Whimsical Wonderland

East Sac yard gets an artistic update

By Jessica Laskey
June 2021

If you walk down Taylor Way and notice a yard that looks like something out of “Alice in Wonderland”—colorful mushrooms, stepping stones, a burbling fountain—then you’ve discovered Adam Salinger’s East Sac residence.

Salinger and his wife, who have owned the house for 20 years, have gradually transformed it into a whimsical gathering place for neighbors and passersby. Everything in the yard—from artwork to strategic plantings of fragrant herbs and trees—are pure Salinger, an avid outdoorsman and educator who has channeled his love of nature and innate artistic abilities into a showstopping abode.

“When I’m in town, I like to be outside,” says Salinger, a teacher who taught fourth and fifth grade in Placer County for 20 years. Prior to that, he helped open Western Placer Unified School District’s ATLAS Learning Academy, a K-12 hybrid school that combines project-based learning with outdoor education.

“When I walk my neighborhood, I’m always looking at people’s yards to scope out interesting plants and writing down ideas for my own yard.”

Thirteen years ago, Salinger and his wife remodeled their house and redid the backyard, but Salinger knew the front yard was going to be the pièce de résistance. When COVID-19 hit and he was home more than ever, he figured it was the perfect time to tackle the ultimate outdoor renovation project.

Armed with a carefully drawn map developed over years with input from his family, Salinger worked in sections to transform the yard. He put in new sod at the behest of his 16-year-old daughter, who pointed out there had to be at least a small patch of grass where neighbors could sit during Taylor Way Night, a weekly get-together when neighbors gather to share stories and food. Salinger also transplanted several bonsai trees—nurtured and sculpted from tiny maple saplings he’d bought at the Sacramento Farmers Market—to a more visible location. He planted all of his favorite fruit trees, including cherry, nectarine, peach and pomegranate, as well as fragrant plants such as juniper and verbena.

Next came the garden art, one of Salinger’s particular passions. He built a mushroom-shaped fountain fashioned after a similar water feature in Bertha Henschel Park. He created decorative red-and-white-spotted mushrooms using poured concrete in molds he found at garage sales and hardware stores—a “100-percent self-taught” creative endeavor that Salinger finds uniquely relaxing.

The yard also features stacked rocks that Salinger collected on epic backcountry backpacking trips he’s taken annually since 2000, when he first hiked the Appalachian Trail. You might also spot inspirational words like “empower,” “live” and “act” spelled out with wooden blocks attached to aspen branches, a contribution from his wife and daughter using Salinger’s old classroom supplies and recycled tree trimmings.

The final phase of the project, completed last September, was the planting of dozens of flower bulbs that will bloom for nearly all 12 months of the year—ensuring that whenever someone walks by, they’re greeted with cheerful colors and fragrant aromas.

“Now the fun part is watching it all mature,” Salinger says. “It all came together in a whirlwind—once I start a project, I do it until it’s done—and now I get to enjoy so many neat outcomes. Birds love the front yard, especially the water feature. In the mornings we have hummingbirds, in the afternoons we have mourning doves. There are nine little yellow finches on it right now.

“It’s also brought a lot of joy to our neighbors. I get notes and comments all the time. It’s fun to see people looking and pointing and talking and smiling as they walk by.”

Follow Salinger’s hiking adventures at adamstreks.com.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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