“The butterfly is a flying flower,
The flower a tethered butterfly.” ~ Ponce Denis Écouchard Lebrun


Butterflies appear like flying petals flitting through the air. So beautiful – we forget the transformation required to achieve that beauty. From cocoon to caterpillar – their beginnings are far more humble.


“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” ~ Richard Buckminster Fuller

We chuckle when people meet their perfect pup at Homeward Bound and think the dog was always so. Sometimes that is the case. But more often than not, a transformation is required – to deal with medical concerns –

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or socialization needs, and sometimes, behavioral challenges in order for them to be their perfect selves.



This class is nearly ready for graduation. Test day is rapidly approaching and, from the looks of things, they should do just fine!


Gardens also require – as they say – equal measure of inspiration and perspiration. But we are reveling in our third season and the transformation that continues to unfold.

The Rose Garden.


The Cottage Garden.


The Fragrant Garden.


The Perennial Garden.


The Hummingbird Garden.


The Entry Arbor.


“Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.” ~ Jeffrey Glassberg


Sunshine, Freedom, and a Little Flower

A perfect long weekend starts early with the afternoon off and a sneak trip to the garden.

The Hummingbird Garden with Veronica, Coreopsis and Asiatic Lily in bloom….


The Cottage Garden, freshly tamed. Ina has been here!


The Butterfly Garden, filling in at a rapid rate. I saw a Monarch today, but it got away!



The Dahlias, making their way skyward…


Maria’s Garden, a jumble of color awaiting the Sunflowers arrival…


Darn bunnies burrowing beneath the blueberries…


And visitors. A lizard with a keen sense of irony…


And Pelican Bay. Taking up residence in the flooded rice fields.


“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
~ Hans Christian Anderson

(I’ll be back tomorrow.) 🙂

Hummingbird Cloaking Device: Me

OK. I’m an idiot.
The elusive Hummingbird finally made an appearance at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden this weekend, and I pretty much blew the photo opportunity.

Turns out he really does love the bed we planted for him, full of Russian Sage, Scarlet Bugler Penstemon and Blue Salvia. There are plenty of treasures in there for the butterflies as well.

I spotted him while taking a break under the shade of the pear trees. And that’s probably the problem…”under the shade”. The Hummingbird was drinking up the Russian Sage in full sun, and I was in full shade. Doh!

I set the camera to shutter-priority to catch his rapid movement, but did not adjust the ISO or Aperture to allow enough light. Amateur! Then I happily snapped a good 50 pictures in rapid-fire succession. Rule #1 ignored; check your shot. I ran to show Maria my prize – and saw only darkness in the viewfinder.

I could have set the camera to Auto. I could have walked out into the sunshine. But no.

Photoshop was created for pretend photographers like me.

In Photoshop I adjusted the levels and tone…and while the image is not what I intended, it is kind of ethereal and seems almost fitting given the bird’s iridescent feathers.

I swear this bird has magical cloaking powers, buzzing around – heard, but unseen all summer – and now this mishap.

He did make a quick return, allowing me to capture just a couple of quick shots…in the sun!

So there you have it. Lesson learned. At least I didn’t forget to put the memory card in.

The Garden Rules

I like this: “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”  ~H. Fred Dale

I came across these “Top 10 Gardening Mistakes” recently and thought it would be fun to see how we stacked up in our first year effort at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden?

Mistake 1: Planting a Garden in the Wrong Spot

There’s nothing wrong with our garden spot. In fact, the land was probably flooded many times before the levies were built, leaving soil rich in clay and silt which we added amendments to. While young trees will eventually lend more shade, the plants thrive here in the full sun.  I heard that The Memorial Garden was once known as the dumping spot for the property. No more! And besides…we’re surrounded by Golden Retrievers! There couldn’t be a better spot for a garden.

Mistake 2: Accidentally Pulling Up Flowers Instead of Weeds

Yup. The rule of thumb is: if it removes easily, it is probably not a weed. You usually know that right after it has been lifted! I also purposefully planted “weeds” to attract butterflies. See the previous post What Is A Weed on Milkweed and Monarch Butterflies.

Mistake 3: Not Preparing the Soil

Not guilty. Maybe overly ‘not guilty’. In removing waist-high weeds to uncover garden beds, we turned a lot of soil and added amendments. Ina, our resident Master Gardener, suggested a more measured approach; digging amendments only into the spot you want to plant, and smothering surrounding weeds in mulch. She argues that turned weeds in newly enriched soil have a perfect environment for sprouting. She applied her approach to the nearly maintenance-free Cottage Garden. Good lesson.

Mistake 4: Overwatering

Check. But only for a few plants that were misplaced for their surroundings. Most of the garden is on sprinklers instead of drip. Not ideal – but it was the most practical approach. So we have to be thoughtful about plant positions. There was a little trial and error involved in the first year. A couple have been sacrificed along the way.

Mistake 5: Planting an Invasive Variety

Guilty, I think. I could not resist planting some California Poppies. If they reseed profusely, the other gardeners will be cursing me next fall. But aren’t they lovely?!

Mistake 6: Not Taking Wildlife Into Account

We were warned. We figured out how to co-exist with the Killdeer birds that lay their eggs in the beds;

and we made peace with the snake (who has been absent of late),

but the bunnies have occasionally gotten the better of us.

Thankfully, things grow so abundantly in the garden that we can spare some extras. But do they have to eat the herbs right down to the plant base? Moderation, please, little bunnies!

Mistake 7: Not Giving Plants Enough Sun

Definitely not guilty. Our garden was made for sun-lovers. Three years from now, when the many trees mature, things will look very different and we’ll have a lot of re-arranging to do. I can’t wait to find spots for Hydrangeas, Astilbe, New Guinea Impatiens, and Fuschias!

Mistake 8: Spreading Too Many Seeds

Maria. Sunflowers?

Enough said.

Mistake 9: Using Too Much Pesticide

Mulch is our best friend. It keeps out the weeds, and keeps in the moisture. We went through tons of it. For our garden, we found that shredded bark worked best. Light enough to layer on thick, but still workable. Next year, we might want to just truck it in.

Mistake 10: Planting Too Close Together

So Guilty! In fairness, nothing I have every grown in this Sacramento Valley has grown as profusely as it does in this garden. The verbena, marigolds and petunias in the bed above were started from a couple of six-packs. Sue was worried that they would never fill in. Surprise.

Same with the Hummingbird garden above. The rule of spacing plants at one half their expected height was followed; their expected height was just really misjudged. As a result, we’ll merge these two beds this fall, giving ample room to all.

And here are two more rules for good measure:

Mistake 11: Clumps of many different plants are less attractive than larger groups of fewer plants:

Says who?

And finally,

Mistake 12: Don’t put the brightest colors at the end of the border which will lead the eye right out of the garden.

Point taken. We will try to remember that in the coming year, thank you!

What the Garden Attracts

You know the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden is getting better by the sheer volume of visitors we are getting now – two legged and four.

Vonnie and Randy were out early to tend to their Butterfly bed. Vonnie has a new rule which is my favorite: “Come out to do your garden, and work on two others as well.” After weeding and dead-heading their bed, they weeded the Tree Circles and part of Jody’s bed.

We have seen many white butterflies, but few of color or spectacular display. Bemoaning their absence, Vonnie and Randy installed two solar cousins along with the ornament that already graced the garden.

The additions apparently established a welcoming tone – attracting the real thing later in the day.

Pat joined us early as well. She is a dog-walker volunteer who took a shine to our project, and graciously offered to help out. After a walk-through, she graciously weeded Sue’s Grandma’s Garden bed.

Maria arrived mid-morning with a long to-do list. Top priority was leveling some of the settled stones, and planting more of the Elfin Thyme.

What awaited in her Sunflower bed was a grand surprise; a gigantic sunflower measuring a foot across!

A family was getting acquainted with Raffy as a possible adoption. I’ll need to update you later on the status, but they certainly looked good together!

Peggy and Steve came to work on their Iris Bed, installing a scarecrow, and a string of fun dog toys. We hope the scarecrow will send a message to the finches. If the dog toys disappear, I don’t think we’ll be able to blame the rabbits!

In keeping with Vonnie’s new rule, they pitched in on multiple projects; dead-heading the roses, pulling crab grass from the Willow Garden, more weeding of Jody’s bed, and help with the stones and thyme planting. Being a guy, clippers and trowels were not enough for Steve, who quickly wielded an ax on some troublesome roots. When we last left him, he was using the ax to weed. It’s a guy thing.

We had more four-legged visitors than I can remember or had a chance to write down. Mosh and Marie (read their story here)…

Judy with Cisco…

And these Golden beauties:

Trishkin was our last visitor. He is a Sanctuary dog – which means that due to his health issues, he will have a forever home at Homeward Bound. Such a sweetie.

It’s been a long time since we had so many hands at one time in the garden – not to mention paws. We got so much done, that I was actually able to spend time in the Perennial and Hummingbird beds for a change.

There is an old Spanish proverb which says: “More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows.” That was certainly true at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today.

Thanks to everyone for pitched in or stopped by. It’s great to see you in the Gardens.

Bunnies Be Gone

We are being overrun with rabbits.

Baby bunnies were everywhere I looked tonight at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

Three of the running across the empty dog pens. Two of them fearlessly hanging out in the open garden.

One of them built a luxury condo in my Hummingbird Garden Bed.

And earlier this week, they feasted on Maria’s Herb Garden decimating one entire end.

Maybe a couple of the Homeward Bound rescued Golden Retrievers would like to camp out with me in the garden one evening for a little bunny surprise!!

Too many bunnies.