Gardening

Your smartphone can be a powerful tool in creating a more beautiful yard

By now you had better have your gardens planted, unless you are interested in planting some new perennials, which you can then enjoy starting next season. Other than that, this is a great time to put down the trowels and hoes, so to speak, and look at other people’s gardens.

You can do this by just driving a bit slower as you go about your day or by simply engaging a neighbor in a conversation during a walk. Alaska yards always have flowers — some more spectacular than others … the yards as well as the flowers. We are pretty lucky to be surrounded by neighbors who mostly seem to be gardeners and are not ashamed to put on a display!

Do check out the muni-maintained garden beds, which are in full bloom. They are not planted just for tourists and you can find some at parks tourists never frequent. It is time to get out and wander around some and to go downtown on a flower bed tour.

Don’t know what kind of flowers you are looking at? It might be a good time to download a phone app to help you out. You can search for one that works for your needs and pocketbook.

One garden you really should go to see is the Alaska Botanical Garden. The garden is now mature enough that non-gardeners will enjoy hiking around, taking in the color and the natural order of things out there, just as much as actual gardeners will.

There are plenty of things in bloom at The Garden right now. You can check for yourself at alaskabg.org/whats-blooming, but I think the alpine garden is really worth a special trip all by itself. It is not only full of blooms, there are some orchids on full display.

This is the garden made up largely of hypertufa troughs. The plants may be small and the flowers diminutive, but they are beautiful and distinctly Alaskan. You won’t see most of these plants anywhere else unless you take lots of difficult hikes in the hills and mountains.

Or make the trip to visit the latest art installation, “Night and Day.” Two 20-foot-tall birds now straddle one of the main paths. They are really a fantastic sight, made of locally harvested birch and willow saplings growing right on site. While they are expected to last several years, go see them now. They are really fun.

Of course, wander The Garden’s beds. No need to take notes. Take pictures instead, so you can incorporate things you see and like. And ask questions. There is always some knowledgeable staffer around.

Taking pictures when you drive around makes sense, too. If you see some spectacular yard or color combination or a row of unusual vegetables, capture it so you can use it next year. This is how you become a better yardener, if not gardener, or at least have better looking yards and gardens.

And, when you get back home, keep in mind what you have seen. You can have sculptures in your yard just like the Alaska Botanical Garden. The plants which made up those wanted color combos put out by the muni will do just as well where you live. And, wow, next season is going to be even better than this one is.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Catered picnics every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. You can reserve your own table, enjoy the fare from South Restaurant and get private access to the fabulous blooms and beds at this fundraiser for the garden. $60 for adults, $30 for children includes an entree, side, dessert and beverage. alaskabg.org

Dandelions: The first flush is over. Just keep them mowed back.

Tomatoes, cukes and peppers: Make sure you pollinate them yourself.

Kohlrabi, kale, lettuces: Plant some now for a succession crop.

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