Gardens and Goldens: A Weekend Update

Light clouds and cool temps this morning. A good day for moving dirt.

I spent about six hours with Maria, my partner in crime, at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today, moving dirt to level the ruts left by the sprinkler project last spring.

Fall will be here before we know it, and we have a lot of prep work to do in order to create the grassy area and paths that will link our garden beds and banish the weedy fill. Always practical, Maria insisted on using the modified golf cart, outfitted with a large hauling bin on the back.  Unfortunately, I think we made more ruts using it as the ground was very wet today. Then, or course, the battery died. The good news is that I cannot be blamed for the cart’s misfortune! (Regular readers will remember that I have a bit of a reputation for breaking things.)

A good old-fashioned wheel barrel and shovel got the section done. The project continues!

Maria, somehow, managed to find more room in her Sunflower and Herb beds for more plants. The bird bath was replaced with a family of ceramic Quail, much to the surprise and unhappiness of the Robin who visits her garden.

Speaking of Sunflowers, they look as stunning from the back as they do from the front. A constant source of amazement in the gardens.

Roses were pruned; trees deep-watered; and flowers dead-headed.  But the best part of the day were the dogs and their human visitors.

Pat came by with Sunny. He was three when her family adopted him two years ago on Halloween. She was on the hunt for a young dog, but we know how that goes. While volunteering, she was asked to play with Sunny.  A ball was dropped and thrown, and the rest – as they say – is Homeward Bound history.  Masquerading as a younger pup, Sunny adopted Pat.

Pat has taken Sunny through all of the dog training classes offered at Homeward Bound.  A well-trained dog makes for a happy dog and family, and greatly improves the chances of a successful, long-term adoption. Together, Pat and Sunny also volunteer to provide therapeutic visits to patients at Kaiser. She says he comes home thoroughly exhausted and happy after spreading his joy to others.

Training has paid big dividends for two other visitors today. Owen is about two and was very well-mannered when he told us how anxious he was to find a home.

Black Jack was dropped off in the middle of the night. He is more “mature”, but has apparently discovered a love for little boys. You can read about them here and visit their galleries for more pictures.

Finally, Chris stopped by with her own Tigger and Missy.

Chris and Rob are Mentors who started a Homeward Bound Dog Walkers Club to help volunteers understand how to walk and work with the dogs. These dedicated volunteers ensure that the dogs get exercised and socialized by spending time with people and around other dogs. Their efforts help to give these pups a greater chance of adoption.

Speaking of which, I see from the Homeward Bound website that Zander was adopted!

I watched from a distance, holding my breath as a family played with him not too long ago. Looks like it was a match, which makes my day complete. Gardens. Goldens. And a home for three-legged Zander. What could be better? Oh yes…puppies!

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: (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!

Sharing Our Pride

Jody is the co-founder of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary. For those of you who are not regular readers, Homeward Bound is a volunteer organization which rescues and heals displaced, abandoned, and homeless Golden Retrievers and Golden/Labrador mixes throughout Northern California, no matter their age or health.

It was unclear this weekend what she was more proud of; Sedona, a gorgeous Homeward Bound alumni now happily adopted who she brought to the gardens for a visit…

or the Memorial Garden that is becoming a long-awaited reality, including this gorgeous rose grown in her own garden bed.

As volunteer gardeners, we couldn’t be happier when two, or four-legged friends share a little of our joy in these gardens.

Sunday Dogs and Gardens

Another beautiful Sunday in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.  I arrived early as the morning was cool, offering the best time for planting. It has been that way most of the week since our merciful Delta Breeze blew in, and the plants were showing their gratitude.  Everything looked refreshed and happy after our heat wave a week earlier. Maria joined me, neither of us anticipating much to do today – yet somehow it never works out that way!

I put in some more Zinnias to add color where spring blooms have faded, and started some Asters which will bloom into the fall. In a particularly dry and troublesome spot, I added Coastal Rosemary (westringia fruiticosa for those of you who are more formal). The compact shrub is native to eastern Australia and tolerates many soil types and dry growing conditions. I like its variegated leaves alongside the Russian Sage. Its size may eventually be an issue – but there are plenty of other spots for it to shine in the gardens if it becomes too unruly.

Sue has been a little overwhelmed with her new adopted puppy (you forget how much work the young ones are!) so we pitched in to make sure Grandma’s Flower Bed was well kept. Things have really filled in – with the Iceland Poppies, blooming very late into the season, producing an unexpected and rich color palette alongside the Petunias.

Thanks to lots of mulch, the weeds were few. Maria cleaned out the solar fountain that serenades us each day beginning around 11AM, and I added some Cosmos to an open spot until Sue returns.

Ina’s recent visit was evident in the perfectly coiffed white white roses…

and in the Cottage Garden where she has masterfully matched silvers, greens and muted colors with shades of grey.

Maria continued staking the monster sunflowers which just keep growing. While my back was turned, she started another project – lowering the sundial to be flush with the ground so flat stones can surround it. Luckily, two of our other volunteers came by and made the mistake of asking how they could help. They were quickly put to work digging! Thanks Peggy and Steve.

Errant tree branches were pruned and dead rose blossoms removed; Jody’s garden was weeded and the African Iris she contributed found a home in the Willow Garden. The entryway was weed whacked into some semblance of order, and the orchard trees deep-watered as we do weekly now.

But the best part of the day were the many dog walkers who visited us with Bailey…

Sonic (read about this ball-loving, part Chesapeake Bay Retriever boy here):

And Donna (a terrible name for a dog, and not a Golden at all – but she found her way here thanks to the big heart of the woman who rescued her. Read about her here.)

Sundays at Homeward Bound. Dogs. Gardens. What could be better? Thanks for stopping by.

When You Are Ready

This was recently posted on Homeward Bound’s Facebook page from the Petco Foundation. Wonderful advice to those who have lost a beloved friend and think they will never have room in their hearts for another.

We don’t know what life brings. Some are long, and some too short. But each has its own beauty, and leaves its own lasting impression.

The Homeward Bound Memorial Garden is dedicated to the golden companions we have loved. In it grow these spectacular Daylilies. Each blooms for only one day – but what a spectacular day it is.

Daylilies obviously can’t be compared to the dogs we love, but you get where this is going. Would we decide not to plant them knowing they had only one day to share with us? Or not enjoy the blooms that followed? Never.

When you are ready, there is always room to love and enjoy another.

Help Name Our Snake

Since this gentleman has apparently taken up permanent residence in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, it is only fitting that we name him.



I understand that he is a Striped Racer, non-venomous, but likely to strike if captured.

Heads up to our resident lizard: he has a preference for your type. If you are missing and the snake looks fat…well, we know what happened.

Please offer your name suggestions as a comment. We’ll poll the results to determine the winner!