Merlin’s Garden is the quarter acre that rests primarily in the back of our home in San Diego. When we first arrived the three terraces connected by red wooden stairs mostly consisted of hard clay earth along with devil grass and ice plant. A side yard was wall to wall dirt covered by beauty bark, which was hardly beautiful. A sizable outdoor patio area on the other side of the house hosted a large tree with a wonderful green canopy and a flower bed with nothing in it. Five old rose bushes, which provided the bulk of the garden’s color, were situated in the bed of a retaining wall erected alongside the patio.
I always enjoyed gardening, but it was in San Diego that my joy became my passion. We bought the property in 2006 after my husband Jim and I decided to relocate to San Diego from Whidbey Island in the Northwest. San Diego’s fabulous Mediterranean climate makes year-round gardening possible, so when I saw the 50 year old house standing fairly solid but in need of cosmetic update, the garden’s terraced yard and overall blank slate called to me.
The name Merlin’s Garden came from an inspired moment watching our basset hound, Merlin, run circles in the garden, chased by our 130 pound black lab/rottweiler mix named Tucker and our much smaller Corgi named Sophie. Before the arrival of Merlin, our motley crew of much older dogs were pretty laid back, for the most part. Merlin changed the dynamic quickly. The chase he instigated was a regular activity that started in the house and continued up the stairs to the garden. It was a chase that made me laugh and get anxious at the same time. I cringed each time paws landed on the happy go lucky Gazanias or when one of the roses got violently whacked by Tucker’s powerful girth. The dogs didn’t always choose the paths I laid carefully over time. They often created new ones, some of which I have incorporated into the design.
Gardening and animals are among my great loves. I refuse to choose between them. I allow for the chaos while diligently striving to preserve the beauty. Once in awhile the imperfect pairing of beast and flower leaves me frustrated, but then there are resplendent moments of wonder about them both that remind me how blessed I am. The garden is my canvas, an ever evolving work in progress. I am never bored by the constantly changing scene. The dogs are part of the scene, steady companions as I dig the soil, move plants and lay seed. I invite you into Merlin’s Garden to witness the magic and mayhem and learn with me that you can’t necessarily have one without the other.