It’s Personal

For local celebs, gardening is the cure

By Dan Vierria
November 2020

Gardening holds hands with serotonin levels. It’s an organic neurotransmitter, relaying a sense of well-being after a few snips of hand pruners. During the darkness of pandemic and politics, we can discover peace among plants, solace in soil.

What personal enjoyment do you harvest from time spent in the garden? Well, it’s personal, but a few folks opened their hearts.

Bobbin Mulvaney is co-owner (with husband Patrick) of Mulvaney’s B&L restaurant. She says, “I honestly feel best at 5 a.m. with my overalls on, a hose wrapped around my waist and out watering my pots and front yard. It’s the country girl in me that drives me to get up and irrigate!”

Mulvaney’s backyard is small. Pots are her friends. Five citrus trees are grown in large containers. There are meditation gardens with succulents, herbs and whimsical mosaics crafted from broken restaurant dishes. She started a bonsai during COVID-19 downtime and adds, “We also have a sweet little chicken coop I call Cry Baby Ranch.”

Her summer specialty this year was cherry tomatoes. She says, “We had all different types of cherry tomatoes. I think it makes the boys laugh when I come into the kitchen with my 2- or 3-pound harvest when we buy about 40 pounds a week (for the restaurant).”

Kayte Christensen-Hunter is Sacramento Kings TV game reporter, studio analyst for NBC Sports California and former WNBA player. Her husband built four raised beds for their home two years ago and added a shade structure this past summer.

“There is so much I love about gardening,” she says. “Maybe my favorite part is just being able to get my hands dirty and dig in the dirt to grow something to feed my family.

“I love that I am still learning how to make my new garden work for our family, whether it’s growing tomatoes to make homemade spaghetti sauce in the summer or growing five varieties of winter lettuce. It is soothing, relaxing and peaceful to me. And with a busy work schedule and two small children, that’s always welcome!”

Don Nottoli has been a Sacramento County supervisor for south county District 5 since 1994. Nottoli admits his wife Brenda has the darker green thumb, but the politician appreciates the transition from dealing with land use, water issues and budgets to fruit, flowers and pruning.

“My main contributions are pruning, mowing and planting,” he says. “There’s a sense of calm and accomplishment when you work outdoors. We are blessed here in Sacramento with plenty of sunshine. There is always motion and the change of seasonal color. With our busy lives, we’re offered an appreciation of nature.”

The Nottoli property is home for new raised vegetable beds, fig, peach and lemon trees, and several blue and valley oak trees started from acorns many years ago. He deals with water issues at home too. Some trees suffered a setback this past summer when a critter chewed through the drip-system tubing during an August heat wave. He patched the damage and water was restored.

Beth Ruyak is a longtime broadcaster and former host of “Insight” on Capital Public Radio. She’s working on her master’s degree at Sacramento State and creating documentaries for her company, Ruyak Media. Ruyak and husband Mike McWhirter tend what she calls an “urban farm.”

“Hours and hours disappear for me in the garden,” she says. “It feels like a living oxygen bar. I practice yoga, accidentally, when I reach and crouch and bend and pull. Time seems not to matter. I clear dried, fallen leaves and kneel to deadhead flowers. I trim and stir up the dirt and replant where necessary. The garden is refreshed and so am I.”

Most satisfying is the flavor of a just-plucked black cherry heirloom tomato, a lemon cucumber or a white peach, ripened in late summer.

“It is the reason we love growing our own, and the reason we love sharing it too,” Ruyak says. “It is the gift of deliciousness and good health.”

Dan Vierria is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener for Sacramento County and former Home & Garden writer for The Sacramento Bee. He can be reached at For answers to gardening questions, contact the UCCE Master Gardeners at (916) 876-5338, email or visit Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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