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Show #17/2804. Gardening In Alaska

Dogwood Groundcover
WHEN JOE MET BARBARA SHE HAD BEEN WORKING ON A CORNUS CANADENSIS 'Butchberry Cornaceae' ground cover which is also the ABG logo. It is the same type Dogwood that grows in the south as a tree but here it's a 6 inch ground cover. It, too, gets bracks and berries, it even has fall color.

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Wattle Fence
THEY HAVE A WATTLE FENCE surrounding several gardens. Wattle fencing has been used for centuries to enclose vegetable gardens to keep out animals. Originally wattle fences were made with posts made out of the same material as the weaving but here the moose would come through and kick it breaking the stakes so they now use rebar for the posts. They then add a top for safety reasons. To make the wattle fence they gather native material, here they've used Alnus glutinosa 'Alder' and weave it in and out of the rebar and it forms a very sturdy, tight edging. They refresh the fencing yearly.

For more information on wattle fencing click here

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Rock Garden
FROM HERE THEY GO TO THE ROCK GARDEN. From a huge rock to a lot of smaller rocks with plenty of plants in just a few steps and the difference is stunning. This is a typical alpine rock garden and is maintained by the Alaska Rock Garden Society. They've developed the area by bringing in tons of rocks and core soil. The alpine plants love the environment because they like extremely good drainage. And it is filled with unusual plants.

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Perennial Garden
BARBARA AND JOE NEXT VISIT THE PERENNIAL GARDEN and it is very lush. 2 years ago every time they would turn on the sprinkler a bear cub would come out and play in the water. One of the best shows is the Peonies. The flowers are huge, they have singles and doubles and all different colors. And, again they are huge. They don't get as big in the lower 48, everything here seems to grow larger and very fast. Pulmonarias do well here and they grow about 6 different varieties. The cooler temperatures allow one to grow these in full sun whereas in the lower 48 they're normally grown in the shade. Hostas are grown similarly. Because it's cooler the foliage doesn't burn. The colors are vibrant.

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Upper Perennial Garden
THE PLANTS ARE ALSO IMPRESSIVE. In this garden Barbara has a nice collection of Ligularia. Ligularia dentate 'Othello' has a beautiful tall flower which is an orange Daisy-type. It has dark purple stems on the back of the leaves. In contrast to the Ligularia Othello they have Ligularia palmatiloba 'Leopard'. The foliage is green, a little more serrated, has an earlier flower that's similar to the Othello, an orange Daisy-type, then in contrast they have the Ligularua przewalski 'The Rocket' and The Little Rocket which is about half the size of the big rocket. Barbara also has Ligularia japonica 'Amaryllis' which has fig-shaped buds. It is a beautiful plant, even without flowers.

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Show #17/2804. Gardening In Alaska

Complete transcript of the show.

Garden Smart visits the Alaska Botanical Garden which has Alaskan plants in a uniquely Alaskan setting. Many are familiar with the Alaskan wilderness, and it is impressive, but for a gardener Alaska is thrilling and a great place to visit.

Julianne McGuiness is the Executive Director of the Alaska Botanical Garden. She has lived in Alaska for 18 years. She's a master gardener and gardening is her lifelong passion. She took a circuitous path to become the Director. Julianne had been in non-profit management, public radio and clinical psychology before coming here but is absolutely thrilled to be part of this great garden.

The Alaska Botanical Garden (ABG) is unique in that it's in a wilderness setting. It's located in the foothills of the Chatuge Range in Anchorage. This is prime bear and moose habitat, thus when walking the grounds at ABG one may not only see groomed plantings but as well bear, moose, even a ravens nest.

Their mission at ABG is multi-faceted. They are involved with education, conservation and research as well as providing a place for people to enjoy plantings. They feel very strongly that their mission is important because Alaska is one of the fastest warming places on earth and here they're involved in a variety of research projects that tie into that. They have a team of biologists doing research and studying the flora of the Bering Glacier region. They're taking possibly the first inventory of the flora of the region, bringing back some specimens that they then propagate and study which helps in learning more about specimens that may have never been grown in other locations. It's very exciting. ABG has educational programs such as Schools in the Garden and a Junior Master Gardeners day camp-like program for children during the summer. This is an exciting place.

Barbara Miller is the horticulturist at ABG. She grew up in Louisiana and attended Louisiana Tech where she majored in horticulture. After graduating she was the horticulturist for the City of Shreveport for a number of years, then opened her own gardening business. In 2000 Barbara and her husband moved to Alaska. It was very different. Learning the new plants was challenging but she came to the realization that the geneses were the same, it was the species that are different. And, plants do grow in colder climates.

WHEN JOE MET BARBARA SHE HAD BEEN WORKING ON A CORNUS CANADENSIS 'Butchberry Cornaceae' ground cover which is also the ABG logo. It is the same type Dogwood that grows in the south as a tree but here it's a 6 inch ground cover. It, too, gets bracks and berries, it even has fall color.

Their native rose is called Rosa acicularis 'Prickly Rose.' It has a single pink flower, then red Rose Hips in the fall. The Hips are edible, some make a jelly with them. That normally takes place around September.

Alaska has more of the Caladenia concolo 'Terrestrial Orchid' than any other state. It's a terrestrial orchid which means it grows in the soil and not up in a tree. For example Platanthera hyperborea 'Bog Orchid' likes to grow in moist, boggy soil. It has a green flower, it's not conspicuous but very nice.
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THEY HAVE A WATTLE FENCE surrounding several gardens. Wattle fencing has been used for centuries to enclose vegetable gardens to keep out animals. Originally wattle fences were made with posts made out of the same material as the weaving but here the moose would come through and kick it breaking the stakes so they now use rebar for the posts. They then add a top for safety reasons. To make the wattle fence they gather native material, here they've used Alnus glutinosa 'Alder' and weave it in and out of the rebar and it forms a very sturdy, tight edging. They refresh the fencing yearly.

For more information on wattle fencing click here.

Joe and Barbara next visit a big rock. It is a glacial erratic. The rock was moved here centuries ago by a glacier. The glacier would have carried it along and when the glacier finally receded, it deposited the rock where it sits. It's not going anywhere. It has turned into a beautiful piece, it has moss and lichens growing on it. Some of the mosses on it today are rare in Anchorage.
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FROM HERE THEY GO TO THE ROCK GARDEN. From a huge rock to a lot of smaller rocks with plenty of plants in just a few steps and the difference is stunning. This is a typical alpine rock garden and is maintained by the Alaska Rock Garden Society. They've developed the area by bringing in tons of rocks and core soil. The alpine plants love the environment because they like extremely good drainage. And it is filled with unusual plants. For example, the Companiala has a double flower, it stays low to the ground, as all Alpine plants do. They like to stay very short, to stay out of high winds. There is also a Dianthus that is beautiful in the spring. The Gentiana sino-ornata and some of the Gentian's bloom later, one blooms right before the first snowfall. They have a lot of Willows that are 1 inch tall. Typically anything over 6 inches is not considered an Alpine plant because it's too tall. Everything is supposed to be real short, hugging the ground. Many of these plants require a very cold, dormant period, even snow cover which they certainly have here. Barbara feels one could start a rock collection anywhere, even in a shade garden.

We next visit, technically, a rock garden, there are plenty of rocks around the border, but Joe quickly notices these plants are more than 6 inches tall. These aren't rock garden plants. And they have a completely different ground cover. Barbara refers to this as the rock-shade garden. All the plants here love the shade, they like moisture and they are taller. This is something a homeowner could do in their own yard. The Cypripedium guttatum 'Spotted Lady's Slipper Orchid' is a native orchid here. This spreads more readily, has a beautiful bloom in the spring and proves Alaska is not frozen all the time. They do in fact have beautiful plants here.

Watermelon Berry, Streptopus amplexifolius 'Twisted stalk' is a nice plant. It grows up, has beautiful red berries that do taste like watermelon. They're somewhat seedy but great refreshment when on the trail and thirsty. It's a native plant to the area. The moose love them. Another plant, Astrantia major is a great plant for the shade. It loves their cool conditions, has a nice straw flower that looks dried as it comes up. The white color pops with the late evenings they have here. A lot of people here have completely white gardens because of this. White always brightens a shady area.
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BARBARA AND JOE NEXT VISIT THE PERENNIAL GARDEN and it is very lush. 2 years ago every time they would turn on the sprinkler a bear cub would come out and play in the water. One of the best shows is the Peonies. The flowers are huge, they have singles and doubles and all different colors. And, again they are huge. They don't get as big in the lower 48, everything here seems to grow larger and very fast. Pulmonarias do well here and they grow about 6 different varieties. The cooler temperatures allow one to grow these in full sun whereas in the lower 48 they're normally grown in the shade. Hostas are grown similarly. Because it's cooler the foliage doesn't burn. The colors are vibrant. One Hosta with chartreuse and lemon yellow is very popular. A smaller one, Hosta seiboldiana 'Maui Buttercup' ties in nicely with Hosta seiboldiana 'Francis Williams.' In addition they have Lysimachia which carries the yellow theme throughout the trio of plants. One thing to keep in mind at home is that if a plant can't grow in your environment, there are substitutes. For example, Lysimachia may not grow in the deep south but Hypericum 'St. John's Wort' is a great substitute because it has the same yellow flowering and its growth habit is similar. Thus one can get this combination, especially with Hostas that prefer shade. Filipendula resembles Estilbie, it has a frothy type bloom. But the Filipendula is a great plant they grow in Alaska. There are quite a few different varieties. One in particular is 'Kokomi,' it has a soft pink bloom and is beautiful. Primula vulgaris 'Primrose' is a favorite of Joe's. Barbara has Primula florindae 'Giant Cowslip' which loves this cooler climate. They have 15 to 20 different varieties of Primula in the garden. They're all pretty. Alchemilla mollis 'Lady's Mantle' is a fabulous plant. It holds water from the rain on the leaves almost like mercury. It has beautiful yellow flowers and bright foliage. The habit spills out into the pathway which is also a great feature.

They next visit the Upper Perennial Garden. Here they've edged the beds with different materials. One of the edging materials utilized is concrete test cores. These were donated and this garden demonstrates how recycled material can be utilized. They've used riprap which is recycled concrete or driveway material which stacks up nicely. They don't add concrete to hold it together, the weight of it stacks. They used yet another type stone, this is a manufactured stone. This has been utilized to contrast and show people that you can use manufactured blocks as well as recycled material. They have also made use of a glacial rock that was deposited here years and years ago. It certainly wasn't going to be moved. So, instead they've made it a focal point, not a detraction. It has nice features such as layers of quartz. This is a lesson for all. Take what you have and work with it. Turn something that you may not want into something useful or something attractive. It gives your garden character.
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THE PLANTS ARE ALSO IMPRESSIVE. In this garden Barbara has a nice collection of Ligularia. Ligularia dentate 'Othello' has a beautiful tall flower which is an orange Daisy-type. It has dark purple stems on the back of the leaves. In contrast to the Ligularia Othello they have Ligularia palmatiloba 'Leopard'. The foliage is green, a little more serrated, has an earlier flower that's similar to the Othello, an orange Daisy-type, then in contrast they have the Ligularua przewalski 'The Rocket' and The Little Rocket which is about half the size of the big rocket. Barbara also has Ligularia japonica 'Amaryllis' which has fig-shaped buds. It is a beautiful plant, even without flowers. A common plant in Anchorage is Lychinus chalcedonica 'Maltese Cross.' It has red flowers, is spiky and is easy to grow. Barbara pinches it back so it doesn't get too tall but if it does get tall she stakes it. Because it's tall it looks great at the back of the border. Meconopsis betonicifolia 'Himalayan Poppy is special because of its flower color. It is the purest azure blue one will see on a flower and it intensifies in sunlight. Barbara normally harvests the seeds. She saves the seedpods when dry enough then uses them later. Some of the top botanical gardens, not only in this country, but around the world come to ABG as a source for these seeds.

Barbara each year plants annuals that come in six packs. The perennials come up on their own. This is the beginning of August but 10 weeks ago there was nothing here. These plants have grown a lot in that period of time. It is because of their long days and cool weather. They also utilize raised beds which contribute to the warming of the soil. In winter the soil freezes hard as ice and the raised beds allow the soil to warm much faster in the spring allowing the plants to get going faster. Herbs like good drainage and raised beds help create good drainage. Angelica gigas has gorgeous dark purple flowers and stems. It's very statuesque in the garden. It's pollinated by bees that are defensive of the plant. Next to it is Angelica archangelica and it is even taller with white flowers. It's nice in the back of the garden because it provides form and structure. These provide 2 great choices depending on ones preference for height and color. Joe notices a vine. It is Kiwi Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty.' It is not to be confused with the Kiwi that we know as a tropical fruit. This plant does produce fruit, it's a small grape sized berry that's edible. You can eat skin and all. The berry occurs in the fall. One needs a male and a female plant to produce fruit. The male plant has white and pink variegation on the leaf. It's beautiful. It's like a woody vine, it looses its foliage then comes back every year.

Barbara and Joe next visit the Lowenfels Family Nature Trail and Campbell Creek. It is only about a 1 mile trail, thus close to everything. The salmon normally come into the creek at the end of August and when they do the bears come down and feed. Here one could be walking along the trail and see moose grazing with a couple of calves or ravens flying through the trees, possibly nesting, they have porcupine, it's a diverse wildlife and a very interesting area.

Barbara feels that although ones climate may be different, the basics of horticulture are the same. For example, it doesn't matter where one lives, one needs to amend the soil. If someone is interested in growing some of the plants they've seen in this show they could try putting them in the coolest part of their garden. Barbara may grow things in the sun here, elsewhere try the coolest areas of your garden. Try new plants, you may be surprised.

Joe thanks Barbara for her time. This was a great opportunity for us to experience a unique and beautiful botanical garden in nature. And, unusual nature at that. Barbara gets a lot of help from their volunteers but together they've created a wonderful experience. We thank Barbara, Julianne, everyone at the Alaska Botanical Garden for their time and help.
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