The Mountain Gardener: Say hello to a new year in the garden
by Jan Nelson
Dec 27, 2012 | 1991 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This yellow mushroom growing in Felton is so showy it seems like it would be easy to name in the “Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms,” but columnist Jan Nelson was unable to identify it. Courtesy photo
This yellow mushroom growing in Felton is so showy it seems like it would be easy to name in the “Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms,” but columnist Jan Nelson was unable to identify it. Courtesy photo

It's a humbling experience to read some of my past columns celebrating New Year’s. Once you write something down, it's there forever. Like a social media post, it can haunt you. I've set such lofty goals for myself over the years.

But now it's that time of year when I look around the garden and think about the good things I accomplished and some that didn't get done. A garden reflects our lives — always room for growth, as well as reflection.


Mushroom education

We live in a rain forest.

It’s easy to realize this the past few weeks, as gentle and not-so-gentle raindrops fell on the thick redwood duff beneath the trees. Mushrooms of every color and type now poke through leaves still bright with the shades of fall.

Last year was pretty dry until March, which is not so great for fungi, but this year should be spectacular. These conditions make it all the better to continue learning about our local mushrooms.

It's one of my favorite goals for the new year. The fungus fair in Santa Cruz is Jan. 11 through Jan. 13 at Louden Nelson Community Center (, and I want to be better informed before my volunteer shift as a basketeer arrives.


Grow edibles

Each year I pledge to plant more things to eat.

Edibles in the garden feed both the body and the soul. They are more than just vegetables and fruit trees. When you grow something, you are being a good steward of the land as you enrich the topsoil using sustainable organic techniques. You can connect with neighbors by trading your extra pumpkins for their persimmons. Knowledge of how and what to grow can be exchanged, seeds swapped.

Growing edibles is more than time spent doing healthy physical work — it's connecting us to the Earth and to each other.


Foreign inspiration

This year I was able to visit gardens in far away places such as Poland to learn about Eastern European landscaping styles and traditions. Some were very different than what we are used to here in Western gardens.

Gardeners, though, are the same everywhere — eager to show off and share.

I also had the opportunity to visit Abkhazi Garden and the famous Butchart Garden in Victoria, British Columbia, during the summer. Nothing can prepare you for the wonder that can be created out of nothing. I came back overflowing with inspiration for my landscape designs.

Next, I plan to visit Chihuly Gardens in Seattle and a green wall installation in Tacoma, Wash.

There's no better way to recharge your creative batteries than to see an inspiring garden. Even a walk around your neighborhood can give you ideas for your own garden.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen a huge boulder and wished I could magically transport it to my own yard.


Be it resolved

New Year’s resolutions for gardeners should be mere suggestions. Don't get hung up on achieving everything you would like. Your wish list will serve you well during the cold, wet days of winter, even if you don't get them implemented.

Planning a landscape that conserves water will benefit the environment and your budget. And ordering seeds for the spring garden is great therapy for winter blues and future meals. But there's always next year or next month or the summer after next.

Dreaming is more than an idle pursuit. It's good for you and improves the quality of your life over the long haul. So don't worry if you don't get to everything you hoped to accomplish. It's all in the baby steps.

We gardeners are eternal optimists. Why else would be plant a tree or a seed or a garden?

Happy New Year from The Mountain Gardener.

- Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. E-mail her at, or visit to view past columns and pictures.

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