Visit our Sponsors and win.
Visit our Sponsors and win.
Past Shows:

Show #28/902
Alaska Garden Tour


Alaskan Resort Introduction


WE FIRST VISIT A RESORT THAT IS NOT FAR FROM ANCHORAGE. We start in a tram, high in the air, with the doors wide open looking out over a rain-forest. Robbie Frankevich is the horticulturist and our first guest host. Joe asks what is a horticulturist doing at a resort in Alaska? Robbie believes the surroundings tell the story. This is a beautiful setting. Because it's on the edge of the temperate rain-forest, just 40 miles away in Whittier they get about 180 inches of rain per year, here they get about 60 inches, in Anchorage they get about 20 inches. Looking down we're on the side of a large mountain, there is an interesting timber line and there are glaciers to the side. It's a stunning location. Click here for more info

The Front Of The Resort
JOE AND ROBBIE TAKE THE TRAM TO THE BASE AND THEN LOOK AT THE GARDENS AT THE FRONT OF THE RESORT. This is drive by gardening. When one sees the radiant yellow flowers, the inclination is to slam on the brakes, to take a better look. The beautiful plants are Ligularia. It is a great plant but when the afternoon sun hits they wilt but they pop back up the next day.

Click here for more info

Shade Gardening In The land Of The Midnight Sun
EVEN IN THE LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN THAY HAVE CHALLENGING SHADE AREAS. But even here Robbie has a beautiful garden. This area has a huge ceiling overhead, the plants underneath never have direct sunlight. The Impatiens capensis and the Moss do really well but so does the Nicotiana alata 'Flowering tobacco.'

Click here for more info

Turning A Snow Dump Into A beautiful Garden
THIS AREA HAD BEEN A SNOW DUMP. In the wintertime they would stack plowed snow here. It could be 10 feet deep. This is a place that one sees first when arriving by bus. Robbie wanted to make it attractive. He could have planted trees or something else but he wanted a show-stopper, thus decided on a flower bed. There are beautiful plants here like Verbascum. It is a great plant for foliage and has a tall spiky flower. Verbascum likes it here, it is a self seeder which is great as long as it doesn't get too aggressive. Here it is in a contained area which helps. Joe notices a wonderful fragrance. It is the Filipendula ulmaria. Robbie feels fragrance is a great addition to the landscape, it enhances it. The red Poppies Papaver rhoeas can be a bit of a garden thug because they're self seeding. The saying in skiing is - if you're not falling down you're not skiing. Well in gardening the saying is - if you're not killing plants you're not gardening.

Click here for more info

Joe Meets Jeff Lowenfels
JOE MEETS JEFF LOWENFELS. Jeff has a legal background, as well he's a garden writer and has been writing a gardening column longer than any other person in the world. Thus he's known as America's Dirtiest lawyer. Jeff tells us he grew up in Scarsdale, New York which is pretty far from Anchorage. When growing up he was an indentured servant, he did a lot of gardening for his family. When he moved to Alaska he wanted to continue gardening. He's a lawyer, has written a book and has done a lot of TV and radio over the years and he likes to have a nice looking yard. But he doesn't want to spend all his time gardening thus tries to make a place that's easy to maintain so he can go fishing and hiking as well as enjoy all the other outdoor activities that Alaska offers. This garden is special, simple, easy to do, and looks very good.

Click here for more info

Jeff's Asiatic Lilies
JOE NOTICES ASIATIC LILIES. They almost look artificial, they're so perfect. Jeff says they're easy to grow. He picked them up at a big box store in February because that's when they're available in the lower 48 and everybody assumes that they garden in Alaska just like everywhere else. Jeff starts them indoors. He uses things like a big fish box, puts a liner in it, fills it with compost and then puts the Lily bulbs in there. If he has 3 months he may put them in the dark for a month, letting them develop some good roots. If only a couple of months, he puts them in some pretty good light. They'll grow, some may actually start to flower or have buds on them. He brings them to the garden, digs a hole and sticks the contents of the box in the hole, takes away the box and he has instant flowers. Many think we need to start our bulbs or tubers in the ground a year before they bloom. Jeff's method is to give them a couple of months in the box, then into the ground. His secret is to use really good compost and good mulch. He doesn't use any chemicals in his yard.

Click here for more info

Jeff's Gardening Tips
THE MICROBES THAT RUN THE SYSTEM FEED THESE PLANTS. He covers the whole garden with a really good mulch. Since these are perennial he uses brown mulch because it produces a kind of nitrogen that perennials like. It's good stuff, it's rich, has some worms and smells good. Earthy. As the mulch breaks down it feeds the plants and prevents weeds from growing. The best gardens in the world are those that are grown in compost because compost contains all of the microbes that are necessary to fight off the bad guys and help the good guys. This is a beautiful, healthy garden, pest and disease free and it is low maintenance. Jeff feels that once the mulch goes down, he doesn't have to weed it therefore he hasn't weeded this garden all season. If one were to dig down one would find 6 to 8 sheets of newspaper, not his column of course, the newspaper is covered with soil and compost and mulch. He then plants. He didn't roto tiller, he put in maybe a half day, then went fishing in the afternoon. It's an easy thing to do.

Click here for more info

Jeff's Tips For The Lawn
JEFF HAS SOME INTERESTING TIPS FOR ONES LAWN. Guys are often accused of being lawn crazy, they want every inch of their yard to be lawn. Jeff isn't that way, he has large areas set aside that are totally natural. Jeff wanted some space that reminded him of home in Scarsdale, that's the landscaped area. But he's in Alaska and wanted an Alaskan yard. Jeff has moose, wolves, fox and bear. They will come right up to the house and look in the windows. That's part of the thrill of living in Alaska, he didn't want to take that away. Back to the lawn. It's lush, spongy underneath your foot and it's beautiful. Jeff explains, he's a very natural gardener and the author of Teaming with Microbes-A Gardeners Guide to the Soil Food Web. He believes that the microbes in the soil are what feed the plants so he does whatever is necessary to make sure the microbes are happy. He never uses chemicals. Teaming with Microbes

Click here for more info

Tomatoes are Perennials
JOE WANTS TO KNOW WHY TOMATO PLANTS ARE IN THE GREENHOUSE IN AUGUST. The reason is because temperatures can drop below 55 degrees any night during the summer. And when that happens, one can't grow a good tomato. Tomatoes are the Holy Grail of gardening and if one can't grow a tomato what good is it to grow anything? Many people don't realize that tomatoes are perennial. Because of this Jeff mulches them with leaves, brown mulch, because that provides the kind of nitrogen that perennials like. Jeff has some tomatoes that are 2 and 3 years old. And, they still produce.

Click here for more info

Fruit Trees In Alaska
AN ORCHARD IS DIFFICULT IN ALASKA, not because of the climate but because of the moose. If one doesn't have special fencing - apple trees, pear trees or other fruit trees won't make it. Moose really like fruit. Greg has developed a great system and as a result he's able to grow fruit. Apples are forming. He's even rescued some plants from areas where the moose were able to get to them previously. A containment system must be at least 6 to 8 feet tall, even taller is better. Many people will build cages around the tree and continue to raise the box as the tree grows taller. Ultimately the tree gets too tall and the moose aren't able to get to the fruit. That's the goal with this orchard. It does take a special root stock to grow fruit trees in this climate. Greg and others are testing all sorts of different varieties grafted on different root stock.

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Alyeska Resort

Jeff Lowenfels



Complete transcript of the show.


When many think of Alaska they think of ice and snow. Few think of the beautiful gardens and flowers that grow here. In this show Garden Smart visits 2 beautiful gardens-one at a stunning resort, the other the yard of a well known garden writer.
WE FIRST VISIT A RESORT THAT IS NOT FAR FROM ANCHORAGE. We start in a tram, high in the air, with the doors wide open looking out over a rain-forest. Robbie Frankevich is the horticulturist and our first guest host. Joe asks what is a horticulturist doing at a resort in Alaska? Robbie believes the surroundings tell the story. This is a beautiful setting. Because it's on the edge of the temperate rain-forest, just 40 miles away in Whittier they get about 180 inches of rain per year, here they get about 60 inches, in Anchorage they get about 20 inches. Looking down we're on the side of a large mountain, there is an interesting timber line and there are glaciers to the side. It's a stunning location. Joe notices the tree lines and the distinct changes, there are many plants growing at the lower altitude and at the bottom a huge body of water. This is a ski resort in the winter and the view when skiing must be spectacular. The extremes are evident in snowfall as well. They get 600 inches of snow at the top of the mountain, at the base about 200 inches. That all factors in when deciding which plants to choose.
Top


JOE AND ROBBIE TAKE THE TRAM TO THE BASE AND THEN LOOK AT THE GARDENS AT THE FRONT OF THE RESORT. This is drive by gardening. When one sees the radiant yellow flowers, the inclination is to slam on the brakes, to take a better look. The beautiful plants are Ligularia. It is a great plant but when the afternoon sun hits they wilt but they pop back up the next day.
Around the corner is a line of Delphiniums 'Lark spur.' Robbie has placed them around the balards that line the front drive. The balards help stake the plant in the summertime and they also help protect the plant during the winter snow removal process. These flowers draw the eye right up to the front entrance where they have even more Ligularia. It's an artful landscape design. Simple and elegant, yet very colorful and an impressive way to introduce everyone to the resort.
The guys next look at an area that, although in the front of the resort, is very natural. It isn't covered with flowers. Many feel the need to landscape their entire yard. Robbie hasn't done that, instead he's done a great job of keeping much of this area natural. They trim the edges periodically with a lawn mower blending the lawn into the natural landscape. It provides a nice transition, keeping the feel of the native environment. It even has native blueberries and they're tasty.
Top


Shade Gardening In The land Of The Midnight Sun EVEN IN THE LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN THAY HAVE CHALLENGING SHADE AREAS. But even here Robbie has a beautiful garden. This area has a huge ceiling overhead, the plants underneath never have direct sunlight. The Impatiens capensis and the Moss do really well but so does the Nicotiana alata 'Flowering tobacco.'
Across from this bed are several beautiful containers. One is filled with Begonia semperflorens and Lavelia. They do well in this location. Surrounding the container are more Delphinium and Ligularia. Robbie has repeated the pattern and it is striking. This area in the winter might have 8 feet of snow stacked up because it comes off the roof. These plants have to be tough to withstand the winter here.
Top


Joe and Robbie visit another garden. THIS AREA HAD BEEN A SNOW DUMP. In the wintertime they would stack plowed snow here. It could be 10 feet deep. This is a place that one sees first when arriving by bus. Robbie wanted to make it attractive. He could have planted trees or something else but he wanted a show-stopper, thus decided on a flower bed. There are beautiful plants here like Verbascum. It is a great plant for foliage and has a tall spiky flower. Verbascum likes it here, it is a self seeder which is great as long as it doesn't get too aggressive. Here it is in a contained area which helps. Joe notices a wonderful fragrance. It is the Filipendula ulmaria. Robbie feels fragrance is a great addition to the landscape, it enhances it. The red Poppies Papaver rhoeas can be a bit of a garden thug because they're self seeding. The saying in skiing is - if you're not falling down you're not skiing. Well in gardening the saying is - if you're not killing plants you're not gardening. These epitomize that saying. Robbie feels he hasn't killed enough of the seedlings and an overgrown situation has resulted. Joe is glad Robbbie didn't cut them down, they're beautiful, maybe a little tough love in the future. Robbie has put to bed the myth that one can't have a great looking flower garden in August in Alaska.
Robbie feels we're in for a real treat at Jeff Lowenfel's garden, he's an excellent gardener, with an excellent garden. Joe thanks Robbie for his time. We've certainly enjoyed his garden.
Top


From time spent in a beautiful resort garden to a garden on a more practical level. JOE MEETS JEFF LOWENFELS. Jeff has a legal background, as well he's a garden writer and has been writing a gardening column longer than any other person in the world. Thus he's known as America's Dirtiest lawyer. Jeff tells us he grew up in Scarsdale, New York which is pretty far from Anchorage. When growing up he was an indentured servant, he did a lot of gardening for his family. When he moved to Alaska he wanted to continue gardening. He's a lawyer, has written a book and has done a lot of TV and radio over the years and he likes to have a nice looking yard. But he doesn't want to spend all his time gardening thus tries to make a place that's easy to maintain so he can go fishing and hiking as well as enjoy all the other outdoor activities that Alaska offers. This garden is special, simple, easy to do, and looks very good.
We start the tour. Jeff also has Delphiniums. Everybody in Alaska loves Delphiniums. They do better here than anyplace else in the world, even better than England. Here Pacific Giant Delphinium 'Galahad' can grow to 12 to 14 feet high. But they will flow over. Jeff has tried an invisible fence but hasn't been thrilled with its success so is planning on next trying the New Zealand hybrid which are just being introduced. They will soon be available at the local nursery. They're much stockier, more sturdy, they'll hold up in the rain and they don't need as much staking.
Top


JOE NOTICES ASIATIC LILIES. They almost look artificial, they're so perfect. Jeff says they're easy to grow. He picked them up at a big box store in February because that's when they're available in the lower 48 and everybody assumes that they garden in Alaska just like everywhere else. Jeff starts them indoors. He uses things like a big fish box, puts a liner in it, fills it with compost and then puts the Lily bulbs in there. If he has 3 months he may put them in the dark for a month, letting them develop some good roots. If only a couple of months, he puts them in some pretty good light. They'll grow, some may actually start to flower or have buds on them. He brings them to the garden, digs a hole and sticks the contents of the box in the hole, takes away the box and he has instant flowers. Many think we need to start our bulbs or tubers in the ground a year before they bloom. Jeff's method is to give them a couple of months in the box, then into the ground. His secret is to use really good compost and good mulch. He doesn't use any chemicals in his yard.
Top


THE MICROBES THAT RUN THE SYSTEM FEED THESE PLANTS. He covers the whole garden with a really good mulch. Since these are perennial he uses brown mulch because it produces a kind of nitrogen that perennials like. It's good stuff, it's rich, has some worms and smells good. Earthy. As the mulch breaks down it feeds the plants and prevents weeds from growing. The best gardens in the world are those that are grown in compost because compost contains all of the microbes that are necessary to fight off the bad guys and help the good guys. This is a beautiful, healthy garden, pest and disease free and it is low maintenance. Jeff feels that once the mulch goes down, he doesn't have to weed it therefore he hasn't weeded this garden all season. If one were to dig down one would find 6 to 8 sheets of newspaper, not his column of course, the newspaper is covered with soil and compost and mulch. He then plants. He didn't roto tiller, he put in maybe a half day, then went fishing in the afternoon. It's an easy thing to do.
Joe and Jeff visit another area of the garden with different plants. One that stands out is Aconitum columgianum columgianum 'Monkshood.' It's a beautiful plant that many think is related to the Delphinium. It is actually related to the Vernuculus, the Buttercup. It had the reputation in the Middle Ages of causing werewolf activity. One could turn into a werewolf when coming in contact with this plant. Jeff also has Ligualiria as well as a beautiful purple Thalictrum aquilegifolium Meadow Rue. It is a lovely little flower, that blooms all year long. Normally it would throw off thousands of seeds that would germinate but because Jeff uses the mulching system to feed these plants they don't create a problem in his garden. The mulch tends to prevent things from becoming too weedy. That's another advantage of this kind of mulch.
Top


JEFF HAS SOME INTERESTING TIPS FOR ONES LAWN. Guys are often accused of being lawn crazy, they want every inch of their yard to be lawn. Jeff isn't that way, he has large areas set aside that are totally natural. Jeff wanted some space that reminded him of home in Scarsdale, that's the landscaped area. But he's in Alaska and wanted an Alaskan yard. Jeff has moose, wolves, fox and bear. They will come right up to the house and look in the windows. That's part of the thrill of living in Alaska, he didn't want to take that away. Back to the lawn. It's lush, spongy underneath your foot and it's beautiful. Jeff explains, he's a very natural gardener and the author of Teaming with Microbes-A Gardeners Guide to the Soil Food Web. He believes that the microbes in the soil are what feed the plants so he does whatever is necessary to make sure the microbes are happy. He never uses chemicals.
Teaming with Microbes
But he does mow it and Joe notices circular patterns in the grass. Jeff believes that a lawn is a blank canvas and one should paint on it. People that live in regular or square lots should be cutting their lawns on the diagonal to their front door. It makes the yard look bigger, makes the place look terrific and if you're like Jeff and have an occasional weed in the lawn putting in a pattern tends to distract from the weed itself. This type mowing makes a different kind of monoculture of shapes, as opposed to a monoculture of plants. Jeff feels strongly that weeds aren't necessarily a bad thing in a lawn. We've been brainwashed over the years to think that clover is a terrible thing and you must nuke your lawn to make it look nice. It's not only not true but it's not healthy.
Jeff has beehives in the middle of his lawn, which means he's mowing around them. That poses no problem. And, Jeff has honey to eat. Importantly the bees pollinate the flowers.
The guys go to Jeff's backyard. It's spectacular. From mountains, to the body of water, the vistas are stunning. Jeff doesn't plant anything here, nature has done that. Jeff tells the story of Mendenhall who founded the United States Geological Survey. He came here, then told people to go to Alaska but by all means go as an old person, not as a young person because everything else is flat and insipid thereafter. Jeff feels that's true.
Top


JOE WANTS TO KNOW WHY TOMATO PLANTS ARE IN THE GREENHOUSE IN AUGUST. The reason is because temperatures can drop below 55 degrees any night during the summer. And when that happens, one can't grow a good tomato. Tomatoes are the Holy Grail of gardening and if one can't grow a tomato what good is it to grow anything? Many people don't realize that tomatoes are perennial. Because of this Jeff mulches them with leaves, brown mulch, because that provides the kind of nitrogen that perennials like. Jeff has some tomatoes that are 2 and 3 years old. And, they still produce. In the greenhouse Jeff grows tomatoes in containers, as do many in Alaska but as well he grows zucchini, cucumbers, squash, string beans and peppers. These are all in the greenhouse but basically the greenhouse is for the tomatoes. With a greenhouse they start the seedlings in the springtime, just like the Lilies. The greenhouse is also helpful in extending the season for some of the plants that are outdoors during the rest of the season.
Jeff takes some of his produce to Plant A Row for the Hungry although they call it Plant a Row for Beans in Alaska. Jeff thinks this is a program that everyone should be aware of. Joe points out that Jeff was the founder of Plant a Row for the Hungry. Jeff says yes but it was for a bad reason. He mistakenly stiffed a guy who really needed some money for a meal. He felt bad about it thus started trying to convince gardeners to put one row in their garden for the hungry, take it to the food bank or a soup kitchen even to a needy neighbor. With Plant a Row their are no government funds, nothing slips between the cup and the lip. The program has spread across the country and its a great way to utilize some of your excess produce and a great cause.
Top


We next visit Jeff's neighbor Greg Romack. He has quite a fruit orchard. AN ORCHARD IS DIFFICULT IN ALASKA, not because of the climate but because of the moose. If one doesn't have special fencing - apple trees, pear trees or other fruit trees won't make it. Moose really like fruit. Greg has developed a great system and as a result he's able to grow fruit. Apples are forming. He's even rescued some plants from areas where the moose were able to get to them previously. A containment system must be at least 6 to 8 feet tall, even taller is better. Many people will build cages around the tree and continue to raise the box as the tree grows taller. Ultimately the tree gets too tall and the moose aren't able to get to the fruit. That's the goal with this orchard. It does take a special root stock to grow fruit trees in this climate. Greg and others are testing all sorts of different varieties grafted on different root stock. Not only apples but cherries, things they've never had here before. To get a fresh, organic apple, right off the tree is spectacular. Greg is a great neighbor to have.
Jeff has been writing a gardening column for over 35 years. His biggest observation as to the change in gardening revolves around organic gardening. It has been snowballing like crazy. Jeff thinks that within the next 5 to 10 years all gardeners will be organic gardeners. There is no reason to use chemicals. Look at Jeff's yard, it looks great. Jeff feels that we have too many problems that are complicated by using chemicals on our yards. Jeff thinks that in addition to organics, mulches are important.
As well, notice gardeners in Anchorage aren't just growing snow peas, iceberg lettuce, etc. They try to push the envelope as much as possible. People like his neighbor Greg are growing apples, trying pear trees that have never been grown in Alaska before. That's what gardening is about in Alaska. It's about pushing the envelop. Alaska is the last frontier and gardening is the last part of the last frontier. But it's the same in the lower 48. Gardeners are always trying new things, always trying to advance the science. That's Jeff's take away, try new plants, new gardening techniques. It's fun.
Joe thanks Jeff for his time. Jeff has done a lot for gardening, Joe is happy to call him his friend. It's been a thrill to be here.
Top



LINKS:

Alyeska Resort

Jeff Lowenfels

   
   
 
   
   
   
   
Copyright © 1998-2012 GSPC. All Rights Reserved.