Summer Garden Tour

By Kate Riley July 5, 2012

Do holidays in the middle of the week make you feel strange?  They do for me.  It’s weird but wonderful waking up late in the morning in the middle of the week, then puttering around the house, doing all those little things you don’t have time for during the hustle and bustle of an ordinary workweek.

I was wandering around the yard yesterday in the late afternoon, glass of sauvignon blanc in one hand, camera in the other, as the sun set over the back hill.  The children also we’re running around the yard, picking strawberries before they’re ripe,  discovering lizards and spiders, and noticing other mini magical moments in nature, it was a blissful afternoon. 

As I wandered I listened to the comfortable repetition of the “snip, snip, snip” as Matt pruned back hedges and pulled unwanted suckers.  I appreciated the new growth around every turn, blooms and buds and fruit that didn’t exist just a few weeks ago.  Here’s a tour of what’s growing in our yard this month, it amazes me year after year. 

Bower vine is blooming in the courtyard and creeping up an old iron trellis.  It lingers over our broken fountain that still needs a new pump, but I think its aged finish is a beautiful focal point, functioning or not. 

bower vine on wall fountain


Basil is growing happily in a pot, next to citrus and petunias.

basil in pot


French lavender has been ready for harvest for over a week, but I haven’t gotten around too it yet.  Send help, please! 

lavender in garden


The bees are abundant, collecting what they need to make local honey. 

honey bee on lavender


There’s a little path that takes me up the hill to see the fruit trees, it’s wise to wear shoes, but I’m feeling rebellious just like the unwanted weeds that pop up along the path. 

hose on path

barefoot up path


Up above, the hardy olive trees filter the view down below.  I have always loved the faithful olive trees with their sage and gray wispy leaves that stay with us through the winter when all their deciduous neighbors lose theirs.    

olive trees on hill


Summer roses climb along the fence, begging to be clipped and brought indoors to fill pitchers but torturing me with the thorns as they snag on my clothing.  The climb along the fence that separates neighbor from neighbor, but I love that this fence is made of mesh wire, so we can chat across it when we’re all outside. 

summer roses on fence


White star jasmine grows nearby, planted years ago, rarely trimmed back, and allowed to takeover its own section of the fence, filling the garden with its scent.  

white jasmin


Just beyond, Matt’s fruit trees are thriving with fig, Fuji apple, and O’Henry peach making their debut. 

fuji apples on tree

o henry peach


Blackberry bushes grow in the adjacent open space, and the kids wait impatiently for those July days when we’ll be picking them to make cobbler. 

blackberries ripening


We’re excited to see the grafting is working as little Pinot Noir buds are now forming on the old vines.   

grafts forming on vine


grafted pinot noir vines


The latest exciting news is we have a resident fox who lives in the open space nearby.  He/she visits every evening as the sun sets and the kids have declared its name is  “Pepper”.  

neighborhood fox


My grand lettuce garden experiment is going well, thanks for all the suggestions on how to grow lettuce!  The basil and oregano dominate, but so far, it’s a tasty addition to the yard.

growing lettuce garden


Do you argue about plants in your yard?  We sometimes do, specifically the lavatera tree.  Matt hates it because it’s so invasive but I love it because it will bloom in the winter when everything else is dormant, it’s a nesting spot for birds, and a frequent stop for hummingbirds which conveniently stop by when I finally get around to the morning dishes.  That’s the kitchen window beyond.    

wild lavaterra


The perennials behind the retaining wall are all overgrown, I rarely have time to trim them but I like them that way, wild and crazy without any formal shape. 

retaining wall garden


It’s not uncommon to stumble across relics from the past whenever we get around to actually pruning them.   

toy truck in garden


I love boxwood hedges, but these variegated ones that border our stairs are my favorites.  Also, I don’t think a garden is complete without a birdhouse, preferably one painted by a child.

variegated boxwood hedge


Coco has found her new watering hole, but we’re pretty sure she’s wishing there was a bird present, not just the agua.  (Sufferin’ Succotash.)  We’re supervising her outdoor time given the new resident in the area.

cat in birdbath


My favorite little fern grows under the balcony in a shady spot where it’s happy, I was able to make framed fern art out of a few preserved fronds last year. 

verdant ferns


The hydrangeas are growing like crazy, producing plenty of bouquets this season.  I try to give away as many as possible, they’re too pretty to keep for just us.

hydrangeas on wine barrel cg


As we finish with the gardening, we sit in the yard and talk of where we will settle after the kids go off to college in ten years.  We’re future planners like that, absolutely loving what we have and feeling so blessed, yet envisioning where we will be in later years.  We’ve got our hearts set on a little piece of land in Sonoma where we can build a “Parent Trap” style 3 bedroom single story.  Where Matt can ride his John Deere through his orchard, and I can tend to my lavender and vegetable garden in a big floppy hat. 

Being in the garden makes me think grandiose thoughts like that.  Does it have that effect on you?  Anything blooming in your yard right now that you’re mighty proud of?



  1. Hi Kate,

    My day lilies are my favorite right now. I love going out first thing in the morning and pinching off the spent buds.

    Thank for the tour,

  2. I dream of having fruit trees and banks of hydrangeas. So far, I have a Meyer lemon in a pot and a few hydrangea plants that I planted in random spots to see how they would do. It’s a tiny start.

    Your beautiful yard seems to go on forever between what you show here and the multiple patios you’ve shown in other posts. Did you purchase 2 lots when you bought your house?

  3. Beautiful garden impressions! I really love those little walls and the bird bath (or fountain?) that your cat is drinking from!! It’s good to see some more inspiration because I’ll be planting some new stuff (and hopefully fruit trees and bushes) as soon as our patio remodel is finished. However, our garden is a lot smaller then yours.
    -Anja @

  4. It’s been near a hundred degrees for a couple of weeks now in the Chicago area. 102 yesterday! I am fighting a losing battle to keep everything hydrated around our new stamped concrete patio. I planted new perennials and have all of my annuals in pots. They are unhappy and want some cool weather!

  5. You have an amazing garden. I’m very envious of your crops! I really want to grow some fruits in my yard but b/c we live so close by the ravine, small animals really like to visit our garden and munch on our crops (herbs/veggies) What or How do you recommend we solve this problem…p.s. i dont want to harm any of these small animals, should i just fence it off?

  6. Luscious! I’m a sucker for flora, though my basil and lavender plants aren’t nearly as amazing as yours! I love all the green in your photos. I usually try to bring that green to my walls with some leaf-inspired wall art.

  7. Beautiful area. Love that the vines are doing so well. Cool picture of “Pepper”. Love the variegated
    boxwood. Gotta find some. My little herb garden is my favorite thing right now.

  8. I’m so jealouse seeing your pictures! I love my outdoor summer planting time, but with our crazy heat and drought, all I would have to take pictures of is cracked clay. Thanks for posting….It’s nice to see such lush green!

  9. Beautiful gardens! I walk around and check out my gardens everyday after work while dodging hummingbirds waiting for nectar refills! Here in CT it seems everything bloomed a month in advance due to the very early warm weather. Even my Fall mums have started to bloom! The hydrangeas are heavy laden; the one watermelon I planted is taking over the whole raised bed!

    I’m most excited to check on the gourds I’m growing that I can turn into ladles – what fun! I’ve got two cousins growing birdhouse gourds, snake gourds & swan gourds! In about a year when they’re all dried out, we hope to have quite a craft party!

    Love that picture of Coco…she’s appears in “wild tiger” mode!

  10. I want to tour your gardens with a glass of wine ;) Looks lovely. We had a peacock visit out yard for a few days last month that was fun. How fun to have a fox visit. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Beautiful!

    Incidentally; how is the patio coming along, you shared some lovely teasers earlier in the summer… are you able to make use of it yet? Would love to see pictures, I’m sure its idyllic!

  12. How do you have time to take care of all that plus kids, plus a blog, plus a husband. Kudos to you, kid! It’s all beautiful!

  13. As I read this, I can just feel the air of relaxation in your words and photos. It’s wonderful to see when it’s obvious you work so hard. I think my blood pressure goes down just seeing this. Ahh…I can almost feel the wine and sunshine….love it. These, on the other hand, are some of my decidedly non-triumphant moments in the garden…

  14. Your gardens are wonderful Kate. I guess the favourite thing in my garden is my dappled willow bush – I never tire of watching it sway in the breeze and I love that it looks like it’s always in bloom.

    I wonder if I could pester you with a painting question though. I’m in the process of painting all my existing furniture “Chantilly White” by BM. I’m too chicken to try my hand at spray painting so my question is: What’s the best roller and brush to use to achieve the best possible results???

    • Hi Jessie, I like the small rounded edge foam rollers and Purdy angled brushes for painting furniture, I swear by them!

  15. Lovely gardens! Thank you so much for the tour. Your photos are exquisite. What camera do you use?

    • Hi Gillian, thank you! I use a Nikon D90 and I used a 50mm 1.8 Nikor lens, it takes great pics and is available for under $125 for the lens. :)

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