GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2012 show32
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Show #32/2906
Gardening In Alaska


Flowers in Alaska are Vibrant
THEY GROW A LOT OF FLOWERS - a lot of annuals, perennials, they have baskets and some whiskey barrels. All go out on the grounds for the Fair. The beautiful color of the plants can be attributed to the nice weather. It's a little bit cooler here, it doesn't get quite as hot as it does in the lower 48 and that is a tremendous help in plants keeping their vibrant color. They're vivid and bright. The color of the flowers is intense, they're very bold.

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Growing Process in Alaska
IN ALASKA THEY HAVE A RELATIVELY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME TO MAKE THIS ALL HAPPEN. They start sowing seeds in January and continue through February, March and April. Then they're transplanted into pots in the greenhouse. The plants live in the greenhouse until about mid May, when they can be moved outside to coldframes, where they harden off, if they're lucky. Sometimes they must move the plants back in, depending on the weather. But ideally they harden off for about 3 weeks then they put them in the ground. The coldframe helps them get used to the outside temperatures without totally shocking them which would occur if they were to go straight to the outside.

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Annual Bed
BRITTANY AND JOE FIRST VISIT AN ANNUAL BED. This is one of the many picnic areas and a spot where families can enjoy lunch and enjoy the flowers at the same time. They look at different factors when designing beds here. They look at color, the type of plant, heights, texture and they consider the bloom size. It works beautifully. They've utilized repeating patterns throughout and that carries the eye. The attention to different heights, as well as look and feel also is impressive. For example, if all were Foxgloves or Salvia, all tall plants and nothing else this bed wouldn't jump out as it does. Plants would get lost. This way it's a symphony of color and texture and they all work together.

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Medicinal Bed
THEY NEXT VISIT THE MEDICINAL BED. Medicinal herbs have been used for centuries and centuries, many still are utilized today. For example, Eupatorium is used for coughs and colds. Spilanthes is a little herb, very unusual looking and it will numb your mouth. Importantly, it works. At the end of the season since most are perennials they cut these all down and many come back the next season. They must cover them with mulch. Another interesting medicinal plant is Tansy. It stinks, not only to humans but to ants as well.

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Fragrance Garden
THE FRAGRANCE GARDEN uses some herbs and the smell is awesome. There are all kinds of great fragrances. Pelargonium 'Geranium' and Pelargonium graveolens both smell a lot like roses. Pelargonium frensham smells like lemon to most people, to Brittany it smells like Fruit Loops. This garden also has Lavender and there are many other plants. They have a great variety in a small space.

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Microclimate
THE 2 SOLID WALLS AND THE 2 FENCES CREATE A MICROCLIMATE. With this microclimate they're able to take a zone 2 or 3 and create a zone 5. That's what protection will do. They start the perennials in the greenhouse in January, treating them as annuals because they wouldn't overwinter.

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Giant Vegetable Grower
But since the theme of the Fair this year is Fun Amongst the Giants IT'S TIME TO VISIT ONE OF THE GIANT VEGETABLE GROWERS, Scott Rob. Scott holds 5 current Guinness Book of World Records. Scott tells us about his garden. This is a small garden, he has been raising giant vegetables for 15 years. He likes growing the giant cabbage the best. It's probably the most challenging although he does hold several world records. Still, he doesn't feel he has figured the cabbage out. Even though Alaska is known for their giant cabbages England consistently grows 100 pound cabbages. so that's Scotts primary focus. But he does grow other things. One is a giant kale. One is 5 feet tall by 5 feet wide and it may possibly be a new world record. In 2 more weeks he'll know.

Click here for more info


LINKS:

Alaska State Fair

Garden Smart Plant List

 

Complete transcript of the show.


Alaska is a vast and beautiful place. How does one show it off, particularly in a 30 minute gardening show? Garden Smart decided to visit Palmer, Alaska the home of the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair attracts over 300,000 visitors every August. People come for many reasons but it is and has been a favorite stop for gardeners.
Dean Phipps is the Director of Marketing for the Fair and welcomes Garden Smart to Palmer. Everyone comes to the Fair to celebrate the end of summer and to get ready for winter. It's one place you can find a little about everything that's good about Alaska. There is great food, crafts, performers and more.
Dean shows us a totem that was created by Paul Mark's who is a Tlingit carver. The totem was commissioned to create something that would symbolize the gathering of people at the Fair. And the totem is meant to symbolize this gathering. It is culturally significant. For example, Paul Marks had to get permission from the Akutan Tribe to create a totem and place it in their territory. It represents the essence of the fair, the gathering of the people, the ideas and the harvest.
The Fair has quite a history. It has been held since the mid 1930's. The Matanuska Valley colonists settled here from the midwest. In the early days they wanted a fair like they remembered back home. The early settlers didn't have a lot to start with and one of the earlier events was a manure-spreader obstacle course. It's not held anymore but who knows?
The food is certainly popular at the fair, it's not typical fair food. One can find everything from pristine oysters, harvested daily from Prince William Sound to blueberry cobbler, picked that afternoon on Lazy Mountain, to many other scrumptious choices.
Another unique feature of the Fair is the 7 or 8 wonderful themed gardens which contain over 40,000 flowers. Giant vegetables are another attraction, Alaska is known world wide for their giant vegetables, particularly the giant cabbages. In fact, the theme of the Fair, this year, is Fun Amongst the Giants.
Joe is anxious to see the gardens and next meets Brittany. Brittany is our guest host today and is representing Becky Myrvold who is the visionary and person responsible for bringing all the garden related activities together.
Brittany is an Under Gardener here and has worked here for the past 7 years. She's a seasonal employee and starts about mid-April and works through the end of the Fair. She comes back every year to enjoy the flowers. THEY GROW A LOT OF FLOWERS - a lot of annuals, perennials, they have baskets and some whiskey barrels. All go out on the grounds for the Fair. The beautiful color of the plants can be attributed to the nice weather. It's a little bit cooler here, it doesn't get quite as hot as it does in the lower 48 and that is a tremendous help in plants keeping their vibrant color. They're vivid and bright. The color of the flowers is intense, they're very bold.
Also the plants are full of blooms. Brittany and the crew keep on top of pruning. They are frequently dead heading, taking off seedpods and spent blooms to make sure they have enough color to last through the Fair. And, that's a great tip at home. If you have a container that's supposed to be full of flowers and blooms and that's not happening, ask yourself if you've stayed on top of pruning and dead heading. Because if you haven't, chances are the plant is shutting down. If it's already put out a nice flush of blooms and it's now going to seed, it won't bloom much anymore. So, by keeping on top of that your plants can stay looking good, a longer time.
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IN ALASKA THEY HAVE A RELATIVELY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME TO MAKE THIS ALL HAPPEN. They start sowing seeds in January and continue through February, March and April. Then they're transplanted into pots in the greenhouse. The plants live in the greenhouse until about mid May, when they can be moved outside to coldframes, where they harden off, if they're lucky. Sometimes they must move the plants back in, depending on the weather. But ideally they harden off for about 3 weeks then they put them in the ground. The coldframe helps them get used to the outside temperatures without totally shocking them which would occur if they were to go straight to the outside.
Top


BRITTANY AND JOE FIRST VISIT AN ANNUAL BED. This is one of the many picnic areas and a spot where families can enjoy lunch and enjoy the flowers at the same time. They look at different factors when designing beds here. They look at color, the type of plant, heights, texture and they consider the bloom size. It works beautifully. They've utilized repeating patterns throughout and that carries the eye. The attention to different heights, as well as look and feel also is impressive. For example, if all were Foxgloves or Salvia, all tall plants and nothing else this bed wouldn't jump out as it does. Plants would get lost. This way it's a symphony of color and texture and they all work together.
They now look at another annual bed. The purpose of this bed was to hide the industrial building. There are several buildings like this on the property and with most they've planted flowers in front of them. It helps soften the look. This bed was designed starting with one plant, Nicotiana 'Tinkerbell.' They took that plant, looked at the design, the red and yellow in it, found plants that were also red and yellow, incorporated those plants which draws the eye up and down with the colors. This is also a raised bed. They did that here because there is a lot of traffic going in and out of this building and they needed something that kept people from walking through the beds to get from one door to the other. Thus, we can now add crowd control to one of the advantages of raised beds.
The gardeners move on. In the last bed they utilized a look to soften a view. Here they wanted to draw the eye down. In this case the building behind has a roof issue that's not attractive so they've planted a dramatic flower bed that catches the eye, mitigates the roof issue and makes great use of this space on a corner. This is one of the biggest gardens and also right in the middle of a big thoroughfare. It has a mix of annuals and perennials. And is also a testament to the nice growing conditions here because they have Heuchera that would not grow in full sun in warmer climates but here it works beautifully. Persicaria capitata is also planted here. In some areas this is considered invasive. It isn't here because the cold kills it off but as well it is contained within this bed. Even if growing in the south the bed would contain it. It's a good technique.
Brittany and Joe next visit the Herb Garden. When they first put this garden in it was one of a kind. There wasn't another one in Alaska and they wanted something different. And they wanted to show Alaskans that they can grow herbs in Alaska. About 60% of the herbs in this garden are perennial, the rest come from the greenhouse. It can be challenging from season to season to keep the perennials going over the winter. Especially because of the wind in the area. To help the Thymus vulgaris coming back every year they cover it with several inches of mulch, then put spruce boughs on top to hold the mulch in place.
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THEY NEXT VISIT THE MEDICINAL BED. Medicinal herbs have been used for centuries and centuries, many still are utilized today. For example, Eupatorium is used for coughs and colds. Spilanthes is a little herb, very unusual looking and it will numb your mouth. Importantly, it works. At the end of the season since most are perennials they cut these all down and many come back the next season. They must cover them with mulch. Another interesting medicinal plant is Tansy. It stinks, not only to humans but to ants as well. The story goes that in the old days when people had dirt floors they would lay this down across the front of the door and it would repel ants.
Top


THE FRAGRANCE GARDEN uses some herbs and the smell is awesome. There are all kinds of great fragrances. Pelargonium 'Geranium' and Pelargonium graveolens both smell a lot like roses. Pelargonium frensham smells like lemon to most people, to Brittany it smells like Fruit Loops. This garden also has Lavender and there are many other plants. They have a great variety in a small space. There is so much more they could put in here if they only had the room.
Top


Brittany and Joe visit another garden. This one is located between 2 of those rather industrial looking buildings. But the garden is fantastic. This garden was originally a storage facility for junk. People around the fairgrounds would bring stuff here and throw it in a big pile. Becky felt that so much more could be done. So, with her crew, she came in and took out the first inch and half of rock, put in topsoil and this is the result. It's a great lesson in persistence and a labor of love. As well, THE 2 SOLID WALLS AND THE 2 FENCES CREATE A MICROCLIMATE. With this microclimate they're able to take a zone 2 or 3 and create a zone 5. That's what protection will do. They start the perennials in the greenhouse in January, treating them as annuals because they wouldn't overwinter.
The plants are grouped in color schemes. The blue lavender grey garden has in the front Cerinthe which is an example of a semi-hardy perennial that they put in the garden to provide color. The red garden has some of the most structurally neat plants. Here they have a bi-annual Angelica gigas. The pollinators love it. The structural quality is amazing, then add the deep burgundy red color of the seed head and it is stunning. It is a relatively new plant as far as being used in the landscape. Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' has also been used. It has a nice green unique leaf shape and color. Venetian is really pretty against a green background. And they have a hardy rose, Rosa glauca. Roses aren't necessarily hardy in Alaska but this variety does well here. It is a prolific bloomer and is pest and disease resistant. So, it is as low maintenance as a rose can get here and a beautiful plant.
Peach is one color that one never tires of seeing in a garden and this garden has a great selection. One of the combinations is a brownish-peach grass called Carex flagellifera 'Toffee Twist.' It is accented by the Dahlia 'Mary Jo.' It is one of the plants they take in in the winter and over winter the tubars and roots in the greenhouse. These have also planted Anthurium, a double Apricot Azalea, and Snapdragon They all work together nicely.
Joe finds the vegetable garden the most well kept he's seen. The Vegetable Garden has been around since the beginning of the Fair. The history of the Fair is all about agriculture and settling the land. This garden is here to show people what kind of vegetables they can have. It is called Millie's Vegetable Garden and is an eye opener because many around here, and elsewhere, think that broccoli and cauliflower come from the grocery store. Yet, it can be grown all over the country, including Alaska. We've talked about the intense color of the flowers but the vegetables look great as well. It's become an ornamental vegetable garden. The Petroselinum crispum (parsley) is bright green. The burgundy Brassica oleracea var gemmifera (brussel sprouts) don't produce a lot of fruit but they are good looking and are a great addition to the garden. Next to the burgundy brussel sprouts are the more traditional type that most know and love. These do produce a lot of fruit. The Cynara scolymus (artchokes) look great and are starting to flower. The Cynara scolymus 'Imperial Star' are specially bred for this northern climate and the short growing season. They flower and fruit in 1 year. Although they're not perennial and they don't come back they still produce artichokes. Joe noticed one vegetable Brassica oleracea 'Capitata Group' (cabbages). They don't look real, almost plastic, but they look great. The cabbage is a cool weather plant, it likes the weather here, it likes the fact they don't have quite as hot temperatures and they don't have pest problems.
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But since the theme of the Fair this year is Fun Amongst the Giants IT'S TIME TO VISIT ONE OF THE GIANT VEGETABLE GROWERS, Scott Rob. Scott holds 5 current Guinness Book of World Records. Scott tells us about his garden. This is a small garden, he has been raising giant vegetables for 15 years. He likes growing the giant cabbage the best. It's probably the most challenging although he does hold several world records. Still, he doesn't feel he has figured the cabbage out. Even though Alaska is known for their giant cabbages England consistently grows 100 pound cabbages. So, that's Scotts primary focus. But he does grow other things. One is a giant kale. One is 5 feet tall by 5 feet wide and it may possibly be a new world record. In 2 more weeks he'll know.
Scott says to grow giant vegetables one must first have the right seed, otherwise you're wasting your time. One doesn't take a market size cabbage seed and expect that it will get as big as these. Because of the longer days in Alaska during the summer any cabbage will get bigger here but not this big. The longer days is the reason Alaska is known for their giant vegetables, the length of the day is important. Cabbages during the peak of the summer are getting 19 hours of daylight. Even when the sun is not up it's still kind of twilight, so the cabbages really never shut down, they're continually growing. They next look at a giant cabbage. Although it is several weeks away from harvest it still qualifies as a giant cabbage. This was planted May 17th, thus it's only about 3 months old. It's now about 70 pounds and could grow another 20 pounds within the next 2 weeks. It is sitting on a frame with netting on the base. You want to keep the leaves off the ground because the bottom leaves are the largest and they weight the most, thus you don't want to loose any of those. By keeping it off the ground it forces air underneath and they stay healthy and nice and hopefully will make the Fair. These are in a raised bed which helps warm the soil, then there is plastic underneath the plant but on top of the raised bed. The plastic also helps warm the soil when its very cold. If they get off to a good start they finish strong. Joe notices little tubes. Scott explains. When they get this size it is almost impossible to get to the base and you need a way to get in there. Once in a while they get maggot flies, when that happens he needs to put a little bug killer in there. Plus, if he wants to give them a little extra sauce the tubes work for that. Scott says that really there isn't any special sauce, instead he uses a well-balanced fertilizer.
They next look at another whopper. It looks like a zucchini, kind of. It is curbita pepo 'English Marrow' a vegetable marrow. They're better known in England and have the potential to go over 100 pounds. There is a tape around it to measure the daily growth. When smaller they grow around anywhere from an inch to two inches a day and lengthwise an inch or more a day. From the time of pollination to harvest it's just 45 to 50 days. They move really fast. This was the last one pollinated, isn't even 45 days old and growing at a good clip. Marrow grows on both ends. Other fruits - cantelope, watermellon or pumpkins grow on the front side. The Marrow is starting to slow down in growth but the front end will continue to grow, thus he must make sure to adjust it so it doesn't plow the ground with the vine which could break the vine.
Joe tells Scott he has some great looking plants and hopes he has some world records. This has been fun and educational.
Back with Brittany, Joe asks her what might be the main take-aways for gardeners. She feels it's important to stay on top of your flowers. Keep them looking lovely and they'll have blooms for a long time. Even though they have unique growing aspects in Alaska with longer days and cooler temperatures she still needs to keep working with those plants to keep them blooming throughout the season. Joe noticed that all the gardens at the Fair had a theme. We all have choices when selecting plants but here each garden sticks with a few. They didn't over do it and they all worked together. Brittany feels anybody can take a couple of plants and make a garden beautiful. The real difference depends on your combinations, the heights, textures and colors. They can be put together in a surprising number of combinations. The microclimate, created by walls and fences pushed a zone 2 to a zone 5. That's amazing, and all because of the microclimate. Joe thanks Brittany. This has been a great day and we've learned a lot. Thanks to everyone at the Alaska State Fair. We hope many in our audience will have the opportunity to visit. It's worthwhile.
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LINKS:

Alaska State Fair

Garden Smart Plant List


   
 
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