Tips for a Successful Mountain Garden


Spring is officially here and summer is just around the corner. That means the time for your garden to flourish is now! You may be wondering what your options are for your Truckee/Tahoe home garden. Lots of sun, freezing temps, and loads of wildlife can might have deterred you from perusing a great mountain garden, but they don’t have to. There are plenty of native plants and flowers that will make your garden look amazing without a ton of hassle. Here are some tips to successfully creating a mountain garden:

Before you thing about planting, you need to think about your soil. Truckee and the Tahoe region has poor soil for the success of many plants. According to Eric Larusson, co-owner of Villager Nursery in Truckee, you must add “organic matter to build up the soil before planting.” He says this because the soil in the Truckee/Tahoe region is “basically decomposed granite.” Being such a hearty soil means that is also doesn’t drain as well as normal soil which can be harmful to certain plants.

An alternative to planting straight in the ground is to build a raised garden bed. This might be a great alternative for you because you might not even have a yard, just a deck. Hardware stores, like Home Depot, sell assembled raised garden beds, but you can get creative and build your own with relative ease. Lowe’s has an excellent video that will take you step by step through building your own. If you decide that a raised bed is for you, make sure that where you put it will avoid heavy snow damage (from snow falling off the roof or from snow plows).

Now that you’ve figured out your soil needs, you can start to figure out what kind of plants you want. Things to consider at this stage:

  • Wildlife (Deer can be deterred by specific plants and herbs, like sage)
  • Sun exposure
  • Maintenance
  • Perennials or Annuals

Our Favorite Mountain Plants:

  • Wild Strawberries: the wild variation of this favorite berry is smaller than the ones you’ll see in the supermarkets, but they provide excellent ground cover, a pop of color, and amazing flavor. They are fast growing and hard to kill! 
  • Bush Poppy (Tree Poppy): these plants require full sun and excellent draining, but are a beautiful evergreen plant that flowers in the late winter to mid-spring.
  • Woods’ Rose: This shrub requires a moist environment and partial shade. The redbuds transform to beautiful pink flowers in Spring. The best part: they are deer resistant.
  • Western Columbine: This is one of the most interesting flowers that is native to the Tahoe area. It needs water and shade (it’s normally found near water in wooded areas). It grows well with Huckleberry, Western Azaleas Snowdrop Bush, Fir, and Sequoias.
  • Blue Field Gilia (Gilia Capitata): This plant does best in meadow-like settings with other annuals. The gorgeous flower clusters will provide lots of color to your garden.  This is a very easy plant to keep because it is so adaptable to environments.

There are many great resources for gardening in Truckee. We really love how helpful the crew is at Village Nursery. Check them out at 10678 Donner Pass Road or on their website. Be sure to check their availability – they close or operate partially in the fall, winter, and spring.

Good luck and good gardening!