The Heart of My Garden ~ Built with Love!

Our story begins in 1995, when The Summer Book, by Susan Branch was hot off the press. The moment I read it, a new dream began to grow!

Our story begins in 1995, when The Summer Book, by Susan Branch was hot off the press. The moment I read it, a new dream began to grow!

Hi Friends!

It all began with a very special book… and a big dream! Perhaps we should step back a few years to the beginning of the story…

As a young, single homeowner, nothing made me happier than restoring my little 1922 bungalow, adding my own creative touches every step of the way. My dad (my hero!) has always been there with the knowledge, expertise, tools, and his gifts of time to help make my dreams a reality. Together, we would work on big projects, as he patiently taught me how to plan, measure twice, use all kinds of tools, and choose the very best materials.

After my parents retired and moved to Arizona, my dad continued to help me build my dreams! Every Spring, Dad would ask the special question, “What project should we do this Summer?” Then Dad and I would begin to make our plan over the phone. That year, it was different. We wouldn’t be stripping woodwork together, building a pantry, or updating the electricity. I had a special plan… a dream for my garden!

The Summer Book by Susan Branch inspired

Reading The Summer Book* by Susan Branch was my inspiration! I dreamed of creating an Herb Garden, surrounded by a white picket fence, just like Susan’s Kitchen Garden.                                                              *This special book is now out-of-print, but still lovingly sought after by her devoted fans. Keep your eyes open… and you may be lucky enough to find this treasure somewhere!


I had just finished reading The Summer Book by Susan Branch. She shared the story of how she wished for a Kitchen Garden, surrounded by a white picket fence. Joe built it for her in their yard on Martha’s Vineyard. I wondered… Could Dad and I build a special Herb Garden in my yard that Summer?

With many phone conversations, our little plan took shape. I chose the location and dug out huge evergreen bushes that filled that corner of my yard. Sawing and digging ~ digging and sawing, day after day. I wanted to have the area cleared by the time that Dad arrived for his Summer visit! Dad shipped the tools we would need all the way from Arizona, so that they would be waiting here upon his arrival. I was so excited that this special dream was coming true!

I will always remember how hard we worked together to level the ground where the huge bushes had been growing. Chopping out the stray roots to make way for two raised beds was a big challenge!  As we worked, we laughed and talked, and dug and sawed. Dad is a wonderful storyteller, so the time passed quickly. We leveled the garden paths and added a white picket fence around the new Herb Garden. Although I expected the project to take a weekend, Dad and I worked together for two weeks to build my new Herb Garden. It was truly a ‘labor of love.’

Working hand-in-hand with Dad made my dream come true!

Working hand-in-hand with Dad made my dream come true!


We even had time to assemble a garden arbor before Mom arrived in town. She was so impressed to see the lovely additions to my yard!  Now there would be relaxing family times for the rest of their Summer visit. What wonderful memories and ‘souvenirs’ we have from the Summer of ’95.

Stepping through the garden arbor and garden gate always brings back lovely memories!

Stepping through the garden arbor and garden gate always brings back lovely memories!


Today is a perfect, sunny June afternoon to peek inside our Herb & Tea Garden. I’ve been busy adding new organic soil to the raised beds. One bed is filled with culinary herbs: Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, Cilantro, Garlic Chives, Oregano, Sage, Chives, Dill, and Marjoram.

Welcome to the 'Heart of 'our Garden!

Welcome to the ‘Heart of our Garden!’


Culinary herbs add a fresh touch to all of our summer meals.

Culinary herbs add a fresh touch to all of our Summer meals. It’s also fun to brush away the Winter snow and gather a few herbs!










Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives






The “Tea” bed is filled with mints and sages to brew fresh herbal tisanes,  perfect served hot or iced. You might enjoy Candy Cane Mint, Peppermint, Apple Mint, Sweet Mint, Chocolate Mint, Lemon Balm, or Pineapple Sage. It’s fun to create your own personal blends, too!

Our "Tea" Garden

It’s always fun to plan Tea Parties. Guests are welcome to wander down the path to our herbal “Tea” Garden to pick a few leaves for their own unique blends!

Candy Cane Mint

Candy Cane Mint

Apple Mint

Apple Mint

Chocolate Mint

Chocolate Mint

A vintage tea cup (a gift from a student long ago) graces the center of our "Tea" garden. Nestled just below are special rocks collected over the years ~ a cobblestone from Prague, a cobble stone from Bacharach, stones from Red Mountain, and stones from our "secret place' in the Sonoran Desert.

A vintage tea cup (a gift from a student long ago) graces the center of our “Tea” garden. Nestled just below are special rocks collected over the years ~ a cobblestone from Prague, a stone from Bacharach, stones from Red Mountain, and stones from our ‘secret place’ in the Sonoran Desert.


My sweet, talented friend, Kristin, created delightful garden markers from river rocks, collected in New Mexico and Arizona, especially for our Herb Garden.

'Garden Stones by Kristin' mark the culinary herbs.

‘Garden Stones by Kristin’ mark culinary herbs.

'Garden Stones by Kristin' highlight some of our herbal "Teas."

‘Garden Stones by Kristin’ highlight some of our mints and sages in the “Tea” Garden, too.

Large stepping stones lead the way through the garden arbor and across the yard to our Herb and Tea Garden. Old-fashioned perennials surround the inside and outside of the white picket fence. Gracing the outside of the picket fence are pink and white Peonies, Stella d’Oro Daylilies, Hostas, and Sedum.  (Many years, I  also plant Gladiolas along the picket fence, in honor of  Susan’s wonderful inspiration!)

The magic happens whenever you step through the garden gate and are greeted by the lovely herbal scents. Along the inside of the fence, we enjoy pops of color from Black-eyed Susans, Balloon Flowers, Pincushion Flowers, Daylilies, Cranesbill Geraniums, Daisies, Bee Balm,  Obedient Plant, and Chrysanthemums. A rustic birdhouse stands tall in the center of the Herb Garden and a folk art Garden Angel watches over this special place. Bees buzz in and butterflies flutter about all day long. Now I’m in search of the perfect bee skep to add to our Herb Garden. This quiet, little garden is one of my favorite places on earth!

My parents just returned to Arizona last week, after another lovely visit with us. We had so much fun reminiscing about the Summer when Dad and I built the Herb Garden together.


Each Summer, the Herb and Tea Garden is the ‘heart of my garden.’  My hours spent weeding, planting, and gathering herbs are such sweet times!  I always think back to that Summer, so long ago, when Dad and I built this special garden together. Every time I step through the garden gate, it feels like a big hug from my dad! ♡ I will always cherish the hours spent in the heart of my garden ~ built with love!

Thanks, Dad!!



P.S.  Which herbs are your favorites?


36 thoughts on “The Heart of My Garden ~ Built with Love!

  1. Good morning Dawn! OK, I am totally inspired here.

    First of all, the story of how your father jumped in with a spirit of helping, planning, creativity WITH HIS DAUGHTER is just a story in itself. I can almost imagine your phone conversations, full of anticipation. I think that one of the great things a man can do with his daughter, is to build. We women have the ideas (and many of us have the tools and skills and strength as well to build) and our men (fathers, boyfriends, sons, husbands, pals) have the capacity to make these dreams come to true reality. You are making me think of my father, who after I got married, would be over in a hot minute if I called him to say, “Daddy, will you help us build…..?”

    Secondly, your picket fence. OH MY….I love them, but with our style of home, it is not the right design. However, the neighbors across the street have a darling 1930s cottage and the picket fence they built gives such a Main St. charm to our street. I see homes that are average, but if only they would put up a picket fence….

    Outstanding idea come to fruition! My favorite herb? Basil. But our incessant rains have ruined my potted plant!

    Thank you for this delightful treat this morning! Anita

    • Oh Anita, heartfelt thanks for your kind, thoughtful words! When I bought my little house, my dad built me a wonderful workbench in the basement right away. As he taught me to use each tool, it had a special place in my workbench. Just last week, we were using those tools again together for a small project! Such special memories! You are so right ~ a white picket fence just adds old-fashioned charm! I love every moment that I spend in my Herb Garden! Rosemary is my favorite herb. ♡

  2. What a lovely post, Dawn! It’s so special to have such a close relationship with your dad. 🙂 And I love those little painted rocks that indicate which plant is which — that’s such a cute idea! I’m going to need to do something creative like that for my garden next year. This year, I just kept all the little signs that came with my plants haha. My favorite herb so far is purple basil. I love how versatile it is — great for salad dressing, but also really good with steak and burgers. But I also really love my pineapple sage. This weekend, my boyfriend’s mom used some of the pineapple sage and thyme leaves when she roasted corn on the grill — delicious! Have a wonderful day! ❤

    • Hi Chris! My parents are huge blessings in my life! I still learn something new from my dad whenever we talk on the phone. He would tell you that I’m the teacher in the family ~ but he is truly a wonderful teacher, too! Whenever you find a flat rock, pick it up. By next year, you will have enough to design garden markers of your own. I’m so happy that you are harvesting your herbs and using them, Chris! ♡

  3. Good morning, Sunshine! What a beautiful post today! I love hearing te story of your dream garden coming to life. What a wonderful dad you have to help you fulfill those dreams! That last picture of your yard and the garden is so charming. What a special place to relax. And fresh herbal tea just outside your back door! Sweet!! Hope to see it in person one day! xo

    • Hi Karen! Your sweet words are a wonderful way to start the day! I’m so thankful for my parents… and count my blessings for them out loud every day. It’s such fun to have one of my favorite places in the whole world just outside my door! We must plan a real visit! ♡

    • It’s so nice to have artistic friends! Now we’re looking for more flat stones everywhere. Kristin’s Garden Stones are a very special part of my Herb Garden (…and the squirrels haven’t figured out how to move them yet!) ♡

  4. Built with love, indeed.

    And how special that you
    are still in the bungalow
    that you love, with your
    very beautiful yard and
    lovely summer garden!!!

    xo Suzanne

    • So sweet, Suzanne! My roots are very deep here. So many tender memories in my little home and garden! Hoping that you are safe and dry with all of the terrible flooding in your part of the Midwest. Hope that the Walk, as you honored Kathleen and so many others, was a very special one! I thought of you and your dear friend on that day. ♡

  5. Dawn, the love you have for family and home is palpable in this post. I am so glad I stopped in for a visit today to read such a jewel. You have a lovely garden but my favorite details are the ones you share on making memories. I am a Susan Branch fan, myself….her books and illustrations are filled with such heart and nostalgia….the good stuff! 😉 Thank you for sharing such a sweet story with such beautiful pictures….I’ll be smiling all day now…..:)….see?

    • Oh Katie! No wonder we are ‘Kindreds’ ~ family, home, gardening, card making, and Susan Branch, too! It’s such fun to connect here! I’ve been spending all of my time in the garden. This week, I’m planning to spend time inside creating cards with my new Power Poppy stamps. I love to visit your blog for great card making inspiration! Keep smiling! ♡

    • Thanks for visiting today, Barbara! It’s such a nice feeling to walk through the garden gate and enjoy quiet time in the Herb & Tea Garden! The heavenly scents and sweet memories fill my heart with so much joy! What is your favorite part of your garden on the island? Sunny wishes! ♡

  6. I can get lost for hours in the pictures of your lovely garden, but I especially love reading the stories associated with your garden (e.g. Mildred’s memories of a Sears Roebuck house being brought in and assembled–how fascinating!). I am looking forward to seeing more of your garden and reading more stories as the seasons go by. 🙂

    • So happy that you stopped by to visit, Lynn! An old house and garden are filled with so many wonderful stories! Hope that your visits remind you of your Midwestern roots! ♡

  7. Hello Dawn! Thank you so much for visiting my place and for leaving a friendly comment! This allows me to come and visit you and read all about your lovely garden and how you worked at making things perfect in collaboration with your dad! I love the stones painted so beautifully with the names of your herbs. I adore white picket fences too and there’s something very friendly and welcoming about them!

    • Welcome, Sandra! Thanks for stopping by to visit! Quiet moments taking care of the Herb Garden are always special to me. The handpainted Garden Stones were a special birthday gift from a dear friend. Many thanks for all of your kind thoughts, Sandra. Do you have a favorite herb? My favorite is Rosemary! ♡

  8. Hi Dawn, thank you so much for your lovely comment on my blog; I though I would pop over to you and say hello. Oh my goodness! Your garden story is just gorgeous, and you will always treasure the memories of the wonderful experience you had building the garden with your dad. I look forward to visiting you again, and am glad to have found you and your blog!

    • Hi Penny! So happy that you could pop over from Scotland for a little visit! Heartfelt thanks for your sweet words. Wishing you lovely summer days! ♡

  9. DAWN!!!!!!!!!

    This is a beautiful morning, a special “dawn” of a day, because as I read your comment from last night, I am SO EXCITED that you are joining the link party! Oh Dawn, this is the fourth year I’ve come up with this, my first two years being only Paris, then last year, it was France. This year, I want EUROPE! (hahahahha, next year I may do a WORLD tour!)

    Here is the scoop: It sounds as if you already have a target destination and that you are passionate about it. GOOD! The fun we’ve had with this is coming up with all sorts of FUNNY, ROMANTIC, CHALLENGING, ARTFUL posts to celebrate the places we love. When you get a chance to visit all the other bloggers and they visit you, not only are you sharing your dream discovery, but you are discovering new blogs as well. It is a lovely circuit of energy that is very special.

    Email me with any questions. Just keep updated on my blog for an update and reminder – we go “live” on July 18 and the posts stay up until July 25. During that entire week, everyone has a chance to visit the other blogs. Simple!

    Have a super Fourth my friend…I’m putting your name and link on my list now! LOVE, Anita

    • Hi Anita! Happy Independence Day!! Hope you are celebrating in your own wonderful ways! We have sunshine, blue skies, and flags waving!

      I’m truly looking forward to the ‘Europe:Simply Irresistible Link Party!’ Merci beaucoup for the invitation to join in the adventure!! Travel ~ and the dear people that I’ve met along the way ~ are a huge part of who I am today. I feel so blessed to have had fourteen wonderful adventures in Europe over the years… and hope to return again and again. There is so much to learn!! I look forward to sharing a tiny, gem of a place that we visited on our last trip. It felt like we were living in a fairy tale! So wonderful… but I must keep the secret a bit longer! I’ve added your banner to my slide-out sidebar, and will activate it on 18. July. What fun it will be to explore new places! ♡

    • Hi Sandy! So happy that you stopped by to visit! Any time you need a little relaxing break, come take a walk through our garden! We’d love to see you! I’m so inspired by all that you do at Operation Write Home to help our heroes keep in touch with their families!! Wishing you and Ciara a happy weekend! ♡

  10. What a precious post Dawn! It is so great that you have so many happy memories with your dad working on your home together! I was so honored to meet your parents this summer — they are so sweet! And the ‘garden stones’ look fantastic in your herb garden!! I’m glad no squirrels have carried them off 🙂 My favorite herb is basil. I use it almost every day in the summertime — partly by choice and partly because it grows so fast! My favorite summer salad is a fresh caprese straight from the garden. Now if only I knew how to make my own mozzarella!


    • Hi Kristin! We do have so many wonderful memories! Mom & Dad loved spending time with you, too. Mmmm! Basil just tastes like ‘summer.’ Your garden must be flourishing with all of the rainy days we’ve had. I truly love your Garden Stones! Let’s search for more river rocks! ♡

  11. Dawn, thank you for stopping over to my blog! You were right I love your herb garden! And your Susan Branch fence garden is beautiful!! What a wonderful memory you and your dad have created! I love mint, basil and Thyme! What do you do with your herbs?

    • Hi Gert! I’m so glad that you stopped to visit! All summer long, I love to add fresh herbs to salads. I love to pick fresh mint to make herbal “tea” and infused water. Later in the season, I harvest the herbs and hang them to dry. Last Autumn, I potted up many herbs and grew them in our sunny dining room all winter long. I will definitely do that again this year! It was such fun to enjoy the scent of herbs during cold, winter days… and just a quick snip provided fresh herbs at my fingertips! ♡

    • Ginnie, so glad that you’re here! Isn’t it a sweet memory? Every season, it’s fun to peek at the picket fence and remember the summer that we worked so hard to build it! Wishing you nice summer days! ♡

  12. How very lucky you were to have such fond emotionally full moments with your father. My Dad was a gem but unable to express himself. Your joy is my joy. Sorry this is so late in posting.

    • Hi Anne! I treasure our family memories. My mom and dad are two of my greatest blessings! So fortunate and happy to share the joy…
      Hope you enjoyed your wonderful travels, sweet friend! ♡

  13. Somehow, I did not read this earlier, so am totally thrilled that you put a link *here* in your newest entry. This brought a tear to my eye {you know why} and it makes me so happy that you have built this very special area with your lovely father. I just adore your herb garden. You have given me an idea now, for I dearly want a white picket fence. I don’t think it will be for herbs though, thoughts in progress now ~~~ and I have a pile of cobblestones that I now know what will happen {must get some fresh paint!} Off now to play catch up as the computer has been on a “time out” Waving from Across The Pond in {soon to be} White~picket~fence West Wales!

    • Debs,sweet friend! Just another bit of serendipity! I’m so happy you found this post at the same time you were thinking about your pile of cobblestones. They will make a charming picket fence ~ the most wonderful one in all of West Wales! (I have a few special cobblestones in my ‘Tea’ Garden, souvenirs of Praha and Bacharach.) Please send photos of your progress… Will you plant berry bushes in your white picket fence garden? So glad that your computer is feeling better! You have been missed. Waving back! Have a happy day! ♡

  14. Dawn, there is so much to love about this post. I love Susan Branch. A friend gave me one of her calendars years ago. I just checked, and she has her own blog. You MUST send her your post, if you haven’t done so already. She will be tickled pink.

    The relationship with your dad touched me to the core. My own dad was a horticulturist and I inherited my love of gardening from him. Unfortunately he died when I was 9 leaving a gaping hole in our lives. I think our dads would have been kindred spirits.

    Your herb garden is a delight. I love that you fashioned one after Susan Branch’s own garden and that you and your dad worked long, hard and memorable hours making it so. It’s delightful.

    Your friend is also clever and talented. What charming painted stones, customized for your herbs and teas.
    …and the teacup…and the birdhouse. I’m so glad you directed me to this post. xox

    • You are so sweet, Alys! I love that you are carrying on your dad’s love of plants and gardening. What a way to stay close at heart and honor his memory. Your love just keeps on ‘growing,’ Alys!♡
      Ever since she published her first book, Susan Branch has inspired me in so many ways. Many of our family traditions come from Susan’s wonderful books and blog! I have another fun post to steer you to ~ ‘Celebrating Susan’ on my blog last September. I think you will really enjoy it… and be surprised, too!
      Susan has legions of devoted fans. She calls us her Girlfriends. We are all looking forward to her next book, ‘The Fairy Tale Girl.’ It’s her first novel telling her story of growing up in California and moving to Martha’s Vineyard on her own. We can’t wait for this book!! She is watercoloring the last two chapters now. Many of the Girlfriends have pre-ordered the first copies…. since we just can.not.wait!
      Enjoy the post about Susan! Happy reading, dear Alys! 🙂 So glad that we found one another’s blogs! ♡

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