“A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever.”

My garden gets very confused this time of year. So do I. Is it fall or summer?  Temperatures can be misleading.
I hate pulling up flowers still enjoying the sunshine, but these old-fashioned zinnias have been going to seed for at least six weeks, as evidenced by all these little seedlings shooting up despite the shorter days.The soil doesn’t  seem to know summer is over!

Just a month ago the zinnias were bright and cheerful, attracting butterflies. I was hoping for Monarchs, but I am happy to welcome any passersby.
Before I brutally ripped the zinnias from their nice warm bed, I salvaged as many seed heads as I thought reasonable, and they can make another appearance in the spring.
But there’s a lot of garden management between now and spring.
British actor Richard Briers said, “A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever.” 
That’s certainly my observation, also, and this time of year I typically lag in gardening interest.
However, fellow bloggers, especially garden enthusiasts, often provide inspiration at just the right time.
If you haven’t yet met, Kevin, let me introduce you to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Man, and “The incredibly true misadventures of a home gardener. “
The NGDM opened his September 18th blog post with the statement, “At this time of year, as the garden tumbles into autumn colors in preparation for its winter sleep, it’s difficult to not search out garden photos — whether of my own garden, the gardens of other bloggers, or especially gardens of the past.”
And that was the advice I needed to hear to get me motivated, too.
I was the lucky recipient of a recent giveaway following NGDM’s  interview of Caroline Ikin, author of an exceptionally well-researched book titled, “The Victorian Garden.”
Victorian Garden Book
This lovely book is full of archival photos and historically rich documentation thoroughly detailing the development of Victorian garden style and artistry, chronicling the shift from structured gardens once exclusive to wealthy estate owners than later influencing the less ostentatious home garden in local towns and villages.
The book follows the history of the Victorian garden from the original formal British structured layouts and includes fascinating information about a later development termed “wild gardening,” a more natural style in response to formal bedding systems.
This book offers so much rich information that although my personal gardening taste is shifting away from formality and isn’t directly patterned with Victorian influences, I was still captivated by the history, and looking at the photos, I couldn’t help but compare many of the British garden estates to some of the grand homes and gardens I admire along Orange Grove Boulevard, in Pasadena, once called Millionaire’s Row.
Many of the early 20th century landmark mansions that line Orange Grove, the starting route for the famed New Year’s Rose Parade, stand as examples of Victorian grandeur, with huge expanses of lawn, very formal gardens, exquisite topiary and garden ornamentation.
Pasadena is often referred to as “Rose City,” particularly due to the historic Rose Parade, but roses, as you might guess, are hardly native to Southern California. So many of the grand estates included very large rose collections in an attempt to follow the fashion of Victorian England. 
Evidence of Victorian garden splendor is abundant in the San Gabriel Valley, despite water shortages and a gradual shift towards native plants and flowers
Another avid rose collector, railroad magnate Henry Huntington, boasted a wealth of beautiful roses on his personal estate.
I  make frequent visits to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden as a study, and also to lap up the beauty and come home with a little bit of inspiration. Maybe I also enjoy the feeling of luxury and a by-gone era.
The roses are a little sad this time of year, but the gardens are still blooming with soft autumn color.

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You may notice that Southern California’s shades of Autumn are more subtle than in other parts of the country. But one color we don’t see is “snow-white.” So I still have several gardening months ahead of me before we move to the splendors of spring.
Thank you, Kevin. I will continue to enjoy “The Victorian Garden” and I’ll be particularly interested in visiting the grand botanical gardens again, looking for Victorian detail I have probably overlooked in the past. 
One more quote: “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.” Rudyard Kipling
Yep! There’s a lot of work left to do.
I’m still sensing that I’ll need all the inspiration I can possibly find!  

74 thoughts on ““A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever.”

  1. That’s one of my favourite pastimes in our chilly winters… looking at various books and magazines, plant and seed catalogues and photos for inspiration. Your zinnia flowers with butterflies on them are inspiring! So many bloggers have praised zinnias this year that I am wondering why I have never grown them, but they are on my list for next year! 😀

    • Zinnias are probably the easiest flower to grow from seed, Cathy. And they are hearty! That’s probably why so many people grow them. And they come in such delightful colors so next year I’d like to plant even more! I do get excited when the seed catalogues come in, but in recent years I’ve mostly bought seeds for vegetable gardening, and I’m beginning to think I’d really enjoy more flowers. Because I’m really concerned about anything requiring too much water I will have to do some investigating, but it is fun to find ways to navigate around gardening complexities! Your wonderful views have really inspired me. I’ll look forward to seeing if next spring you plant some zinnias. 🙂

  2. This was my first year of gardening and I definitely just figured it out as I went… I was lucky because I had some incredibly fertile soil– I had a neighbor’s bamboo dropping years of leaves that went to mulch before I moved in, I think that might be why it was so perfect. My zinnia’s have just started going to seed, which is a bummer but also exciting for next year.

    • How wonderful for you to have early success in your garden! So many times it takes several “disappointments” to figure out what works or doesn’t. You’re right on target with recognizing that soil has so much to do with that success and as experienced as I am, I often forget that myself. I have good soil overall, but it needs amending from time to time because I use up the nutrients! Aren’t zinnias rewarding. Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing your experience. We can all encourage each other in gardening enthusiasm, as we all need beautiful spots where we can refresh ourselves! 🙂

    • I am so glad you enjoyed this post, Fiona. The garden is always a peaceful place, no matter what else is going on! We have a sign on our back gate that says, “Fetterly De-Stressify Zone.” A friend gave it to me, and I love it. Once we’re home, I try to leave as much stress as possible “outside” the gate. And my garden is a good place for me to rest my mind! ox

  3. and as you change to winter via autumn we change to summer via spring… yet somehow seeing your autumn take its toll does not please me ’cause here I don’t see the spring as yet.. yes it is warming up but gardens have still shown no great changes… I fear the season is not starting well for us and a drought might just be around the corner… I hope I’m wrong…

    • Drought is so worrisome! I didn’t really consider that you are facing that threat, but I should have known. We are really heading into a serious California water shortage, too, Rob, and I have my fingers crossed that we’ll see rain this winter, although I’m concerned we may not. I’ll stay positive until that’s no longer possible. And I’ll definitely enjoy your summer photos. I enjoy summer a great deal, and I’m not quite as happy with winter, although that’s not a good way to go through life. LOL! You can keep my spirits buoyed with photos of lots of sunshine, and maybe a few good showers!

    • You will really enjoy Kevin, Marie. He is in New York, and I have learned a lot from him, despite the differences in our climates. He does an excellent job of teaching, and the point is that I not only gain inspiration, but knowledge. I think our gardening interests probably change over time. I don’t have the unlimited stamina I tell myself I once had. LOL! I probably didn’t then either, but I’m more sensible. So I want to enjoy a lovely oasis, but I don’t want to be a slave to it either. Moderation! Even a small patch of something pretty to view can be enough! Good luck with your own efforts. 🙂

  4. I am impressed with the energy, effort and imagination gardeners possess. And highly amazed at the level of knowledge one must have to create and maintain on going gardening. I can’t believe what I don’t know to just get a flower to grow. And I shouldn’t minimize that by saying ‘just’. I love a beautiful garden and am impressed with the efforts of the gardener. Thanks for sharing this beauty (pictures and words).

    • I have always been interested in gardening, but because I’m really dedicating to learning more about natives and drought tolerant plants I have a steep learning curve. I still have very large portions of lawn, rose beds and plants that drink, drink, drink! So I’m evaluating every move I make and this is slow. There are so many wonderfully dedicated gardeners who really know their stuff, and I am so delighted that they blog and share their expertise. In some instances the quality of the sharing is equivalent to taking a gardening course. We are so fortunate! I’m really glad you enjoyed this little post. I think I may share more of my process as time goes by. It keeps me on track to report back! 🙂

  5. Zinnias are old favourites of mine … I think our climates might be similar Debra … they grow well here too … and of course we don’t have snow either so gardening goes all year .. it is so satisfying to save your own seed and see fresh plants popping up in Spring … or winter 🙂

    • I am sure we have such similar climates, Christine. I get so tickled at the similarities, but our opposite seasons amuse me a bit when I’m following along. If I follow the beauty in your photos I can be assured of having four seasons of sunshine and flowers. 🙂 I did grow these zinnias from seed, but I must admit that although many years ago I put more effort into growing from seed, I’ve been very inconsistent. In that regard I have been re-energized, and eager to resume that gardening pleasure. With such a relatively easy climate I really don’t have a good excuse not to! 🙂

    • You’re right about zinnias. They are very hearty! I think you’d do just fine with them. There are many different varieties of zinnias, too, so you might enjoy researching which variety would do best in your area. They grow quickly and easily from seed, and the best thing is that once they grow, they will probably pop up again the following year because the seeds are hearty and easily self-sown! If all else fails, I have seen some really beautiful rock gardens! True works of art. And fool proof! 🙂

  6. well you have reminded me to check the seedheads of my Zinnias! I call that an achievement. And I always find inspiration in both yours and Kevin’s blogs, always something to see and think about no matter what time of year x

    • I’m so glad to hear you know Kevin, Claire. Both you and Kevin have encouraged me to be more deliberate with seeds and cuttings. Long ago I did a lot with seeds, but somewhere along the way I must have grown impatient. I’m returning to that interest and I think it will also provide a more satisfying gardening experience, to anticipate and watch the flowers and plants develop. We cleaned out my portion of the green house this weekend–it is shared with Darwin, and so I am tackling my excuses, too! 🙂

  7. You are meticulously caring for your plants, so I know you are already anticipating next spring. Then again, being in SoCal, you will have green and color all winter … and no cold, snow, and ice!

    I’m reminded about my neighbor. Last weekend I went to talk to him as he was pulling out the Black-Eyed Susans in the front of their home. I comment about his wife being away (at an antique festival) while he’s slaving away. He explains she loves this loves … and I hate them … so this is the therapeutic.

    • Your neighbor’s comment is funny, Frank. I hope his wife anticipated the removal of her Black-Eyed Susan’s! I love that particular flower and need to remember to order some seed for next spring. I’m trying to do more and more from seed to both economize and extend the gardening excitement with anticipation. I really do get some wonderful ideas from fellow bloggers! We are all quite the learning community, aren’t we? 🙂

  8. we are experiencing the same lingering warm weather here, I have been cleaning out clients’ gardens, getting ready for winter, but it is hard to pull up and/or cut back the still pretty annuals and perennials…

    • I’m sure you must feel somewhat like me about the warm weather, Lori? I really don’t relish it being cold or gray, but I’ve been thinking about the garden a bit like my own needs. When summer-like weather moves on it is more natural for me to slow down and rest, too, and every living thing needs rest. So I talked to my zinnias and reminded them I was doing them a favor! I had a very small area to really clean up. It sounds like you are really investing time in assisting your clients! I hope it has been satisfying work. 🙂

  9. Theres a family of Monarch butterflies near where I live, I see them daily, Im gonna tell them that if they ever go to california, to stay at your place 🙂

  10. Thanks for the bit of inspiration. We’re seeing monarchs now on the Monterey Bay, and our seasonal change hasn’t really kicked in yet either. It’s warmer here now than it was in July. I try to keep several small gardens going, but the deer are always munching on them.

    • I’ve seen a couple of Monarchs In the last two weeks, but sadly not too many. I remember the Monarch festival in Monterey and have wondered if the declining population has been evidenced there? We used to visit friends in that area every October and we’d laugh at the heat! If we visited in July it was cold and damp and I froze! It’s such a beautiful area, and I know you appreciate it. I need to visit again soon! Thanks for visiting, Tom.

    • You are so right, Andra. Zinnias are happy flowers. I hated to see them go. They were annuals planted in a bed alongside some really pretty and ornamental succulents. I love the succulents and it’s their time to shine!

  11. Wonderful shots, shares, and thoughts, Debra. We don’t see much in the way of change around here but there’s a slight coolness in the morning and evenings which has been LOVELY.

    Does Darwin get to eat the plants once pulled from the garden?

    • Unfortunately for us, Darwin is a bit picky, Nancy. He will eat grass and certainly likes to nibble on some of the succulents, but that’s where it ends! I’ve even given him some goodies like beet tops or turnip greens and he turns up his finicky nose! He is a very curious fellow! I do wish I had caught on camera the time he was confrontational with Zena’s big beef knuckle treat. The scent must have frightened Darwin and he made a hissing sound, gave it a good head butt and met the challenge head on! It was hilarious!

  12. Dear Debra, in Minnesota i had rock gardens and perennial gardens and vegetable gardens and spent a lot of time weeding and mulching and also simply gazing at beauty unadorned. But here in Missouri I’ve planted only a shrub garden–which gives the home “curb appeal” as the realtors say. The garden needs weeks each spring and another layer of mulch, but it has thrived this summer because we’ve had more rain and I’ve been assiduous about watering it.

    Next year, I hope to do some raised gardening in the back yard. Square-foot gardening for the vegetables interspersed with perennial and some annuals. I know that you have lots to do and that gardening takes a lot of time and energy, but right now I find myself longing for a chance–next year–to dig my fingers into dirt and to create a garden where flowers and vegetables and, yes, a shrub or two can party. Peace.

    • I think the thing that keeps me coming back to gardening is the hard work does pay off! I can’t always spend as much time as I’d like with the maintenance levels, Dee, and when I get too far behind the chores I feel overwhelmed, and that discourages me. But the secret, I’m certain, is keeping up with the weeds and remembering to even enjoy that tedious chore. I can do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds, once I make my mind up to get out there and have at it! 🙂 I think it would be really a nice change for you to be back outdoors next spring getting your hands in the earth, Dee. We tend to spend so much time at our computers and being tied to technology. I’m not ready to move on from that, but I think gardening adds a wonderful balance. I’ll look forward to next spring and perhaps you’ll share some photos of your progress. ox

  13. Hey Debra. Just catching up and I wanted to thank you for the mention in your post. 🙂 I truly enjoy your writing, your view on life, and your photos. And just like the name says, each time I visit, I find myself breathing lighter.

  14. Your photos are gorgeous! I so miss growing a real garden. We live at 7000 feet with lots of deer and rocky soil. While it is beautiful, I do miss the meditation I used to find in gardening. Thank you for the lovely walk down the garden path!

  15. Gardens are gorgeous & I’m looking forward to see what I can plant next year … but this year I learned to appreciate even the “weed gardens”! Dandelions, Wild violets, Sunflowers … it’s funny that from state-to-state weeds change, but they grow without care or love. We love them regardless, pick them, and display them as can centerpieces even when they are weeds. Next year I plan on appreciating planted gardens, instead of the wild weeds that grow without help!:) At least we can all appreciate nature! Now it’s time to pick up the colored leaves as they fall from the trees and examine how beautiful seasons change. Autumn is my favorite season! Take care and stay safe, Edie

  16. Photos of the Botanical Garden are beautiful, Debra. The place must be spectacular to see in person, no matter the season. Although there arel flowers still in bloom here, they’ve all got that tired look, like they stayed too long at the fair. A killing frost is forecast for next week and, if it comes, it will put an end to many of them. Unlike you, once the cold weather and snow comes, our gardening stops and our energies are diverted elsewhere. I have to admit, though, I’d rather spread mulch than clear snow. 🙂

  17. This post is compost for my dirt impacted fingernails, Debra. I loved spending some time at Nitty Gritty . . . and have bookmarked it for another day’s exploring, and I know I’ll enjoy perusing “The Victorian Garden” along the way.
    It was this time of year, though about 10 years ago, that I visited the Huntington with Katy when she was in Pasadena. We spent a great deal of time in the rose garden, which was still blushing in bloom, and she sometimes remembers. I had her close her eyes and smell one of the roses, telling her that forever more when she caught that scent she would remember me and the day.

    Everything is sad and tired here, now. The cool temperatures have had their way with most of the annuals, but, a few of the perennials are hanging on. A hard frost will be here soon.

    In-the-meantime – leaves, and leaves, and more leaves have fallen.

    I enjoyed this, Debra.

  18. I would love a beautiful garden. I agree with that quote – it’s so accurate. You have some very pretty flowers and awesome colours growing in your garden – long may they last! xx

  19. It so interesting to read about California’s gardening challenges and growing seasons that are so different from Alberta, Canada. Later today I will be doing the final gardening preparation for winter. That means slow watering the trees and laying down some more mulch to protect the perennials. It is now dipping below freezing during the night so the annuals have died off. The grass is still green but has stopped growing. The leaves have turned and are starting to fall off. After this I won’t be doing anything in the garden till spring. Do you have to tend to the garden in some way all year? Just wondering. ~Thea

    • We do have gardening responsibilities all year long, Thea. Things slow down in the winter, but if we don’t get rain, which is typical, we do still need to water and then of course, weeds also slow down, but they don’t go away. Usually about this time of year, though, we let a lot go, and I just look the other way for a while. We get so busy from now until the end of the year that it’s hard to stay motivated. I need a little break, too! 🙂

  20. I am not much of a gardener, there simply isn’t enough time for everything. I am sure it’s a lot of work to keep a beautiful garden, but then anything that is fun and satisfying is worth some work and effort, no? You garden does look beautiful with some really pretty flowers, judging by the photos.

    • I frequently tell my daughter that she should come and take the house and we’ll take their condo! I do love our garden, but you’re so right about the amount of work, and sometimes it is too much for me, too! (and not getting any easier!)

  21. Sorry you didn’t view any Monarchs. I know that the larvae of monarch butterflies eat milkweed and I remember viewing monarchs near Eucalyptus trees when they were migrating south. Hope you view one soon! Happy Nesting!

  22. You have a lovely blog – so enjoyed the pictures. Our plants are waking from their extreme heat induced sleep and will grow and bloom for a bit – which the migrating hummingbirds and monarchs do appreciate as they need a bit of a rest before traveling on

  23. What beautiful photographs you’ve got here today.. I love those butterfles, just so stunning with all their colors! I, too, appreciate a formal garden, but my own ideas tend to run to a more rambling style as well. Kind of an English garden gone wild:)

  24. I might have to look out for that book for my husband’s Christmas present, Debbie. He’s an avid reader and it might just keep him occupied through Boxing Day when he gets restless. (oh, no! that’s me 🙂 )

    • The Victorian Garden is a wonderful book. I wasn’t exaggerating one bit on the author’s diligent research. I learned so much! I really do hope you might consider it for your husband. Reading or planning a garden is really a good exercise to banish restlessness. LOL!

  25. Debra, can I swap you some of our rain for some of your sunshine, please? It’s dripping wet over here and gardening is completely on hold until we get some dryer weather. If it doesn’t hurry up, I’ll have had my cataract surgery and won’t be allowed to garden for a few weeks.

    Those are lovely photos and I’m fascinated to read about the changing fashions in gardens in southern California. Lush green lawns do seem unlikely, given your climate. 🙂

    • Thank you, Rommel. Our garden is starting to go to sleep for the fall. The insects and flowers aren’t as pretty as they were just a month ago, but I like to look at the photos and begin making plans for spring…even now! 🙂

  26. Nice! You did a great job on you garden. Those pictures show how happy your it is. And thank you for introducing me to that book. I guess I have a lot of inspiring and reading to the during the winter.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the garden photos! It’s finally beginning to cool down here a bit, too. I’d like to say that my gardening enthusiasm lasts all year round, but at this point in the year we get so busy I definitely slow down. The Victorian Garden book was just full of garden history. I really enjoyed it. 🙂

  27. Boy, you’re not kidding! Yet, those times when I lived in places with no gardening space, I missed my vegetable garden. Apparently we forget about all the work involved and just remember the good stuff like the delicious tomatoes, sage, thyme, squash, etc.!!

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