Gardening

Your Alaska garden is mostly on autopilot now, but you don’t have to be

Alaska gardens are mostly on autopilot — so are many Alaska gardeners. Things are flowering and ripening automatically as the days get shorter, and plants sense the impending end. Most of our gardens don’t need human intervention other than harvesting. Fortunately, there are several “non-gardening” gardening things to take up some of that free time. Let’s start with some possibly free trees (this is for the Anchorage municipality area only).

First, most readers know by now that Prunus padus (European bird cherry or mayday) and Prunus virginiana (Canada red or chokecherry) are big no-nos these days. They may flower wonderfully, but their berries are spread by birds and they take over riparian banks. They are a big problem.

As a result, the Community Forestry and Forest Stewardship programs are offering homeowners in Anchorage who choose to remove some help with suitable alternatives.

Fill out an application and Community Forestry staff will determine if your trees are eligible — they will visit to see that you have them and later that they have been removed. Then you will get a $100 voucher toward purchase of a replacement tree or trees from a local nursery. Funding is limited, so this is first-come, first-served. For more information, visit forestry.alaska.gov/community/grants.

Next, that master gardener plant sale listed in my calendar is a great one to attend. Master gardeners bring their best perennials, and there shouldn’t be anything that can escape or spread. Best of all, there will be folks to answer cultivation questions. How can you go wrong? You can’t.

OK, I promote Alaska Botanical Garden events almost every week, as I believe a great botanical garden is the mark of a city with culture and class. Indeed, the ABG is a gem, a place for tourists and citizens alike to learn about plants and gardening in Alaska. For these reasons, fundraising for the Alaska Botanical Garden is extremely important; it is privately funded.

One of the major fundraising events for the garden is called “Wine in the Woods.” For a small donation you get to sample 70 wines while enjoying the beautiful garden. It is this Thursday, Aug. 12, from 6 to 9 p.m. You need to register and get more info at alaskabg.org. Even the designated driver will have a blast helping with this great cause.

Next, there are some unbelievable garden beds maintained by the Municipality of Anchorage — as well as the City of Palmer, Fairbanks, Juneau, Haines, Skagway, etc. Ostensibly for visitors, we should look at them as paid for by tourists so that we Alaskans can enjoy them. Take some time out to walk around your particular downtown and enjoy the flowers. Bring your cameras.

Finally, there is the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Aug. 20-Sept. 6. You might go for the turkey legs or the latest fried whatever, but it should be the flowers that call you out to the fair — you know, parsley and thyme? The individual beds throughout the grounds are designed to be in bloom, and they are world class. And don’t forget to allow for some time in the perennial garden. It is on the right hand side of the main drag, about in the middle. Wow.

And, of course, there are the flower entries. What a show. I mean, come on, blue ribbon flowers grown by Alaska gardeners? My attention is drawn to the “Bluest Flower” category this year. The only thing that counts is the entry’s color.

So, get out of the garden and out of your yard. Not completely, of course, but enough to enjoy some of the efforts of others for a change. If nothing else, walk, bike or even drive around if you have to. Check out what your neighbors have done. Bring the camera — for most, your phone — and take notes so you can incorporate things into your yard next year.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Wine in the Woods: Taste 70 wines at the annual Alaska Botanical Garden celebration. 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12. Register and get more info at alaskabg.org. Always a great time.

Master gardener plant sale: Wow. Great perennials, not available anywhere else. There are also house plants, classes and the “ask a master gardener” table. The late season plant sale is 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 in the Alaska Botanical Gardens Parking lot (alaskamastergardeners.org; 4515 Campbell Airstrip Road).

Harvest: You know what is ripe. Use it or give it to someone who needs it. Plant a row, remember?

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