To Rule A Garden…Or More

“Anybody who wants to rule the world should try to rule a garden first.” ~ Author Unknown

I found this unattributed quote and it struck me as true. Nothing humbles like a garden – a tiny microcosm of the world where distinct forces work best in harmony, but are sometimes pushed into doing battle for survival and the chance to ensure future generations.

I’m not really sure that anyone ever rules the garden; to assume so would tempt Mother Nature’s scorn. But to tame and transform a garden calls upon many of the same qualities required of great leaders.

1. Collaboration
A successful garden requires a close union with nature. To be truly connected to the earth demands a genuine interest and care for the welfare of all who live there: the flowers and trees, the birds, bees, butterflies, and tiny toads. Each has a role in the lasting success of the garden. Learn to live and work together.

2. Vision
A gardener must be practical and grounded – making the best of what they have been dealt in wind, water, temperature, and soil. But a gardener also keeps one boot firmly planted in the future – looking seasons ahead in decisions about where to plant sun and shade, laying a good foundation with well-nourished soil, and considering the needs of all for space, habitat, and life essentials.

3. Observant
Mother Nature will not be controlled. But by studying with patience and watchfulness, she will share her lessons. A gardener earns her respect by being gracious and persuasive, but never controlling.

4. Empathy and Tolerance
We share our gardens with countless creatures – each simply going about the business of living their lives, feeding their families, and ensuring their survival.

This is their home, too. Share with empathy, compassion, and an appreciation for their unique contributions to the garden.

5. Innovative
A gardener’s failures are many. Learn to accept them with grace. To succeed means to be a perpetual student, tester, and inventor. What you can’t renew: transform. For the things you can’t (or shouldn’t) change: learn to adapt.

6. Ethical
We have but one earth. Treat it with care. Make sustainable choices and live by the motto: do no harm. The passerby in awe of that oversized, out-of-season flower does not know – but the earth does and carries any lie.

7. Passionate
A garden is built of passion and purpose reflecting the heart of the gardener who is blessed to work and walk among its inhabitants.

Without passion, a garden is merely a chore. Be motivated by passion, but lead with humility.

Hope for the Monarchs


From threatened to signs of rebounding. Three to four times the number of monarch butterflies are expected to reach their wintering grounds in central Mexico this year.

The population has been in decline, as pesticides have destroyed the milkweed that they feed on, and illegal logging has reduced their pine forest canopy blanket where they over-winter.

Through education, people are reintroducing milkweed, both by planting and designating pesticide-free areas. In Mexico, illegal logging is being shut down. And the monarchs are returning.


They are not out of the woods yet. At their height, they covered more than 44 acres in their winter home. Even at their increased rate of return, they will only cover a fraction of that. But there is hope that they will reach nearly 15 acres in the Mexican reserves by 2020 – with our continued help.


The passion for saving them is far-reaching. People have been asked to help all along their migration path. Nearly every child who visited our garden this summer asked if we had planted food for them. We did!


Butterflies don’t recognize country boundaries or human differences – they depend on our help and cooperation across a continent to restore what we nearly destroyed altogether.


It’s amazing what we can accomplish when people come together.

Imagine what would happen if humankind cared for each other as we care for the monarchs.

Happiness alights

Gulf Frit_Butterfly_DSC_0061

The garden is aflutter with butterflies. The Monarchs…the White Cabbage…and Fiery Skipper…


and the Gulf fritillary or passion butterfly.


Usually these Gulf Frits can be found gorging on the Lantana and verbena…

Gulf Frit_Butterfly_DSC_0082

but this weekend, it’s all about the passion-flower.


This is where they will lay their eggs – because their larva feeds exclusively on the passion-flower vine that covers our arbor.

Gulf Frit_Passionflower_DSC_0284
Gulf Frit_Passionflower_DSC_0249

Before long, there will be spiny caterpillars covering the arbor…the beginning of the transformation from larva to winged beauty.

Gulf Frit_Passionflower_DSC_0253

But more than butterfly transformations are underway here.

Abigale was picked up as a stray on the 4th of July. No one ever claimed her from the shelter, which may have been just as well. Overweight, covered in mats with a brewing infection on her underside, she was likely a neglected outdoor dog.


So frightened was she by her ordeal, we couldn’t even go near her to put on a collar. For her first week, she stayed outside in a covered yard refusing to allow anyone near her.


Gradually, our volunteers made their way to her side, and gradually, she came to trust them. Which is how we learned that she loved balls, and water, and kids, and other dogs. This weekend, Abigale found her way to her forever home…a family that could always be counted on to come looking for her if she ever got lost.

_abigale_Going Home

But the most dramatic transformation was in the fortunes of Caitlyn.


Her cauliflower ear and these words in her file: “removed from her home for her own safety” – say it all. She was checked out of the shelter as a boy. But a thorough exam and bath later, we discovered their error. Thus the name Caitlyn.


This malnourished, teddy-bear-faced GIRL had obviously been through a lot. Amazingly, her disposition remained forgiving and loving.


She went home this week as a foster with one of our long-time volunteers.


By all accounts, things are going wonderfully and we are crossing our paws that she will be reclassified soon as a “foster-failure.”

Neither Abigale nor Caitlyn probably ever knew that their new-found happiness was possible.


“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

What a joy for us to be a tiny part of it.


“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

Gulf Frit_Butterfly_DSC_4569

Happy sunshine, Abigale and Caitlyn.

Thanks to photographer, Rob Kessel for lending some photos of Abigale and Caitlyn.

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,

Roxie Going Home_DSC_9985


Marcus_Going Home_Crop_DSC_0108


Red_Going Home_DSC_0088


Mufasa_Going Home_DSC_0076



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.

Why Heaven Made Dogs

“If Heaven made him — earth can find some use for him.” ~ Chinese Proverb


As our garden matures, it has found purpose beyond beauty. Our compost now makes soil. Our passion vine feeds caterpillars –


that turn into beautiful Gulf Fritillary butterflies.


Nature has a way of creating purposeful pairs…Monarchs and their symbiotic relationship with Butterfly Weed;


Birds and their perches;


Lizards and turtles?


Apparently in our garden – if no where else. Spring needs Fall;


Bees need flowers;


And dogs need homes. Among others, Daphne and Delilah found theirs together this weekend…


And Indy, too.


And why did heaven make dogs?


“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog; it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.” ~ E. Jong

Doing our Part

Our garden not only provides a welcome place for rescued dogs – it supports them through donations for commemorative bricks in our Memorial Garden Path and plaques on our Garden Wall.

This is Sally.


This young, puppy-faced dog has already had a lifetime of breeding. Those days are over. Pampering and TLC are our orders for her moving forward.


But pups are not the only creatures helped by our garden.

Monarch butterflies have a symbiotic relationship with Milkweed – their host plant.


A female monarch lays its eggs on a sprouted milkweed plant. The eggs hatch in four to five days producing tiny yellow, black and white banded caterpillars which feed solely on Milkweed. After three weeks of voracious munching, the caterpillar enters the pupa stage and gradually changes into an emerald-green case ringed with golden dots. After five weeks old, the transformation is complete and it emerges as a butterfly.


Two or more summer generations might be produced in the North before the migration begins for over-wintering in the South. Their principal winter vacation spot is Mexico, with some finding warm refuge in Florida, Cuba or Southern California.


Today, Monarchs are disappearing in huge numbers. Their habitat is being lost due to development, overuse of herbicides, climate change and roadside clearing programs. Once common, this beautiful butterfly is on the verge of collapse. We can all help by creating Milkweed “way stations” – which is exactly what we have done in the Memorial Garden.


While it is a perennial, hardy for zones 3-9 – the Milkweed we planted last year did not reappear. So we reinvested and have installed a couple dozen more plants in small patches throughout the garden.


The brilliant Gulf Fritillary, which flourished in our area until the 1960’s actually became extinct in our region.


For reasons unexplained, it made a reappearance around the year 2000. Its host plant is the Passionflower vine – which graces one of the entries to our garden.


The Gulf Frit has a particular taste for the nectar of Lantana, Mexican Sunflower and apparently, Verbena.


It’s no surprise that it has found a welcome home here.


And then there are the bees. Colony collapse is threatening honey bees everywhere. Honey bee pollination is critical for tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables. The loss of Honey bees threatens crop production and other species who depend on it as well.


There are many theories surrounding the cause of the disappearing bees, but little certainty. We can support them now by improving their health and habitat – and reducing the things known to be hazardous to both. Give up or severely limit the use of pesticides. If you must use them – avoid applying during mid-day hours, when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar and pollen on flowering plants.


Plant bee-friendly plants – those that are good sources of nectar and pollen such as bee balm, coneflower, goldenrod, aster, borage and sunflower.


Finally, there are those that we unintentionally support in the garden. Bunnies, lizards, snakes and birds are welcome guests – as long as they keep a respectable distance or don’t eat more than their share. The birds – which have been knocking off the grapes and gobbling them up – may be pushing their luck this year.


They better watch out. I bet we can find some bird-dogs around here somewhere!


“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 –

Taiwan 6_DSC_2195

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


Garden Ballet


Monarch Butterflies are doing dances all through the butterfly bed in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. We have created a haven for them with Butterfly Bush, Milkweed, Lantana, Verbena and a host of others.


As long as they stay still, I can pretty much capture them.


In flight – not so much.


I was able to capture the dance of this rare specimen, however. Quite the ballet – don’t you think?










Take a bow, Dee Dee! Such a cutie.


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!