Plant as many spring-flowering bulbs as you can. You’ll never regret it.

I can’t find my notes on when Alaska leaves stop producing chlorophyll, which is green. It disappears, allowing the natural color of leaves to show. Unfortunately, yellow seems to be the underlying color hereabouts, but if we get just the right temperatures for long enough, some red hues might appear.

Anyhow, as it gets cool, production of the hormone which helps keep leaves attached to the tree stops and they drop. I was planning to write all about this, but our leaves are still green and despite lots of really strong winds, still attached. It just doesn’t seem timely.

Thinking about trees right now is timely, however. Friend Patrick Ryan, the education specialist at the Alaska Botanical Garden, passed on a flyer announcing another Anchorage Tree Forum to be held on Sept. 20 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Wendler Middle School. For those who don’t know, this is an opportunity to hear and question a panel of local tree experts about the state of our urban trees.

I urge you to go to this free forum. It will start with a keynote address by professor John Ball of South Dakota State University. It will also feature discussion about our trees from a bevy of both government and private local experts — people who can help us get and keep healthy trees and protect our community from fire at the same time.

No doubt spruce bark beetle and our urban forests’ health will be a key topic. So will invasive species. Then there is our needed response to the tragedy of Lahaina, namely FireWise.

[When you look at the remains of Lahaina, you see what could happen in Alaska]

You have important tree questions — I, of all people know you do. This is a place to get some accurate answers. And, the event will be moderated by Mr. Whitekeys, late of Audubon tree giveaway fame. No music, I am pretty sure. Just serious talk about our trees.


Next, master of segue that I am, it is time to plant spring bulbs. They are on sale all over the place and you probably could get some sent via FedEx if you saw a deal on the internet you just can’t pass up. You can plant until the ground gets too hard to do so.

You know the rule: Plant as many spring-flowering bulbs as you can. You will never regret having too many tulips and daffodils bloom in the spring, after the long Alaska winter.

Tulips, daffodils and crocus, the latter being the” iffy” one in the trio, are the big ones. However, don’t forget the so-called “lesser” bulbs such as quills, galanthus and scalia. These are often the first to flower, even while there is still snow around, so plant them where you can see them from windows.

The big question is how deep to plant. The general rule is the hole should be three times the height of the bulb. There are always instructions that accompany your purchase of bulbs, so refer to them.

In Alaska we don’t use bone meal or fertilizer when we plant spring flowering bulbs. And we water only to get air pockets out of soil after planting; don’t worry after that as we get plenty of moisture. Do apply up to five inches or so of mulch on top of the planting hole. This will not smother the bulbs, but will rather serve as insulation during freeze and thaw periods.

The easiest way to plant lots of bulbs is to dig a bed and arrange the bulbs and then cover. Alaskan bulbs generally don’t like shade or planting under conifers. Maybe you can ask one of the tree experts at the Sept. 20 forum why this is!

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

Alaska Botanical Garden: The BOOtanical Garden, I mean. At least on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 15 to Oct. 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy a family-friendly fall display of silly ghosts, scarecrows, fairy houses, pumpkins and more!

Alaska Apple Tasting: The Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association invites you to a free apple and fruit tasting on Saturday Sept. 23, from 1 p.m.–2:30 p.m. in the Anchorage Begich Middle School All-Purpose Room.

Houseplants: Bring yours inside. Now is a good time to re-pot those that need it.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.