Carolyn Singer finally gave in. People kept begging for more of her down-to-earth gardening advice. The Grass Valley landscape designer relented at last.
The author of two previous books and a longtime gardening columnist, Singer condensed half a century of hands-on expertise into an easy-to-use format.
"I did it just the way I wanted to do it," she recalled. "I'm a natural teacher, and I want people to learn. I also want to make people comfortable about trying new things."
The result is "The Seasoned Gardener" (Garden Wisdom Press, 325 pages, $29.95), a month-by-month trek through tasks and tips, peppered with hundreds of Singer's photos and recollections.
Like any good garden teacher, Singer also made space for plenty of asides to appreciate the growing world around us. She takes readers on her personal journey of garden discovery, including decades of trial and error.
"And I made my deadline my 70th birthday," she added with a chuckle. "I got it all done and sent off to my publisher. It was real exciting and satisfying. When I focus, I really focus."
Now, "The Seasoned Gardener" has garnered national recognition with a major award. It won a gold medal and was named 2012 Book of the Year in the Home and Garden category from ForeWord Reviews, which honors independent publishers. The award was announced June 28 in Chicago at the American Library Association conference, the world's largest library show.
That date already was special to Singer.
"That's my anniversary of moving to Grass Valley," she said. "It's been 36 years now. I also picked my first ripe tomatoes that day that's unheard of at this elevation! We're in a cold pocket at 2,650 feet. This must be my lucky year."
Singer's reputation already had a solid foundation. In Grass Valley, she's a local legend. For several years, she operated a nursery, Foothill Cottage Gardens, dedicated to perennials and deer- resistent plants. At Peaceful Valley Farm, she still teaches propagation and other gardening skills.
"When I moved to the foothills 15 years ago, local gardeners passed along Carolyn Singer's garden advice in tones of awe," recalled Charlotte Germane of Nevada City.
Like many foothill gardeners, Germane became a Singer believer with her previous books, the two-part "Deer in My Garden" series.
"I stopped wasting money on doomed plants when I acquired her 'Deer in My Garden' books," Germane said. "Now, my whole garden is deer-resistant and I just won't buy a plant if it's not in her books."
"The Seasoned Gardener" expands on themes beyond what deer won't eat.
"Carolyn is an expert with a relaxed and confident manner," Germane added, "and that confidence seeps right into the readers of 'The Seasoned Gardener,' leaving us smarter and spunkier and ready to solve any garden problem."
Dick Tracy of Grass Valley, The Bee's retired garden columnist, is another longtime Singer fan.
"What impresses me about Carolyn and her garden is that she's taken her lumps from foraging animals and all sorts of things and has found practical solutions that she shares with others," Tracy said. "Talk about a 'fountain of information.' She's it."
Tracy is particularly impressed by "The Seasoned Gardener."
"I rank it shoulder-to-shoulder with the 'Sunset Western Garden Book' in its straightforward writing style," he said. "It gives foothill gardeners a gardening rhythm throughout the year."
Singer has found that her audience reaches far beyond the foothills or Sacramento Valley.
"My books are very regional, but a good garden book is a good garden book," she said. "(For example), I met a gardener from West Virginia. We started talking about similarities and differences between our gardens. We discovered we had so many things in common. That's true all over. My books have sold in New Jersey, Canada, New Zealand truly around the world."
Lately, her garden has been coping with extreme heat just like everything.
"I'm a strong advocate of heat- resistant lettuce," she said, noting that Red Cross from Johnny's Seeds and Rhapsody from Renee's Garden both take the heat and stay sweet. "I'm also experimenting with shade cloth."
To help keep plants comfortable, Singer swears by straw mulch, preferably well aged. "I'm amazed at how many people don't mulch," she added.
The reaction to "The Seasoned Gardener" has been overwhelmingly positive, she noted. "People say (of the month-by-month format), 'You make me feel behind!' But I wanted to show that gardening has a year-round rhythm."
It means gardening is full of second chances.
"There's no reason to feel frantic," she added. "If you don't get something done, that's OK. There's always next season."
A LIFETIME OF ADVICE
Find "The Seasoned Gardener" by Carolyn Singer at Green Acres nurseries in Sacramento, Folsom and Roseville and at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply in Grass Valley. It's also available online at www.groworganic.com.
Singer teaches propagation and other garden skills. To find her schedule, click on www.carolynsingergardens.com.
Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.