Tag Archives: Being thankful

A Thanksgiving Poem by Jan Nelson, The Mountain Gardener

Once upon a time when our area was under water
there were no parks or trails or trees or gardens.
I’m thankful that our mountains rose from an ancient ocean
so we could enjoy this beautiful place we call home.

I’m thankful for the Bigleaf maples
that shower me with leaves as big as saucers
as I walk in Henry Cowell along the River trail
and for the giant redwoods that sprouted long ago
at the time of he Mayan civilization.

I’m thankful for the Five-fingered ferns that grow lush along Fall Creek
on the way to the old lime kilns
and for the canyons, hiking trails and small waterfalls
that feed the year-round creeks.

I’m thankful for the sweet music of the violist
who practices inside the Felton Covered Bridge
and for the sound of children laughing as they play in the park.

I’m thankful for the pond and western turtles who live at Quail Hollow
and for the unique sandhills, grasslands and redwoods, too,
and for the plants and other small creatures that live only there.

I’m thankful for the dog park and soccer field at Skypark
where little kids and dogs both big and small have a place of their own
and for the bocce ball court and picnic area, the skatepark and Fourth of July fireworks,
for the Art and Wine festival and Music in the Park on summer nights.

I’m thankful for Bonny Doon where you can see the Pacific
and panoramas of the San Lorenzo and Scotts Valley
and for the wineries, lavender farm and fossilized marine animals and sharks teeth
that are exposed in the mountain made of sand.

I’m thankful for California’s oldest state park. Big Basin,with its waterfalls and lush canyons
and slopes covered with redwoods sorrel, violets and mountain iris
and for the salamanders, banana slugs, marbled murrelets
and red-legged frogswho make it their home.

I’m thankful for the whisper of the wind blowing across the water at Loch Lomond
and for the gentle whir of fishing reels at the edge
of thick tanoaks, redwoods and madrone.

And finally, I’m thankful for friends and family and neighbors who share all this with me.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

On Being Thankful

bamboo_forestIt took a trip to beautiful Hakone Gardens in Saratoga recently to put it all in perspective. It’s easy to overlook what’s really important in life when we are busy with everyday things. With Thanksgiving approaching the gardens were quiet on this crisp fall day giving me the opportunity to slow down and listen to the lessons of nature.

Majestic shoots of black bamboo emerge from the earth and tower above me 30 feet. The timber bamboo shoots are over 4 inches across and rise even taller. Bamboo is as strong as steel and sturdier than concrete. Very dense fibers give them extreme flexibility, allowing them to bend without snapping. They are strong and graceful at the same time reminding me of my sister who faces great physical challenges with character and poise. I’m thankful for every minute I get to share her now. Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

At the pond a dozen Koi swam slowly over to me. They are huge, probably over 20 yeawisteria_trunkrs old. What have they heard from the thousands of visitors who talk to them over the years? Each koi is a unique fish and no two are quite the same. They have different color, scale types and patterns. They look wise with their beautiful patterns of orange, white, gold and navy. I’m thankful that… “Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution”.  Deepak Chopra.

Hakone Gardens was first designed over a hundred years ago in 1917. As a traditional Japanese garden it was created to last forever. A landscape architect group from Japan comes to Hakone every other year for ten days to make improvements and oversee the constant care and maintenance. The wisteria arbor roof was raised not too long ago. The structure has a big job supporting the decades old vines which twist only in a clockwise direction. Wisteria, like other legumes, pull nitrogen out of the air from bacteria on their root nodules making it available to the plant. So many lessons to be learned from wisteria- perseverance, determination, self-reliance, I’m thankful for each new challenge which helps me build strength of character.

Japanese_mapleA Japanese garden mimics nature in a smaller setting. Designed for peaceful contemplation, each element -stone, water, plants and rocks – strive to provide a spiritual haven for visitors. Old wizened Japanese maples are pruned to capture their ancient power yet bestow peace and tranquility in the garden. I sat under the canopy of a lace-leaf maple to appreciate the glowing fall color backlit by the late afternoon sun. I’m thankful for this tree which symbolizes strength and endurance. To quote American novelist, Don Williams, Jr., “The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”

My visit to Hakone Gardens helped me remember that being grateful is something I should focus on every single day. When I don’t know something it’s an opportunity to learn. Be thankful. Each new challenge helps me to grow. Be thankful. And especially be thankful for the best things I have like friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Mountain Gardener.

500 Columns and Counting

Little did I know when I walked into The Press Banner office and offered my services as a gardening columnist back in October of 2005 that I’d still be writing for the paper almost 10 years later. Time flies when you’re having a good time.

Since I wrote my first column about the benefits of fall planting we have had some really wet winters and some very dry ones. A couple of winters challenged our gardens with deep freezing nights while early or late frosts challenged our enthusiasm. It’s all a part of growing plants and designing gardens and I hope I have helped you by providing helpful tips over the years.

Sherman the buttermilk/moss slurry eater

Everybody likes a good chuckle and we gardeners need more than most. Gardeners love to swap stories. So go ahead and laugh at my attempt to be Martha Stewart in my own garden. When the following incident was unfolding I was a bit frustrated. Time has softened the edges.

I moved up to Bonny Doon last year. The existing garden has some beautiful old rock walls created from many kinds of fieldstone and covered with moss. Another section has a new concrete block retaining wall lacking any character. So last fall I scraped off some moss from the old wall and mixed it with buttermilk hoping to spruce up the plain one when the moss took hold.

With bucket and 4 inch paintbrush in hand I tackled the wall slapping on the moss slurry with abandon just before the winter rains started. I had almost completed my project and looked back to admire my work imagining how beautiful the wall would look covered with dark green moss.

stone walls in my garden

What I didn’t count on was Sherman, the Welsh springer spaniel. He had been following me licking off most of the buttermilk. I added hot sauce to the remainder of the slurry but that barely slowed him down. Between Sherman and all that rain we got last December most of it washed off anyway and there is only a smattering of moss here and there on the new wall but it’s a start. Hope springs eternal for a gardener.

I learn so much from other gardeners. Usually I’m invited into their garden and I have passed on many of those great ideas. But don’t be surprised if I walk up to your garden one day on a whim like I did to my sister’s neighbors, Bob and Bev when I saw them picking raspberries and strawberries early one morning. I introduce myself and ask for a garden tour. Being gracious they agreed but asked if they could have their breakfast first! Later I got to sample many a berry, watch the goldfinches flitting about and hear how their vegetable garden had evolved.

I always make the most of any excursion. You don’t have to go to an island off Honduras where gardeners protect their plants from nocturnal blue crabs by planting in washing machine baskets to find interesting solutions to gardening challenges.

From Doc Hencke’s wonderful arboretum-like landscape I learned about trees, from Robby, the serial mole killer, I learned about smart irrigation and from the collections of Ron, Marc, Pete and Ed of Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai club I discovered the world of bonsai.

The Maloney’s of Scotts Valley shared rose growing tips. Al Hiley up in Felton is a wealth of local history knowledge and Vickie Birdsall of Montevalle Park in Scotts Valley knows how to replace water thirsty lawns with low water use plants. Cactus expert, Professor Loik of Felton got me up to date on why and how to grow this interesting plant in our times of drought. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of knowledge I’ve gained including visits to our own UCSC Arboretum, Casa Dos Rios in Gilroy, Stanford campus, Napa, Carmel and a dogwood nursery in Corralitos.

So keep those emails coming. I’m happy to offer helpful solutions or at least a shoulder to cry on. If you have an idea for a column let me know. And if you want someone to appreciate your gardening efforts as much as you do invite me over. I’m available. Happy Gardening.

Thanksgiving Blessings

Electric orange trees decorate our gardens and forest paths this time of year. During the summer when trees are quietly green we almost forget they are among us but then seemingly overnight they turn on the lights and glow with flamboyant fall colors. Thanksgiving is that time of year when we are reminded of all that we have to be grateful for. The world is so beautiful and we’re lucky to live in such an amazing place. Here are some things for which I’m thankful.

1. Food
It’s the most important thing we share. We eat to celebrate when we’re happy. When we’re sad, we eat to comfort ourselves. We eat for fun and the greatest thing you can do for someone else is cook a meal for them. Simple delicious food is a gift. I could never do without sharing a meal with friends or family.

2. Nature
Our sense of sight allows us to see the colors of life- an orange sunset to end the day, a rainbow after a storm, new green leaves emerging in the spring, clouds and blue skies.  Smell the air after it rains or the fragrance of a flower. Touch the softness of a velvety leaf or feel the breeze of the wind. Hear the rainfall dripping from the redwoods or the winter wrens calling to each other under the canopy. Taste wild huckleberry or thimbleberries along a forest path. I’m grateful for the beauty of nature that visits my garden.

3. Gardens
Big or small, in a pot or an orchard, growing something is a way to say you believe in tomorrow. Being able to pick a Sungold tomato off your own vine or a bouquet of flowers for your dinner table is a reward well earned. A cool spring, a heat wave in July, raccoons digging up your new seedlings, nothing can deter a gardener. Hope springs eternal each year as we plan for next years garden now evan before winter has started.

4. Lovable pets
Whether you have one or get to enjoy someone else’s you know the joy and love you receive from being around these amazing creatures. There’s nothing like that greeting from a pet when you come home. It can make your day or erase a bad one. They bring us so much happiness and ask for very little in return. Just petting their soft fur can help us cope when we’re sad.

5. State Parks, National Parks and Monuments, County Parks
This year I was able to visit The Pinnacles National Monument, Lassen Volcanic National park, Ano Nuevo, Candlestick Point, Bean Hollow, Pogonip, Wilder, Natural Bridges, Moss Landing, Marina and Pt. Lobos as well as our local Big Basin, Fall Creek and Henry Cowell state parks. Being a native Californian I’ve been to the far corners of our state over the years. I remember as a kid camping with my parents and thinking that every state had as many cool places as ours. Located on mountaintops, on the pristine shores of sparking lakes, alongside rivers, take advantage of these special places preserved because they are unique.

6. Blessings
Count your blessings. Be grateful for friends who understand. Appreciate what you have. See the beauty around you. Live in the moment. On Thanksgiving we have a chance to gather and appreciate the friends, family and the blessings around us. Imagine if everyday you took a moment to be th

Happy Thanksgiving

 Soft magenta clouds streak the sky as the sun sets over the valley and a full moon rises over the eastern  ridge.    The clouds are as dramatic as the geological formations found here.  Desert holly, mesquite and creosote are as common as redwood trees are to our area.  Botanically speaking, I couldn’t be farther from the Santa Cruz mountains.   I’m in Death Valley exploring an area whose growing season is from September to May due to the extreme summer heat.   There are 1200 springs throughout the valley and surrounding mountains  supporting wildlife and plants.    There’s water here but in isolated areas.

 After returning,  I’m struck with the lushness of our subtropical home.  You probably get this same feeling when you get back from a vacation.  We live in paradise.  Whether you live in oak woodlands, chaparral, or a redwood / mixed evergreen forest we are blessed  to live here.  We are thankful for our neighbors and community, our flora and fauna, our wonderful climate and our gardens.     I came across this poem of Thanksgiving and thought you might like it, too. 


Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

~~Author Unknown.~~