The Return of the Ninja Gardeners

A few brave roses somehow survived frost, hail, and cold and were still attempting to put on a show on a foggy Friday. Such is gardening in Northern California.

But the arrival of crocuses and narcissus signal – it’s time for the roses to go.

Our gardeners are like ninjas; rarely seen – but they leave a trail of weeded and dead-headed beds behind as evidence of their stealth powers. Once a year, I am able to wrangle them together for our annual rose pruning day.

Ina and Dee cheated and snuck in a little early – graciously lightening our load a bit.

I think Ina was afraid that if she did not tackle the iceberg roses personally, we would see a repeat of this summer photo.

Still, with nearly 100 roses, the advance team was appreciated. There was plenty left to tackle. Arriving early on Saturday, we managed to complete all by mid afternoon, despite the impossible distraction of puppies in the yard next door!

And thanks to our ninja hauler – not a trace of clippings was left behind.

Wrangling the group for a photo is a whole different challenge. I have yet to capture the illusive Dee on camera, but the rest of them did not escape my lens – and that includes Nala, our gardening companion for the day.

Thank you gracious gardeners, for another successful prune day. Spring cannot be far away!

And Toto Too


We prune to encourage new growth in the spring. It’s an art and a science. And while roses are pretty resilient, you still take great care because, sometimes, you can go too far.

In December, odd couple Cody and Rusty arrived. We nicknamed Rusty, Toto, for his resemblance to Dorothy’s little friend.


Rusty is 7; Cody 10.

Cody portrait graciously loaned by Rob Kessel

Surrendered when the wife developed allergies, they were inseparable. It was easy to know. On the rare occasion that they were briefly apart, Rusty let out blood-curdling screams that sent all of us running to investigate.

We work very hard to keep bonded pairs together. Like our mud-covered friends, Toby and Noel who went home together this weekend.


Still, the odds of finding one home for this mismatched pair were slim – to none? When a family fell in love with little Rusty, we reluctantly gave our OK, knowing that it would dramatically improve Cody’s odds. As it did. He was adopted very shortly after.

But then Rusty came back. He was miserable without his buddy and screeching for him incessantly. When a call was placed to Cody’s new family to inquire – might they, would they, could they be interested in adopting Rusty, too? – the response was “actually, we’re not sure Cody is such a great fit, either. Maybe they should be together.”

Cody was returned Saturday morning – rejoined with his beloved Rusty to squeals of joy. We had pruned too far.

Nature knows what is needed. You just have to use care and have faith. Which is why, not a half hour after Cody was returned, a wonderful couple arrived in search of a pair; a Golden, and a lap dog. What are the odds? They said ‘yes’ to Cody…and Toto, too!


While their new family grew larger, our roses grew smaller.


Six gardeners with clippers and one relentless man with a wheelbarrow managed to prune over 100 roses in the Memorial Garden.


And just in the nick of time. The Daffodils, Hyacinth, Narcissus and Rosemary signal: spring is near.


But Cody and Rusty could have told you that. Their new season has already arrived. Happy lives, you two!

Winter Gathered


Jody and I had a rose pruning session in the (very cold) garden this morning. You’ll recall that we shared a grape pruning session recently.


I think she was pretending inexperience with roses (showing up with manual in hand) just to have an excuse to play in the garden. She took to it immediately, quickly pruning all of the tea roses in her bed. We did a quick lesson on one of the shrub roses growing along the fence, which we will not take back as far. Her instructions are to finish all 21 along the fence perimeter within the next two weeks.


I have been drafted for some marketing help for Homeward Bound (see what happens when you start a blog?) As a result, I spent a good part of my day capturing photos of dogs whose stories will appear in our newsletter and upcoming campaign. Spoiler alert: This is Maggie – she literally saved her Dad’s life. I will bring you the story as soon as it is published.


Cody, Lincoln, and Nicholas will all be featured in our campaign, “Fund of Love” which provides the support needed for up to $300,000 in extraordinary medical expenses that we incur each year.


And this is Rusty and Ginger – a beautiful pair, currently being fostered and in search of their forever home.


Somehow, I managed to get to the rest of the tea roses today; fifteen, I believe. I lost count. This very hungry bee was not happy with my work, clinging to a frost-bitten rose in the pile of clippings – and despairing about the branches left bare.


“Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger.” ~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

Nature may be cold and bare in the winter, but we have Golden warmth gathered in our hearts.