Historic Anchorage garden now a community fixture

ANCHORAGE — In 1997, Martha Jane “Mardane” Connor invited some of her South Anchorage neighbors to join her in creating a collaborative garden on an untended portion of her property.


The original purpose was to grow potatoes for personal consumption. But the spot has evolved over the years to become one of the sites noted on the recent Annual City Garden Tour organized by the Anchorage Garden Club.

“Mardane was the original gardener in the neighborhood,” said Dennis Ronsse, one of her collaborators. “She and (husband) Tom had sort of an irregular-shaped home lot.” It has the shape of a slim piece of pie that might be ordered by someone on a diet, with the long side facing the street.

“The (narrow) triangular end was growing up in weeds,” Ronsse said.

The neighbors pitched in and, soon enough, had their spuds. But Connor had more in mind. The New Orleans transplant was a master gardener and organic gardening advocate. She worked diligently to improve the plot.

She died in 2004, at the age of 50, but her ideas and enthusiasm lived on. Tom Connor agreed to let her fellow gardeners keep working and improving the plot.

Today five households continue to share Mardane’s Garden, also called the Pacific View Neighborhood Garden. There are composting bins, a small greenhouse, a beehive and a bench.

The Ronsses are one of those two households. The adjacent property is owned by Rose Meehan and Stanton Moll.

Annie Ronsse writes: “Simple lumber terraces are used to hold the soil and take advantage of excellent southern exposure, resulting in scenic views, high yields and excellent year-round healthy eating.”

Organic, of course.

But though pesticides are discouraged, Mardane’s Garden buddies nonetheless take pest control seriously. The plot is surrounded by an electric fence.

Solar powered, of course.

Its function is to keep moose and bear out of the crop. “But it’s not foolproof,” Dennis Ronsse admitted. “A moose is so powerful that it can get through the wire if it wants to.

“But I think it does ruin their appetite.”


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