Birds in the garden

June 15, What a glorious morning! Tony and I were drinking our coffee looking out the window and spotted birds in a rosebush. Binoculars showed they were fluffy young orioles. We had spotted their well hidden nest in a banana leaf and were pleased to see the babies had hatched.

Moving outdoors, we next spotted a mother quail warming her chicks under her wings. We watched until mama and papa quail led their scurrying flock of babies away – more numerous than we could count, two dozen?

We checked on the towhee nesting in the center of a tree fern. She was still sitting on her nest. Birds were twittering in the garden and we were delighted to share the magic of new bird life. We had been gone for the month of May leaving the garden as an undisturbed sanctuary for the birds. Before we left, we had three hummingbird feeders that were active morning and night with several birds at a time. By May there are plenty of flowers. We filled the feeders when we returned, but the hummingbirds have ignored them, content to find their own flowers.

This is the biggest crop of cherries ever produced on our Stella cherry tree. Usually the robins eat them all. This year they seemed so interested in eating the berries on an enormous fuchsia called Lechland Gourgon that the cherries were left alone.

Bronze on Gold or Name That Garden

We don’t have a name for our garden as a whole, perhaps “Bronze on Gold” to combine our last names (Br and onze) and address.

Visitors often ask the size of the garden, surprised to learn that it is a scant acre. We name bits and pieces of it to make it easier to describe locations.

The area around the mailbox has recently been planted with dwarf conifers. Naturally, that southeast corner has become our Pacific Northwest garden.

Beyond the Pacific Northwest is the Rhododendron Garden for obvious reasons.

The Horseshoe is the section along the road between the ins and outs of the semi-circular driveway. A juniper hedge lines the street; a myrtle hedge has been newly planted facing the house. A path meanders through the middle.

The Entry Garden surrounds the front door, of course.

Through the side fence is the Zen Garden with shade, a few azaleas and a ground cover of baby tears.

Tucked behind the Guest House is our Herb Garden which is currently in the throes of reconstruction.

The Pool Garden wraps around the seldom used swimming pool.

Named for its dominant tree is the Olive Mound

The Sedum Garden is waiting for a staircase to the treehouse before the planting can be completed.  Entry has been through a hole in the floor via a steep ladder.

Another mound is the New Zealand garden which includes a few immigrants.

The North Garden is hopefully a temporary name for a newly planted area that gets more sun than its name implies.

Tony’s Experimental Garden contains a collection of oddities that may or may not acclimate to life in Sebastopol.

The Orchard is becoming more ornamental as it transitions from a purely productive space.

The White Garden is a miniscule space, small enough to enforce the “whites only” theme (not in a racist sense).

The Digging Dog garden is composed mainly of plants from a nursery of that name. It was planned to be a red and purple garden inspired by The Old Vicarage in East Ruston, UK. The occasional yellow and white flower keeps the theme from being obvious.

A bit larger flower garden was dug out, lined with stainless steel gopher “proof” wire and planted for a Cutting Garden although a Cottage Garden might be more accurate.

The cleverly named Vegetable Garden:

And finally, the final home of plants that are no longer loved, or thrive on neglect — The Alley aka Trail’s End.


Escallonia, part 1

The pool was installed before we bought the house. There was an enormous hedge of escallonia on two sides, for privacy and a windbreak, presumably.

Aging Escallonia

The prior owners pruned the escallonia by laying plywood on top of the 12 foot high hedge and pruning side to side and back and forth over its 50 foot length. Do not try this at home. Recently (circa 2013) sections of escallonia were dying. We declared it unsalvageable and, with help from Graton day laborers and a friend, removal started, roots were dug out, wood was chipped and earth re-leveled.

hedge removal

The hedge had been so thick that we didn’t know there was a wooden fence in the middle (nor corrugated plastic under the roots). The oldest plants were closest to the pool and branches had layered to form a second row on the other side of the fence. We decided to save the newer section. It didn’t look too promising, but perhaps it would be faster than establishing new plants.

half a hedge, or less

We covered the bare earth with rice straw for the winter while we thought about landscaping. The poles are potential Italian cypress.

pool with poles

Along with the vertical spikes of Italian cypress, we decided that balls were a theme: balls of boxwood, mounds of euphorbia characias, tufts of festuca, clumps of sedum ‘autumn joy’, and a sculptural sphere.


It all came together when the rocks were added, but that story is told in another post. The escallonia is healthy again. The euphorbia are the stars of spring, the boxwood structures summer and winter, the sedums brighten autumn. . .

Aerial of spheres

and we are content with the rhythm of the four seasons.

Sculpture in the Garden

First there were rocks. From our favorite site along Lake Superior, we found rocks that were carved by nature. Back home, they were polished and shaped and sculpted. This torso, inserted Italian-style into an escallonia hedge, became an early icon of the garden.


An elm piece aligns with the karesansui garden.


When we started re-designing the area around the pool, we went to Cornerstone in Sonoma for inspiration . . . and found it! We saw a massive (2-ton) weathering steel 3D disk, then met the artist Ivan Maclean, and bought “Mother of Re-invention”. He even agreed to deliver and install it, on his way to see his Mom. Days before its arrival, Glenys looked out the window and said, “Tony, I wonder if the sculpture would look better centered in the garden?” And we quickly agreed. The old swing went to a new home.

Old Swing

And the new sculpture arrived:

Ivan's Mother of Re-Invention

And settled into place.

Tony/Glenys Sculpture

Although we never planned to create a sculpture garden, we both were struck by the subtle and pleasing forms Ivan created.  The still unfinished pool area needed a “big rock” and we were intrigued by the moire’ effect of his spheres.  The wide and narrow orientations formed by curved metals gives a gossamer suggestion of solidity.  We both wondered how Ivan’s large spheres were created so visited his workshop in Portland Oregon to see our new “big rock” in creation.

Sculpture #2 in progress

It is made of silicon bronze.  Here it is polished before receiving a patina of verdigris.   We wanted a weathered green color that would embellish with age.

Ivan's Sphere

With some spherical plants to echo the shape and color, the new sphere is settling into the landscape.

Rocks for the garden

Rock bannerWe wanted to include some boulders in our landscape. Our local stone is brown. It’s sedimentary. It’s dull. We visited the local rock and gravel suppliers without finding anything of interest. Tony knew where there was granite that was suitable, but it was all in regions currently covered with snow.

Coincidentally, we were invited to a reunion of cruisemates in southern California. Since we were in the area, we visited Huntington Gardens. The gardens are stunning, and you would be excused for thinking we were interested in the plants. What was our reaction? Nice rocks!

Back home, Tony started phoning for information, looking for granite, learning that the rocks we liked were Gneiss, pronounced “nice”, which made for interesting telephone conversations. (A bit like revealing the location of your favorite fishing hole, there is a big secret regarding the source of rocks.) Eventually, he tracked the rocks at Huntington to a quarry in southern California. We headed south again. And found the objects of our desire at Southwest Boulder.

Rocks at Quarry

On the drive home, my cell phone rang. It was the shipper asking if he could deliver our shipment next morning. No! We weren’t home yet and we needed to rent a forklift! Give us 24 hours.



Two days later:

Rock on loaderPool rocks in place

One might think that would take care of our rock lust. It was only when summer found us enjoying the beauty of Lake Superior that we were struck again by rock fever.

G@MRHarborRocks Lake Superior

We already knew that shipping was an option.

Rocks in rentalShipping Rocks


And soon they arrived at their destination.

Washing Rocks

Little by little, our boulders are settling into the landscape.