistle and weeds that the rain brought out. Trying to mow the weeds in the pathways was almost futile because they had grown so tall.”

By November, 2011, the plea went out:

“The volunteers have slowly faded away again. We need to find a way to maintain the gardens on a regular basis and make it worthwhile for volunteers to come back. So, we have decided to have volunteers sponsor one or more of the garden beds themselves.”

The article stated that volunteers would only need to come once a month “on whatever schedule works for you.” Grateful to Homeward Bound for our own adopted Bella and Jackson, I had always been interested in volunteering but had difficulty juggling other commitments while contributing on a schedule that accommodated the organization’s needs. A lover of gardening, this seemed ideal.

Now, I look back and smile.

What was supposed to be a “once a month” visit has turned into at least weekly trips – and occasionally, as many as three. It’s not whatever schedule works for us – but the schedule that the gardens demanded to maintain forward momentum.

It is most definitely not where I intended to go. But it is very much where I needed to be.

“More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows.” – Spanish Proverb. I think I’ve used this quote before, but it is so appropriate here.

New gardening skills; friendships; community. These have all grown in a season of working in the Memorial Garden, along with pride in all that we have accomplished, together. And of course, all my new blogging buddies!

I look forward every week to our workdays and the opportunity to visit with pups as well as volunteers. I enjoy sharing our progress with all of you; benefiting from your advice and encouragement.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for you to make a huge difference to the Homeward Bound Memorial Gardens and what it means to all of our Golden friends.”

Absolutely, positively, true.

Inspiration from the WPA Rock Garden

I have taken so much inspiration from my fellow gardeners at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. With a season under our collective boots, there is a garden closer to home that I now appreciate even more.

It is the WPA Rock Garden at William Land Park in Sacramento.

This three-quarter acre gem is tucked inside the park,

between the quaint Fairytale Town, Sacramento Zoo, the outdoor theatre in the round,

and the duck pond.

It was originally built in 1940 as part of the New Deal’s Work Projects Administration – thus WPA – and has been our city’s hidden treasure for generations.

But it wasn’t always the oasis it has become.

A well-known local horticulturist, Daisy Mah, took over care of the garden in 1988 after it had been overgrown by ivy. This sounds like a familiar tale to our Homeward Bound volunteer gardeners.

Instead of the typical water-thirsty and shade-loving plants you find in neighboring gardens, she planted drought-tolerant plants from the Mediterranean climates.

The paths are laid with decomposed granite; the beds raised with low rock walls.

The naturalized mixture of grasses and perennials, flower and foliage, light and shadow remind me of Ina’s Cottage Garden…

with little surprises tucked into every corner.

Beginning with a budget that would not even buy you a night at the movies – ingenuity, propagation expertise and, as rumor has it, fertilizer originally contributed by the zoo animals, has created this meandering maze of delights.

Daisy Mah has announced her retirement from the City Parks and Recreation department this year.

What will happen with to the garden remains to be seen, with the economy already severely testing city resources.

A great community volunteer effort has risen to the task of maintaining the park, and some have worked for years with Daisy to maintain this wonder. Hopefully, the WPA Rock Garden will continue with this dedicated group.

One thing is certain – Daisy Mah has created a living legacy.

One that deserves our admiration and our commitment to carry on her good work for the generations to come.

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?

As Summer Sets

While the temperatures are still in the 90’s, there was a sure sign that Fall is approaching on the nursery shelves today.

Ready or not, its time to think about Fall color and plans for spring…again!  I may still add some perennials to fill in sections that did not fare well while beefing up fall color.

Chrysanthemum is always a fall favorite,

and would compliment the Gaillardia, Coneflower, Lavender, Nepeta, Coreopsis, Rudbeckia and Salvia that should still bloom for a couple of months.

I’d like to experiment with Aster and Sneezeweed which I cannot grow in my own garden. I planting some Aster a month or so ago for an early Fall bloom. Big mistake. Fried.

The Russian Sage, meanwhile, should bloom well into the winter.

Once the heat is past, it will be time to layer in some annuals: Calendula, Iceland Poppies, Pansies and Stock are good options in our zone 8.

It’s already getting late to shop for bulbs. In our area Crocus, Hyacinth and Tulips should be chilled for six weeks of so before planting.

The list of spring bulb options is so long, it’s hard to narrow down: Anemone, Freesia, Ixia, Tritonia, Lecojum and Ranunculus would be beautiful additions as we already have waves of Daffodils and Irises.

Once it cools, but well before it gets really cold and wet, overcrowded plants will benefit from dividing. In our garden that probably means Iris, Coneflower, Yarrow and some Daylilies.

Of course the biggest projects are now staring us in the face:

We’ve begged Ina to expand her Cottage Garden and offered help with clearing and digging (what were we thinking?!)

We’re hoping that Peggy and Steve will apply their Iris growing skills to a half circle near the entrance to the garden.

Paths are planned while expanding the beds and bringing in topsoil for seeding a grassy area in the center section. And finally: the dreaded Blackberry Bramble.

Thankfully, that is best done in the dead of winter, so there is still time for procrastination on that front!

What is a Weed?

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I always thought of Milkweed as a weed. I never knew that it had such mysterious powers.

I stumbled across Asclepias, or Tropical Milkweed, in our nursery this spring. I never had enough hours of direct sun in my own shady garden to even consider it. Listed among its virtues (color and height) was its ability to attract butterflies. In our area it grows as a perennial. Bonus. It will return year after year. I planted a couple of 6” pots at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden and waited.

It wasn’t until later that I read that it was a preferred habitat of Monarch Butterflies. By the looks of things in the garden tonight, they are delighting in their home.

As the sun lowered and temperatures “cooled” to a more moderate 94-degrees, they were putting on quite a show; delighting in a dance that had everything to do with each other and nothing at all to do with me. It looked a lot like these Milkweed seeds.

Still as I stood, they would not settle long enough to capture them in a photo. So I put away the camera, returned to my watering duties, and just enjoyed them as they swooped, fluttered and glided through the air.

For their beauty and companionship in the garden, they are more than welcome to munch and make their home in the Milkweed of our Memorial Garden.

It’s Raining Dogs!

I made a trip to the garden late yesterday afternoon. Sometimes, I find it more productive to break up the weekend chores into two sessions instead one long marathon. (Didn’t Ina do a beautiful job on the White Garden this week?)

It was definitely cooler, with ominous clouds moving in – unusual for our Sacramento Valley which is usually baking this time of year.

I met Janet and Dale in the gardens. They were visiting with Holden, the sweet pup they adopted from Homeward Bound about a year ago. A special-needs dog, he does not produce tears. So every few hours, they administer them for him. Such dedication.

Janet, it turns out, is also one of the designated administrators for the organization’s Facebook page. We have her to thank for sharing our blog and video, bringing it to the attention of so many more people last month. Thank you, Janet! We appreciate the assist!

I thought maybe the darkening skies carried coastal fog – perhaps causing our 20-degree day-to-day temperature drop.

Good thing I’m not a weather forecaster. Not long after I got home, thunder set in, and then a brief rainfall. This really does not happen here very often – and I feel a little guilty considering how parched so many parts of our country are this summer.

By the next morning, the clouds were gone, replaced by a light breeze and blue skies, and accompanied by a light shower of dogs all morning long – just happy to enjoy the beautiful morning in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

As I left the night before, I saw the pens filled with new, beautiful, blond Goldens.

This morning, I met many of them in person. Among the newly emerging Dahlias…

I met new arrivals, Sunny –

Huntington –

Bristol –

and Shadow (such a happy face!)

Amid the flourishing roses…

I found Chris – one of our dog-whisperers – and her own pups Tigger and Missy. They visit us pretty regularly, before Chris gets to a long day of assessing and working with the new dogs.

And not long after capturing this visiting Monarch Butterfly,

I was introduced to Tosh. He’s a handsome young man and full of “ready-to-roll!” Look how nicely he sits already!

It never ceases to amaze me that so many beautiful dogs find their way here for rescue.

Thankfully Ina paid a visit to the gardens this week and Pat joined me this morning. The extra hands made it possible to spend a little time appreciating the pups and still get the weeding, watering, dead-heading and fountain-cleaning accomplished. All while Maria is off playing in Europe dog-watching when she should be site seeing. She sent this picture of a “Hungarian Shepherd” (I suspect it is actually a Hungarian Kuvasz) –

and this unusual creature.

Don’t worry Maria. We’ll save you a couple of projects so you will feel missed when you return!

Sunflower Appreciation

So many people seemed to enjoy the post capturing the transformation of Ina’s Cottage Garden, I thought I would share some others with you periodically. Here’s a look at Maria’s Sunflower bed – from its messy start, to it’s mid-summer delight within the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

Inauspicious beginnings last Fall…

By February, it waits in anticipation.

Some April color, while the rains delay planting.

Then, they begin their march.

And before we know it…

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”
~ Helen Keller

July’s towering giants…

Not even the Finches can keep ’em down!

My only question is this; when the sunflowers fade in the fall…

what does Maria have planned for winter? Hmmm….

Mid-Summer Update

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” ~ Sam Keen

In the hot Sacramento months of July and August, the garden is best tended to in the early morning and early evening. I snuck out to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden late yesterday afternoon and early evening to get some of our weekly heavy lifting done, knowing that Sunday would also be over 100 – and that Maria, my Sunday gardening partner, refuses to quit as long as there is something more to be done.

So today, with the weeds largely beaten back, the deep watering done, and the heat turned to ‘high’, we enjoyed a more relaxed pace in the garden.

Our newest volunteer, Pat returned this weekend (yeah!) and did an amazing job of dead-heading all of the roses along the fences. She claimed to be a novice at the task, but with a little instruction, that is no longer the case! This is a zen-like, but time-consuming job – so we are very grateful for the extra hands.

Pat is a dog-walker, soon-to-be-adopter.  She lost her own Golden a bit ago, and is now ready to open her heart to another.  Well almost.  She has a trip planned in the coming weeks, but after that, she’ll be on the hunt. In the meantime, she is afraid to look, for fear of falling in immediate love. We’ll keep her busy in the garden until the time is right!

I swear we have magic soil in this garden.  Things grow so quickly and brilliantly in these beds.  We found this gigantic Johnson grass weed hiding in the Daylilies. A week ago it was small enough that its blades were camouflaged.  A few days later, its height has given it up as it towers over the bed’s rightful occupants.

This sprouted in the Willow Garden since last weekend as well. I have no idea what it is, but the larger stalk is already a foot tall. It looks like an Amaryllis, but this is not the right time, or place for that…and two stalks? (Magic soil?) I’m sure that it will reveal its identity to us soon, but if you know, please advise!

The grapes have begun to ripen…

along with the apples and pears.

The birds are enjoying the seeds of the spent sunflowers in Maria’s bed, while new and amazing blooms still appear.

The Bee Balm is thriving…

the neighboring Coneflowers are the beneficiary…

and Jody’s garden is on its way to ‘full and tranquil.’

No Goldens visited us today. Too hot. They were happy to go out for their walks, jump in their pools, and take their wet bodies inside to the air conditioning! Can’t say as I blame them!

I laughed, however, as I watched Rob try to coax two new arrivals into posing for pictures. Imagine how strange and nervous these pups feel when they first arrive. They don’t know that picture-taking is just one of the steps on their road to a new forever home. Rob is one of the dedicated Homeward Bound team members that I see almost every weekend working with the dogs. He has a special “dog-whisperer” way with the ones who need the most help. The many volunteers like him make me proud to be a small part of this special place and mission.