Organic landscaper/gardener Ronna Adler of Ahwahnee has been digging in the dirt and planting flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees since she was a child.
“I owe this debt to my mother who was an enthusiastic organic gardener back in the late ’40s, when everyone was saying there is nothing wrong with DDT,” Adler said.
Now Adler has taken her love to a new level with a nearly 200-page book, “Landscape Gardening in the Sierra Nevada and Other High Elevation Climates,” available on Amazon. She said she wrote it to provide landscaping information for those living in the Sierra Nevada throughout the state, a mountainous climate of extremes, hot and cold.
“Throughout the Sierra Nevada, you can be in 7- degree weather mid-afternoon in February sitting on a blanket wearing shorts, when within a couple hours, the temperature drops 40 degrees, and a light rain turns to snow,” Adler said.
She said the secret to successful and beautiful gardens in this environment is modifying these gardens so they are adaptable to these unique conditions. Adler explains that many people buy their mountain dream home and quickly discover they are at a loss as to how to deal with the land around their home.
“When they consult garden books and magazines they usually find that most of them address the coastal and central regions of California,” Adler said. “It is this void that I wished to fill in my book.”
Adler, 82, ran her business, The Organic Landscape Design Company, for 12 years. In addition to many private residential properties, she has worked on many commercial projects in the Mountain Area including Erna’s Elderberry House and the Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices.
“Many of my clients came to me with the same story: ‘Most of the plants I have planted have died, and I need some help,’” Adler said. “I am proud to say that I had a 95 percent plant survival rate of what I put in all those landscapes.”
Adler said her own backyard represents 25 years of living and successful gardening in the Oakhurst area. Chapters in the book include soil preparation and planting, drainage, native plants, waterfalls and ponds, lawns, the vegetable garden, paths, slopes, living with flowers, pruning, maintenance and deer.
Adler said many people plant their favorite trees, shrubs and flowers not realizing they may have just planted the perfect deer buffet. For very deer-resistant trees she recommends maple, silk, manzanita, cedar, fig (edible), ash, oak and walnut. Very deer-resistant shrubs include Japanese barberry, butterfly bush, wild lilac, holly, mountain laurel and sun rose.
The short list of perennial flowers that are very deer-resistant include basket of gold, meadow sweet, wormwood, purple coneflower, candyloft, lupine, monkey flower, bee balm, Oriental poppy, moss pink, Russian sage, thyme and society garlic.
Adler said she strongly believes that good soil is the foundation to to a health garden.
“Aeration is the exchange of air that is in the soil with air that is in the atmosphere,” Adler explained. “This is an important fact for healthy soil. Organically enriched soil is full of necessary organisms, and healthy soil creates healthy plants.”
Another love of Adler’s is horseback riding, something she was introduced to when she was 16. “As a child, I used to dream of riding my white stallion across a big, green meadow to save the heron.”
Three years ago her riding days came to an end when her horse, Red Cloud, ripped, throwing Adler – a fall that resulted in a broken neck. She’s completely healed from the accident and said, “I miss it so much, I’ve been thinking about getting another horse.”
Details: “Landscape Gardening in the Sierra Nevada and Other High Elevation Climates,” by Ronna L. Adler, $15, amazon.com.