Garden Photo of the Day

Volunteers in Catherine’s Garden

Self-sown beauty

pink and purple flowers around terra cotta pots

We’re visiting Catherine’s Dickerson’s garden today in San Diego. We’ve visited before (A Little Slice of Heaven in San Diego), and it is always a pleasure to see what is growing there.

This is our year of volunteers! They have added a wonderful richness to the garden. The forget-me-nots are ubiquitous every year, but this year they’ve been joined by the rich purple-blue lobelia. Poppies and lunaria are doing their best to keep up. These are not plants that simply reseeded, but ones that are coming up in places as distant from the original plant as you can get in a little 1/4-acre garden.

My husband spreads mulch twice a year, and the resulting soil is delicious. The rains this year helped as well.

The only plants named in the pictures below that I actually planted are the Shasta daisies, the alstroemeria, the pink geranium, and the pink cosmos, together in one picture. Almost everything else named came up as happy surprises. Our response: “Welcome! Please make yourself at home!” And boy, have they.

purple flowers growing between the cracks of a garden pathJohnny jump-ups (Viola tricolor, annual) living up to their name in our front path

close up of purple and yellow flowersA true geranium (Geranium sanguineum, Zones 3–9), lots of lobelia (Lobelia erinus, Zones 10–11 or as an annual), a peak of pink cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus, annual), and a beautiful yellow snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus, Zones 7–10 or as an annual) that volunteered right in front! The soon-to-be white Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum, Zones 5–9) in the lower left are from Luther Burbank’s home in Santa Rosa—a lovely place to visit!

pink and purple flowers around terra cotta potsNemesia from the backyard, now in front with . . . lobelia! The pink is Alstroemeria.

close up of pink flowers in the gardenRed valerian (Centranthus ruber, Zones 4–9) was flown or blown over from a neighbor’s yard, along with annual poppies (Papaver somniferum, annual). These volunteer poppies have popped up around the back and front yards and are the best I’ve ever grown—though I can’t actually say that I grew them!

bright purple flowers growing with white flowersMore lobelia, intermingled with white alyssum (Lobularia maritima, Zones 9–11 or as an annual)

close up of bright pink flowersCineraria (Pericallus × hybrida, Zones 9–11)! The nurseries here in San Diego only carry the shorter versions; these tall ones (30 inches or more) originated from Annie’s Annuals in northern California. A little pink polka-dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya, Zones 10–11 or as an annual) volunteered nearby. Lush leaves from Bergenia (Zones 3–8) planted years ago are in the lower right.

stawberry plant in a potStrawberries! They were being devoured by slugs on the ground, so I stuffed them into this pot. Snow peas are growing behind them.

close up of pink and purple flowersA combination of pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa, Zones 4–9) and purple toadflax (Linaria purpurea, Zones 5–9), of unknown origin, both of which will try to take over the garden. I’ve already pulled out dozens of them.

Thank you for letting me share these surprise delights. Gardening is absolutely the most rewarding activity I know.


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View Comments


  1. bsavage 08/18/2023

    I love it! Your garden is gorgeous, and I love that you let things grow where they will! Thanks for sharing!

  2. [email protected] 08/18/2023

    I do the same and let plants live where they question to you is: you mulch twice a year and still plants will reseed themselves? I wais avoiding mulching for that reason but realizing it is a lot more work because I have a lot of gardens!

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/18/2023

    Love that lobelia.

  4. User avater
    cynthia2020 08/18/2023

    Catherine - your garden joy is infectious! Thank you for the tour and for describing what was intentional and what wasn't.

  5. barbmrgich 08/18/2023

    Hi Catherine, Your garden is beautiful. I love the fact that you let things go where they may! I do the same thing. Some of my best combinations just sprang up uninvited! I love it. Two of my favorite are Rose Campion and Moss Verbena. Check them out. I wish you the best with the hurricane approaching your area tomorrow.

  6. btucker9675 08/18/2023

    Love this garden so much!! Those dark poppies are so stunning and who doesn't want Johnny Jump Ups in their garden path! A few years ago I planted two evening primroses because of the soft pink hue... then they became Multitude!! I first tried pulling them up to thin them out but they had become beautiful thugs, choking other things out so we had to dig them all up... little sprouts still pop up and are ruthlessly pulled up. I still find them so very pretty though. Now my blue mist flowers are trying to become replacement thugs so are also being pulled up, but leaving some here and there. Sigh...

  7. User avater
    simplesue 08/21/2023

    Wow! What a wonderful poppy! Love that garden path!

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