I was quite touched by Gail's post this week, in which she tells us what she really wants is "A group of gardening friends who would be willing to grab their pruners, gloves, sloggers and perennial diggers to help each other with projects."
And I felt very lucky because I know I can count on my friend Country Mouse up in the hills, and she can count on me, to help out. Now, unfortunately, we do live 40 miles from each other, but that makes any visit a special treat. Take last president's day.
I drove up the winding road to, and was immediately struck by the amazing new stone stairs, which I'd only seen on the blog.
When I got out of the car, I was welcomed by Duncan the rat terrier, who tried to tell me he had made those stone stairs all by himself. Ms. Country Mouse and Mr. Wood Rat were, as usual, busy with multiple projects, but I had been expected so my friend let chores be chores and we took a stroll through the gardens. It was amazing....
Down here in the rain shadow of the mountains and with the neighbor's redwoods blocking the sun not much is blooming. But Country Mouse gets more rain and more sun and her Ceanothus had started in earnest (click the photo to see the beautiful leaves, and the contrast between the pinkish buds and blue flowers).
The California manroot (Marah fabaceus) is a welcome guest in this wildlife garden, though it does at times get out of hand. But just look at those beautiful flowers - in mid-February!
I loved the little caterpillar. My garden is on a 10000 square foot lot, surrounded by pesticide-loving mow-and-blow gardeners, so caterpillars -- and the butterflies to go along -- have as yet been just a dream.
But there was more! On the steep slope, the locally native manzanita was in full bloom, and the structural stems contrasted beautifully with the green leaves.
Back on the other side of the driveway, large clusters of Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' blossoms draped over the hummingbird bird bath.
And the wildlife viewing garden put on the best show. California redbud was just opening up, with Ribes speciosum (California gooseberry) in the background.
Ribes aureum snaking though the garden (mine are still brown twigs). Ha! Anyone could make beautiful photos here -- Ooops, I did get a little too excited maybe, but it was just intoxicating to see the abundance of flowers.
After our stroll through the gardens, we made a cup of tea and sat down enjoying the view, petting Duncan, and contemplating the next project. We have very different approaches to design, so it was fun to bounce ideas of each other.
Much too soon, I felt drawn back to home and my own garden, which is very much in need of work. But before I left, Ms. Country Mouse took me to the greenhouse, offering wonderful gifts. "What would you like?" she said. "Please, take a few more, I have plenty!" I could not believe the rows upon rows of healthy plants, lush and green. And yes, I did take a few more. I drove home with 5 Heuchera, 5 monkey flowers, and 3 Eriogonum, all locally native in the hills at the Country Mouse garden and propagated from seed.
With the plants safely in the trunk of our plug-in Prius, I drove home humming to myself and planning the perfect spot for each of the plants. But the greatest gift was having a friend up in the hills, for a cup of tea, a chat, and maybe even some gardening help.