Sierra Water Gardens: Winter 2013 Master Gardener Newsletter

By Master Gardener Liz Morrow; Photos by Master Gardener Bill Kositzky

At the west side of town, Sutter and Samantha Stremmel, owners of Sierra Water Gardens, have created a hidden oasis complete with tranquil views within their garden and of the Truckee River. As one Master Gardner said, it’s like walking into a rain forest in the desert. This surprise destination is on Dickerson Road. Not only is it a commercial business, it is also a residence. The location is home to not only Sutter, Sam and their two dogs Copper and Oly, but also to a plethora of koi, unique aquatic plants and a variety of succulents. They have managed to put a lot of nature and beauty in their one-third acre lot. Sutter shared that the most common question they get is: “Do you live here?”

The Stremmels are in their third year as business owners. Both having come from families where they owned their own businesses, it was a natural fit for them to take a risk and purchase this piece of property. The couple graduated from Montana State, both with literary degrees, and aside from teaching school, there wasn’t many career options for them there. Sutter thought he’d become an auctioneer (which he readily admitted he enjoys doing) when he discovered this piece of property up for auction. Sam’s family are farmers and she grew up very involved in that process and working the farmer’s markets. This experience has lent itself well to providing extraordinary customer service at the nursery.

Sam likens their business to a ‘specialty boutique nursery.’ You are not likely to find what they have to offer at any of the chain or box stores. Or even at our larger, established nurseries in northern Nevada. As they say, there’s enough of the pie to go around, and they have that unique slice that satisfies this particular Master Gardener’s palate. Sam’s focus is on the customers, products, social media and the plants.

Sutter’s focus is on keeping the water going. He specializes in pumps, UV lighting, maintenance and repair. He also has his ceramics with a studio across the street from the nursery. Commuting from home and to one business to the other is merely steps away.

I happened upon this gem through a girlfriend. Once I saw it, I had to go back. I brought my husband and made several purchases for my own small 30-gallon fish pond, a water lettuce – which is so prolific that I’ve had to ‘thin’ the pond several times this summer, a water Hawthorne, a parrot feather water plant, along with a half dozen or more succulents. It is easy to make several selections—sometimes making choices is so hard. No matter what your taste or budget, there is sure to be something for every gardener or one who appreciates the different. Across the street from the nursery, Sutter also creates many pottery pieces, which you can find for sale in the nursery. Then I went back again, bringing two other Master Gardeners with me (Kathie Kauffman and Shirley Haas).

Having lived here most of most of my life, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this business before. And if I hadn’t heard about it, I just knew there were many others who also were unaware. Hence, I asked Sutter if I could interview them for a feature in our newsletter. Knowing that my little cell phone would take marginal pictures, I invited MG Bill Kositzky to partner with me and take some pictures. It’s been difficult to make selections, hence, there are so many. I trust you as the reader will enjoy viewing them and hopefully this will encourage you to go visit for yourself.

What brings you to Sierra Water Gardens may or may not be the same driving force that keeps you there. Or for that matter, keeps you wanting to return. But for the record, they are a water garden nursery, so let’s discuss it.

Plants for your Garden:

Ponds and Fish and Water Features – oh my!

Part of a water garden includes pond care and having fish. SWG carries koi and goldfish of all sizes. One or two or perhaps more than that would love to come home and live with you. SWG also offers all the accoutrements that come with owning and caring for a fish pond: food, nets, algae control, etc. Sutter is adamant that the pond water mimic nature, which means that in a closed circuit environment, one must change the water flow and characteristics to make that happen. He offers advice and does professional consulting which may include site visits and/or maintenance. He certainly helped me in minimizing the algae in my pond.

If a pond does not work for your yard, yet you still have that desire for a water feature, SWG offers several containers and pumps that can easily fit into your landscape to create your own water bowl. Just pick out your container, the pump, lilies and some little fish. Voila!

The biggest water feature is the 30,000-gallon pond loaded with koi and surrounded with plants, i.e. the Japanese Maples on the island within the pond and evergreens surrounding it. The pond is legally fed from the Truckee River. As good stewards of the property and the environment, Sam and Sutter utilize current pond water to water their plants and trees—the water is loaded with all those good nutrients that the fish help create from living and eating in the same place.


Some of the best shopping, in this humble writer’s opinion, can be found in nurseries and Sierra Water Garden doesn’t disappoint. In addition to purchasing plants or fish, there is a variety of other garden features just right for your home or as a gift. Plus they offer gift certificates!

A Peaceful Place to ‘Just Be’

Winding paths are throughout the property with places to sit and enjoy the garden and wild life. People have been known to bring their lunches here. Or grab a bottle of wine and sit along the river’s edge. Not only is the garden a draw for people, but wild life as well. Visitors include otter, mink, muskrats, raccoons and even an osprey visiting (or fishing in) the ponds.

This garden is so hypnotic, drawing one in, wanting to have parties here. Hence, a new part of the business was born.

Horseshoes anyone?
Horseshoes anyone?

Event Location

SWG will rent their facility for events, parties, showers, weddings and even more can be hosted here for groups of 60 or less.

Asking Sam and Sutter what they wanted Master Gardeners to know about their place, the both said, “That we’re here and we’ll be here next year.” So will I… I’ll be back next year, that is, if I can wait that long.

For more information about Sierra Water Gardens, please visit their website