Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Alaska Botanical Garden Part One: Introductions and Artwork

I spent the first week or so of July visiting my family in Alaska.  My niece, bless her heart, took me to see several gardens.  The Alaska Botanical Garden was one of these.

"Open Daylight Hours"  means that they're sort of the Seven Eleven of botanical gardens during the summer months.

Although you may think that the Willow Ptarmigan is the state bird of Alaska, it's actually the mosquito.  Perhaps because I'm so bitter, I was only bitten a couple of times while in the state even though I used no bug spray.  Upon arrival, each of us was presented with his own spray can and were advised to spray ourselves daily. 
 A raised side bed to the side of the entry sign.  Look at that folks, ornamental and edible cabbage looking pristine in July!  Those cabbage heads, already the size of those we'd buy in the store will continue growing and become huge

Just so you know, in addition to the signs, there's a warning in the pamphlet issued upon entry to the garden, " You are in BEAR and MOOSE country.  Please report all bear & moose sightings to ..."
Sounds like a fun time, right?  Fortunately, Alison had both her gun and her excellent aim along so I didn't worry.  Of course, I didn't wander far from her either.
"The Alaska Botanical Garden (ABG) is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1986, and opened to the public in 1993.  Today, the garden occupies approximately 110 acres.  We are in the process of building the elements of the ABG 'Master Plan' which specifies that much of the land will remain in a natural state, with individual gardens interconnected by trails through the boreal forest."  For more information, check out the ABG website here.
Interesting foliage combination pots along the entry path.

The only Melianthus major I saw during my visit was in one of these pots.  Understandable as they're annuals here. You may recognize meconopsis foliage in the ground on the left. Those pesky blue poppies  seem to pop up everywhere here.

There had been an art show in the garden just before our visit so we got to see some fun pieces!

Heidi Banach, Alaskan stained glass artist extraordinaire created this piece from Fremont glass blown right here in my neck of the woods.  Check out her store in Eagle River next time you're there or get a teaser on the website.

I especially liked "Fish Fertilizer" as a thought piece.

Now, on to some more plants...
Primula and Rodersia frolic with friends.

Love this twig edging!

Moving toward the Lower Perennial garden.

Meconopsis and Thalictrum make a great combination!

While we in the pacific northwest are pretty pleased with ourselves for being able to grow this holy grail of flowers,  they seem to like Alaska even better.  The plants are incredibly lush, loving the cool nights (what night there is)  of this costal area.

 Ooh, that deep pink peony will look stunning with the blue poppies!

NOID rose (I didn't look too closely)   Notice the little black bugs?  They seemed to like both roses and peonies but didn't seem to be doing any harm.  No one I spoke with knew what they were.  Do you?

 Did I mention that all of this is happening in  hardiness zone 3? Love that variegated filipendula!

Lovely peony resembling a poppy seed muffin - again with the cute little bugs.

Ah those poppies... These are nearly five feet high!  Yowsa!
Tom, checking out the rock garden, got a little far from the group.  Oops.  I'll miss him.

I mean really, one can't just lie down on one of these bear dining tables and think that he won't be the main course!

More of the rock garden which is full of awesome alpine plants and tiny treasures! 
Next, we'll explore a few more of the ABG gardens.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Favorite Plant ... This Week is a Weed!

Hordeum jubatum, also known as Foxtail Grass and Foxtail Barley, rippling in the wind beside the road catching and reflecting the sun's light is an ubiquitous sight in Alaska  and brings back memories of my growing up years there.

Hordeum jubatum is a perennial plant species in the grass family Poaceae. It occurs wild mainly in northern North America and adjacent northeastern Siberia.

I thought of grass master Scott Weber  and wondered if he might need this in his garden; I certainly thought I should bring it into mine!

But then I learned about it's negative attributes.  "It is considered a weed because of this competitive ability and the dangers it poses to wildlife and livestock. While Foxtail barley may be palatable for animals in early spring before it flowers, its seed heads, when dry, are very harmful to grazing animals. The awns with upward-pointing barbs become easily attached and embedded in the animal's mouth and face, causing severe irritation, abscesses, and even blindness."  Alison pulls it as soon as she sees it because dogs and cats that occasionally eat grass can have the problems described above.

But it's so beautiful and looks incredibly soft which it isn't.

So, I guess this won't be introduced to my garden but I'll certainly enjoy it's pink tinted seed heads echoing the color of magenta fireweed blooming by thee roadside next time I'm in Alaska!
My favorite plant...this week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Alison's Wasilla Garden

Summer gardens in Alaska  seem greener than those in my neck of the woods.  Perhaps because of the cool nights, perhaps because they actually have rain in the summer.  The foliage by the side of the road is still green there while our grasses have long since set seed and turned golden.  (That's a euphemism for brown.)   Here is the first of several gardens that I visited during the first week and a half of July, the garden of my eldest niece, Alison.  Let's see what's growing in this zone three garden.
 Tanacetum coccineum with a Polemonium bloom leaning over to get into the picture.

Polemonium in white and blue.  Shall we call this the blue border?

Wanting to inspire this oak she planted to make acorns, Alison added some to show it what they look like.

And more at the base of the tree.  With such great expectations, I'm thinking the oak might get a little nervous about it's ability to measure up!
Even in zone three, bishop's weed, Aegopodium podagraria, grows well!  Hope this doesn't give you nightmares, Loree!  To read about the virtues of Bishop's weed, click here. To read a post calling it a most hated plant, click here.
This is obviously some sort of UFO communication.  

It was probably placed here by the ancient aliens!  Cool though, isn't it?

Stonehenge deux is made of really cool petrified  wood.  The black parts on them are where they'd started turning into coal. 

Bergenia is an amazing plant!  Here it is in July
Here's the same clump in November at 15 degrees (a crisp autumn day, winter gets much colder!)


Chives with one incredibly large bloom!

Iris setosa

Who needs tree ferns when these grow so tall in a single season?

Meanwhile, out in the vegetable garden.  Birches are in abundant supply and many needed to be cleared from the back of the property so...

The magic of the long days (22 hours of visible light while I was there) is that these seedlings will grow very quickly into edible sized veggies.

Here's a view of part of the front garden taken at a little after midnight, no flash and no long exposure time, it's still light so one can garden 24 hours a day in the summer.

Campanula glomerata

Don't have a clue. Do you?  It's a perennial, hardy in zone 3 and has a velvety appearance that this picture doesn't adequately convey.

Centaurea dealbata or Zweifarbige Flockenblume  in German (more interesting than two toned knapweed.)

Lychnis x arkwrightii is the plant with the cool purple foliage and bright orange flowers, a great color combination!

The rose walk.
More of that gorgeous Lychnis, it's orange color echoed by the lilies on the left and accentuated by by the purbles in the background.  I was sure not to crop out a rare sighting of Alaska's only snake, hosus waterum.

Angelica gaining height.  Won't it be spectacular when their blooms tower over this bed?

Beneath an ornamental crab apple tree is this statue contemplating the plastic apples on the ground. I asked who it was.  The answer was, "think about it."  
(It's Sir Isaac Newton) 
We do like to have fun in our gardens!