Monday, December 20, 2010

Travelling to warmer climes this Christmas?

How does maroon and purple carpet grab you?  I feel the same way, perhaps even more strongly, but alas, maroon and purple carpet is my fate.  At least until it gets replaced.  Priority one: getting the ceilings and walls in the bedrooms painted before we move in, which has been slightly more labor intensive and time consuming than I had supposed.  Also, I had forgotten just how much paint a person can acquire on one’s body in the space of three days.  The magnetic paint (don’t ask) was the absolute worst.  I’m still picking off traces of it on my wrist.  Maybe it will help with any iron deficiencies I have. 

Translation of above excuses, whimpering, and whining: I am out of time and energy, so relying on that old trick of picture=thousand words seems the logical move, even for me.  For those lucky enough to be heading south this holiday season: 

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This charming little display was part of a temporary reptile exhibit in no less a place than Palmer, Alaska.  Which I assure you has no native vultures, reptiles, or desert succulents.  More’s the pity.

Any painting counsel for me?  Times you ran out of water in the desert?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh, Alaska! The Twelve Tarps of Christmas….

Never one to content myself with writing about a local quirk/pet peeve just once, I have canvassed the sprawling metropolis of Anchorage, Alaska and surrounding areas for the most glorious use of blue tarps, bound to induce feelings of civic pride within any resident of this 49th state.  Now knowing I couldn’t possibly do this on my own, I enlisted tarp scouts to track down this brightly hued but sometimes elusive polyethylene beast.  (First, do yourself a favor and brush up on my fascinating account of the magnetism blue tarps exert upon those carrying a Y chromosome.)

So look on, if you dare, but don’t blame me for various diseases of the eye and mind that may occur as a result….

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There’s A Partridge wintering in there, And A Pear Tree, too, I just know it.  I’m half expecting an astronaut to walk out the door: “Houston, we have a problem….”  (There is a Houston, Alaska, and this ponderosa wasn’t ten miles down the road from that fair town.  I call that irony.)

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 Two Turtle Doves.  Or maybe one RV and one woodpile?

Three Feet Over the Property Line.

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Four Lolling Boats.  The nicest one gets a tarp?

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Five Ashen Cinderblocks.  (My imagination seems to be running out of steam here, but they’re not golden now, are they?)

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Six Tarps A-Laying?

Seven Swans A-Swimming, but not ‘till spring and the (rare and shy) brown tarp is removed.

Eight Frayed Neighborly Relations.

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Maybe they have Nine Ladies Dancing in there.  A little privacy, please….

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Ten (thousand) Boards A-Sleeping.

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Eleven Pipes Crumbling.  OK, it’s a column.  Our city is in a bit of a budget crunch, so those much needed repairs are camouflaged Alaska style.  Fancy, isn’t it?

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Twelve Summers Sitting (there.)

So you see, no matter how bad it is, any situation can be made even worse with the addition of a blue tarp.  I’d like to thank my unsuspecting neighbors here in Anchorage and a few choice residents of the Mat-Su valley for their inspiration (and unwitting participation) in my Tarp Roundup this year.  Keep buying those blue tarps and spreading that blue tarp love around!

Is there anything more noticeable than a blue tarp?  I just want to know why blue?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This just in: Last Frontier Gardener finds home!

And perhaps just as important, a garden.  Some of you may recall that we recently sold our home (and my garden) of ten years.  For a refresher on my angst click here.  I have been gardenless (and homeless) for over a month.  Not homeless in the street person sense, but shoehorning four people into a one bedroom apartment doesn’t make me feel like calling this itty bitty place “home”.

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On the upside, our little rental does have a few perks.  I have the city bus schedule for a stop by our window memorized.  And for those looking to rent or buy in the area, the police response time is fantastic.  Three sirens a day is typical, but all bets are off on Friday or Saturday nights.  My record is eight in a row, but that included the ambulance and fire trucks, too.  I won’t mention the incident of the inebriated pedestrian falling into the road and getting hit across the street, but you get the idea by now.

Another perk, for some: we’ve got built-in babysitters.  My sister lives next door.  My brother lives upstairs.  And my mother’s office is two doors down.  We’re like the Clampett version of the Kennedys and their family compound in Massachusetts.  I’m trying to convince my other sister to move in, but strangely, inexplicably, she has resisted the idea so far.  Maybe she doesn’t want to babysit my kids.

And finally, the best perk of all, my vehicle now has a remote auto-start function.  So on those cold days (like the miserable, single digit weather we had last week) I can press a button in my apartment and my car starts, warms up, and manages not to get stolen before I get in it.  This delightful feature would never have been installed without the on-street parking we now enjoy.  A few weeks of the cold temps and the LFG hubby broke down and took the cars in for the old fixeroo.  Thank you, bitterly cold weather, thank you!

So I’ll be really sad to leave all this, as you can see.  But we are to sign our lives away (otherwise known as closing on a house) this week.  Wish me luck, or at least, a well with no arsenic in the water.

Any good reasons for living next to family?  On a busy street?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

“Have a snarly, gnarly Christmas” & other classics

Surely the tone of this piece is clear right from the start.  If not, for those perhaps half asleep or jet-lagged, let me be understood.  After enduring the traffic, the icy roads, the brown snow, and the single digit temperatures, the one thing I’m not is jolly.  Sensible folk would do something to effect a cure, perhaps drink a mug of hot cocoa adorned with whipped cream and sprinkles, buy a pair of warm boots, or get on the next plane to Hawaii.  Me?  I am sliding deeper into my “winter funk” and strangely, perversely almost, enjoying it.

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I notice the Christmas songs are now on twenty four hour rotation.  The oldie but goodie category (Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt, etc.) seems to escape my snide observations, but the more modern recordings are easy pickings.  Some of the singers actually sound deranged about the thought of the upcoming holidays.  This seems like a good place to mention the synthesizer, an instrument waaaay overdone in Christmas songs from a certain decade.  And the station gets changed immediately if there is a solo more than two octaves above how the music is written.  I prefer to keep the windshield intact, thanks.

What’s the point of all this grumpiness?  I want to share the coping mechanism that gets me through “all Christmas songs, all the time”, plus a heavy dose of “winter funk.”  My breakthrough came when I began to substitute alternate lyrics and titles.  Suddenly, life was bearable, or at least, the twentieth Mariah Carey holiday tune in one hour, less inclined to tip me over some psychopathic boundary. 

Can you guess what these used to be?

1. Mocking Aloud the Christmas Letter

2. Sarah Got Run Over by a Hater (In A Volvo)

3. Congress Fighting in an Open Mire

4. All I Want For Christmas is j.crew

You see, it doesn’t have to be clever or make sense, just fun!

Here are some for you to try:

1. Do You Hear What I Hear?

2. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

3. Over the River and Through the Woods

4. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

5. (and my new favorite…) Please Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas

Care to share a coping mechanism?  Christmas song spoof?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The off season: hooray?

Alternatively entitled, “What to write about when there’s nothing to write about”, or possibly, “Winter blahs: yet again”.  There comes a time every year when I mentally scroll through blog posting ideas and come up with nada.  Zilch, zero, nothing.  With the temperatures hovering in the twenties (Fahrenheit), and the gravel encrusted snow as my muse, how could I come up short, you ask.

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Some of you preparedness nuts out there may remember I wrote about having a few posts on the back burner for situations just like this.  A glance at my rough drafts reveals that none are quite ready.  You’ll just have to wait for my soon-to-be-famous treatises on bunny boots, ice fishing, and snow shoes.  Some much needed research has to happen first.  I say that with heavy heart and a large dose of trepidation.  Just who looks forward to spending the day on a frozen lake with a fishing pole?  Perhaps my impending research will reveal the answer.

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I have no inspiration to catalogue, no tours to sing the praises of, and no to-do tasks to share.  If it hasn’t been done by now, it’s frozen and not getting done until spring.  We’re not even in a “pretty” phase of winter, with a landscape looking as if it were dusted by white frosting.  No, no.  Imagine more of a blighted look, with a dash of grayish, dirty snow and complete with a repressed looking populace, clad in large coats and bad attitudes.  So I ask you, what do I write about?  I’ve got nothing….

What do you write about (or like to read about) in the off-season?  

Monday, November 15, 2010

I’m going to beat the rush…for once.

You know…that impending onslaught of postings in the very near future on the general topic of thankfulness (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), and instead post a few bits about gratitude in the garden.  A cooking class last weekend whet my appetite for that grand American holiday approaching in a mere fortnight.  That would be “Thanksgiving”, or as it’s known in more sophisticated circles, “Turkey Day”. 

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Now it’s more than a mere holiday celebrating a large and top-heavy bird: there are potatoes, dressings, gravy, and homemade rolls to be feted as well.  If, in the midst of all this artery busting fare, one finds the strength to count blessings, so much the better.  All whilst watching your team lose the big game on the telly.

I prefer to sidestep the stomachache, this week at least, and sing the praises of a few of my favorite gardening things.  Not out loud, you’ll be relieved to hear (my alto isn’t that impressive, just ask the church choir director).  I’ll keep it short, you have a Thanksgiving menu to plan.

I am thankful for:

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1. felcos (I have number 10).  Thank goodness for the Swiss and their national fetish for precision.  If you haven’t tried a pair of quality pruners like these, you’re probably missing the tips of a few fingers, like me.  I finally made the investment and haven’t regretted it. 

2. compost.  If you don’t understand the science behind it, just think of it as a magic soil additive.  Improves silt, clay, sand, and everything in between.  Improved a soil so infertile, it blew around like an Oklahoma dust bowl under a spruce tree at my house.  Now the “dust bowl” is home to a small sun and drought tolerant garden.  Thank you decomposed clippings, thank you!!

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3. ornamental grasses, bergenias, and viburnums.  Easy, gorgeous all-arounders at my (former) place.  Not glamorous enough to win the crown, but gets the Miss Congeniality award.  I planted them everywhere, all around the yard.  No regrets.  I do have to spray the bergenias and viburnums with,

4. plantskydd.  Keeps those pesky, gigantic deer cousins at bay.  If you garden in Alaska, moose damage is a fact of life.

5. other gardeners.  The wit and wisdom of my fellow gardeners is inspiring!  The local Master Gardeners have been having some great programs and tours the last few years.  A great way for me to meet new people that know their stuff.

What garden products/plants/resources make you grateful?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five ways to know it’s winter in Alaska

Other than lots of snow and cold, yeah.  My springtime version of this list was such fun, I couldn’t resist trotting this idea out once again.  Whiny excuse alert: Though my post idea isn’t thought provoking, witty, useful, or original…in my defense I’m closing on my house of ten years tomorrow, I’ve been cleaning said house all day, and my dinosaur of a computer is acting up at my temporary, one-bedroom apartment housing.  Four of us are living there together.  Cozy! 

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1.  The only vehicles on the road busier than the snowplows are the tow trucks (see number 3).  Scads of medium-sized snowplows, great big snowplows, and itty bitty snowplows in evidence today.  Those last mentioned are called “snow blowers” and can be used to clear driveways.  No such luck, we have a shovel.

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2.  Cars have a marshmallow-like covering in the mornings.  It’s a courtesy to scrape it off before you hop on the freeway, so it doesn’t blow off into the car behind you, obscuring their view.  At least scrape the windshield clean…you’d be surprised at how many don’t even get that part done.

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3.  Traffic is slow because people are rubbernecking at all the cars in the ditch.  I saw a dozen today, four within about 100 feet, amazingly none had hit any of the others.  Two upside down and one balanced perfectly on it’s side.  My city’s motto isn’t “Big Wild Life” for nothing.

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4.  Everyone looks about forty pounds heavier with all the puffer coats, big boots, hats, and gloves.  No, it’s not a good thing but it’s warm and sensible and what choice do we have?  At least boots are fashionable these days….

5.  You won’t see or speak to your neighbor for the next five months.  A former neighbor was expecting, gave birth, and had a boy in a stroller in spring.  I said, “And who is this little critter with your son, X?”  “Oh, that’s my son Y, he’s four months old.”  Yes, an embarrassing little episode in the life of the Last Frontier Gardener.  I had no idea because it all occurred during the winter.  No, we don’t linger outside and visit.  A quick dash to the mailbox or grudging bout of shoveling about covers it.

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Don’t worry.  Twenty years experience driving in this mess served me well today.  Only one close (very close) call with a blue minivan.  She had a cell phone and was drifting into my lane (and my car).  A friendly little toot with the horn took care of that.

Is it winter?  How do you know it’s winter where you live?

Monday, November 1, 2010

We all want this plant

The holy grail of the plant world, the most desired, coveted, and beloved in all the Kingdom Plantae is __________.  What was that?  You thought I would tell you?  I wouldn’t presume to know what your favorite is and surely every gardener has a different one!

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After moaning about my upcoming move last week, and the accompanying feelings of desolation, isolation, and consternation that go with leaving a garden behind, I have decided to look ahead.  Momentarily at least.  The houses we’ve considered are what I like to term “garden challenged,” meaning no garden.  I don’t count a lilac bush and a few scrawny looking pansies as a garden.  So what would be the first thing I would plant?

“First” sort of implies essential, does it not?  Something you cannot live without another day…like the internet, Velcro, Pepper Jack cheese, or supportive undergarments.  Since installing an entire garden in one season is not in the time/funds budget, I’ll have to settle for just one selection.  No doubt the rest of my time will be spent painting walls, tiling floors, or ripping out a Mary Kay pink Jacuzzi tub. 

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What are the qualities of something essential?  Useful, beautiful, sturdy, hardy, low-maintenance…well, you get the idea.  And so, with much thought and no further ado, the first plant to transform my new lawn (this is Alaska, yards are almost always a lawn) to a garden will be: Pinus aristata, the bristlecone pine.  It’s a small specimen tree, not very romantic but useful as a diversion or focal point if there are lots of blue tarps, garbage cans, or junk vehicles around.  I’m thinking with a skirting of Alopecurus pratensis ‘Variegatus’, golden foxtail grass, it would be simple, eye-catching, and satisfying even in winter.  And if I am to be removing a giant pink tub and ripping up carpet, I won’t have time for much else.

What would be the first/essential plant you would put in a new garden with a blank slate?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saying goodbye to my garden of ten years

Be sure you have your tissues handy, I intend to force feelings of fervency, dish dollops of dispossession, and insult the intellect.  Surely I do that last one every time I post.  Let it be known then, that my family and I are moving.  And, just like the afterlife, the rumors are true.  We can’t take the it (the garden) with us.

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Lest I be accused of inciting a riot on the streets of the garden blogosphere, I assure you all I will still be posting about the wacky, unique, and challenging topics concerning gardening (and living) in Alaska.  Though we haven’t actually chosen a new house yet, we plan on moving close by our current abode.  I tell people who ask me whether we’ve found a place to go, “We’re planning on moving into a tent in your backyard.”  My surliness is getting the better of me.

It’s official: we’re out on November 9th.  Now the sensible gardener would have lifted and transplanted all favorites to an obliging friend’s garden for safe keeping before the temperature outside plunged to a balmy 40 Fahrenheit.  Never one to shy away from new frontiers in poor planning, the LFG rammed all her treasures into two holding beds and a smallish finished compost pile and put some very legal-sounding mumbo jumbo about “coming back in the spring for the designated garden goodies” into the sale contract. 

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I don’t want to come back.  I want a clean break like ripping a bandage off in one quick swipe.  I love this garden but I don’t want to see it ever again.  I feel like it’s at it’s peak now and couldn’t bear to see it decline.  How’s that for thinking positive?

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Ten years of pondering the garden’s layout.  Ten years of digging, deeply.  (Or at least as far as the combination of silt and construction backfill will allow.)  Ten years of anticipation in spring, appreciation in summer, and fond adieus in autumn.  Ten years of study and planning during the long winter months. 

Lots of sweat, some blood (adventures with sharp Felcos), and tears (hammers involved).  To say nothing of the money…oh, I can’t keep quiet about that!  Lots of money no doubt better spend elsewhere.  Preferably on something I could take with me when I move.  I’ll have to take the altruistic point of view and think of the joy and beauty it provides my neighborhood.  It’ll have to do.

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I guess that means I have about two weeks to pack.  Not to mention the idea of living out of plastic bins and rubber tubs for the next two months.  I hate moving….

Ever moved?  Left a garden you loved/loathed?

Monday, October 18, 2010

I really wish we had more of this…

Every area has it’s indigenous garden themes, whether they be fabulous, frightening, or faux pas.  Surely I’m not the only gardener to lament, “If only we had more ______.”  You fill in the blank. 

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For us in the far, far, far north, I would fill in that blank with (take your choice): style, gardens, gardeners, summer, hardy specimen trees, or heat.  You have to say the sentence with a really wistful voice and then add a sigh at the end.  Try it, it’s fun.  (I thought of a dozen more alternatives, but have exercised uncharacteristic restraint here.)   

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And the alternative is even more fun to ponder, or outrageous, depending on your temperament or eyesight.  Tell me you’re not filling in the next sentence for your city as you read it.  “If only we had fewer ______.”  I would submit for your review: blue tarps (above picture), junk vehicles (wow, the above fits OK for this, too), yellow- flowering Potentillas, large, gluttonous, plant-eating ungulates, weeds, or turf grass (see above picture).  Yes, those are all things found in some gardens here.  Residents, and those who have visited my state, can back me up on this.  I love Alaska, but every place has its warts, no?

So what does your area need more of?  Less of?  Please share!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gardening disease identified: beware!

Don’t worry, this is another fluff piece.  I’ve been around the gardening block a few times, but thankfully I still get pleasantly surprised by a plant here, a concept there.  You can only be cynical about so many things in life before it becomes a bit toxic.  So imagine my glee when I read about “Gardening Withdrawal Syndrome.”  I can thank our dear and charming President…no not him!  I mean Jane B., of the Anchorage chapter of the Alaska Master Gardeners for this nugget of info.

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She warned via email one of the symptoms of this malady is the old “rage against the dying of the light” approach for climates that have a winter dormancy period.  For her, onset begins when she takes cuttings of many perennials and annuals and attempts to winter them over by rooting them in water in the garage.  So what if you lose half of them to rot, she says, you still have a bunch more ready and waiting for next spring.

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Maybe I’ve seen too many TV dramas, but aren’t withdrawal syndromes characterized by shakes or seizure of some kind?  Or is it vomiting and frothing at the mouth?  I’ll count shivering through winter as shakes, if you don’t mind.  My Gardening Withdrawal Syndrome symptoms are not as useful, productive, or as thrifty as Jane’s.  Yes, I know, another big surprise for the readership.  I’ll rank them, as I seem to be on a list fetish lately.

1. Looking out the window…a lot and with an accompanying frown.  “Yup, the snow is still there” or “Look, the moose ate the trees again.”

2. Reading and rereading nursery mail order catalogs.  Morphine for those amidst a long winter’s gardening hiatus.

3. Ordering plants I don’t need, aren’t hardy, and/or are unaffordable.  If they are located across the country with an absurdly high shipping charge, so much the better.

I realize the symptoms will vary from individual to individual.  But I’m wondering if they also vary by geography, country, gardening zone, etc.  I can just barely fathom there are those unaffected by this syndrome, such as those that garden in a very mild climate.  Or maybe they just have lots of hobbies….  

Are you having symptoms of GWS?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Plant of the Month: September 2010

The containers have been hauled away, the garden art removed, and the tools duct-taped and trucked off.  If the prospect of moving had been a mere germ of an idea, tucked safely away in the back of my mind (under the rug in a spare room there), having a garden empty of ornamentation and tools has made me think seriously about it.  Well, as seriously as the Last Frontier Gardener thinks about gardening and moving, which sadly isn’t very.

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With this new minimalist palette sans junk (see photo below for a visual of a bit of the junk packed off) I have, choosing a favorite for month number 9 should be simpler than usual.  No more being influenced by my favorite garden decor in the vicinity.  Scrolling through months past here, here, and here, I notice almost all of my choices for “favorite” are in the immediate vicinity of the rusty salmon.  Rather than think I’m shallow enough to be swayed by fish made of an old bathtub,  I’ll just content myself with thinking all my favorites have been repeated throughout the backyard therefore I can’t help but choose one near the three groups of fish.  There, that sounds better.

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Now that my conscience is assuaged, I can finally get to the point: the most useful plant for September in my garden.  For those further south (which is pretty much everybody, right?), September is sometimes known affectionately as “early winter” here in Alaska.  The plant palette is, how shall I put this…subdued.  Many plants touted to transform into bright reds or oranges freeze just as they are showing their beautiful color, become brown, and hang in the tree or shrub until the gale force fall winds take them.  And perennials, don’t get me started on “selections for autumn”.  Sedums do all right.  The salvias and veronicas are iffy.  I kill Asters by the score (including the orange one in my first photo), so don’t even think of recommending one to me.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve planted ‘Alma Potschke’, I’d be able to bankroll a political candidate.  (No, not really, but I can’t help but have politics on the brain.  Every news website has ads for them, every street has signs for them, and every radio station projects their voices.  Thank heavens for democracy and the ol’ republic and all, but I am so sick of the political ads!  Some wise soul remarked they’d rather be governed by 300 people randomly chosen from the phone book, than by the choices we have now.  Amen brother!)

OK, now I am really getting to the point after a lengthy ramble.  For those that stuck it out, my choice for September is Alopecurus pratensis ‘Variegatus’, or golden foxtail grass.  And just to be difficult, you can also find this one under ‘Aureovariegatus’ or ‘Aureus’.  Locally this grass is unusual, so check the Alaska Botanical Garden nursery first: it’s where I got mine, as divisions of display garden specimens.  No one else wanted them, if you can believe it.  Or check out Fritz Creek Nursery in Homer, which does mail order in Alaska.  

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What: a cool-season grass, one of the first perennials to show it’s face in spring, mostly clumping and not invasive/cheeky/seeding around for me

Alopecurus pratensis 'Variegatus'

Where: full sun (more upright) to shade (floppier, in my experience); tolerant of many soil types, moisture levels (the more moisture, the floppier, also in my experience)

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When: early spring emergence almost electric chartreuse, yellowish (in sun) in summer, yellow to dull yellow/green in autumn, under snow in winter so no clue as to winter performance other than it survives zone 3/4


1. smashing leaf color, excellent with blues, violets, reds, oranges, anything with an electric hued flower;

2. as with other grasses, the contrast of linear leaf shape with the bigger leaves of other perennials/shrubbery is a textural delight (no flowers necessary);

3. low maintenance (I do remove the inflorescences as they are rather sparse), no bugs, staking, or fertilizing necessary at my garden

4. looks good in a mass or by itself

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And an autumnal boost for those of you that stayed with me: it’s 46 degrees Fahrenheit in my back yard right now.  Makes you feel better, doesn’t it?  (Except you poor lot in Fairbanks and beyond…so sorry.)

Any favorites for the month of September?  Any political ads driving you up the wall?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stupid things we’ve all done

OK, fine.  Stupid things only I would dream of doing.  Have you ever pondered a current or recently taken avenue in life and decided, upon reflection, you should have turned left rather than right?  Or better yet, exited the vehicle all together and ridden your bicycle?  And maybe, just maybe, your wrong turn becomes another and then another.  No, this post isn’t going to turn into an episode of Lost or Guiding Light, but sometimes I can’t believe the dumb things I do.

Exhibit A:

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Surely the most damning of the evidence, I put my house up for sale on the same day I hosted a benefit garden tour for the botanical garden this summer. 

The Last Frontier Gardener was merely trying to hit her target market for a home sale but ended up having to turn people away at the door that wanted to walk through.  To be fair, my sign did say “By appointment only.”  Did that stop them?  Said my sister in law apologetically at the door, “Uh, she’s kinda busy right now in the garden.  Sorry.  But give her a call later.”  I can’t blame them.  If you did a drive-by of a home for sale and saw scads of people flocking towards it (for the garden tour) you might be forgiven for mistaking it for the biggest Open House of all time.  Dumb.

I’m not even going to mention the difficulty of getting the house and garden into shape by the same day.  I will say a few primal screams and silent inner screams were involved.  That and a lot of Windex.

Exhibit B:

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Not entering the garden for a month and expecting to harvest vegetables that aren’t supporting three generations of pests or have gone to seed.

After above mentioned tour, I abandoned the garden (was it resentment?) for a month.  Be merciful, readers, it was raining (see above pic).  Every day.  In fact, we have had a record breaking streak of rainy days this summer, so I hope to be forgiven for not being thrilled about the outdoors for the month of August.

It was just as bad as you’d expect.  Everything was riddled in holes and slug poo.  My celery had turned into a high rise slug tenement.  It was rather unsavory washing so many slimy bodies off and having to scrub the celery so hard to get all slug digestion remnants off for dinner.  Stew anyone?  I’ve abandoned the remaining two celery plants to their fate.  The beans are goners and the cabbages are barely salvageable.

Exhibit C:

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I agreed to let a photographer/horticulturist come out to the garden for some shots this month for a future presentation on fall interest, (an obscure, if not dubious subject in the minds of many Alaskan gardeners).  You think I would be able to plan ahead by this time in my life.  Nope.  About thirty minutes before she came, a whirlwind of raking, weeding, pruning, and snarling in the back yard.  I hope she didn’t notice that giant dandelion in the front yard.  Ho hum. 

Did I mention the slugs have had free reign the last month?  The Hosta, Ligularia, and veggies are Swiss cheese.  The only thing looking particularly good is the aforementioned dandelion.  The weather has transitioned from rainy to threat of snowy.  Apathy has me in a chokehold.  And I still have to clean the house for a prospective buyer tonight.  Which means I’d better think about getting that Windex out again.   Sheesh.

Done anything stupid?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Games garden bloggers play

There comes a time in every Alaskan’s year when the transition from outside pursuits to inside pursuits takes place.  Depending on the weather, it can be in October, September, or in the case of this year, June.  We’ve had a record year of consecutive rainy days (I feel your pain Seattle, Brazil, England).  Then cloudy.  Now cold.  So I feel cheated about the whole summer gardening season.  Since I have transitioned to the inside stuff (whether I want to or not) it seems appropriate to mark the occasion with something I can do indoors.

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Bangchik, a garden blogger growing all kinds of unheard of vegetables (in the cold, frozen north of Alaska at least) in Malaysia, has kindly asked me to stop shivering long enough to list 10 Things I Love.  I don’t usually take time for online games, but what else is there to do?  Certainly nothing outside at the moment.  The containerized Phormium in residence agreed with my assessment of the now cold nights outside and was dropped off at the nursery’s balmy greenhouse for the winter on Friday.  I asked if they had room for me but the price was too exorbitant, so here I am.  Batten down your tarps and put on your quiviut hats because we’re off: 

1. Italian leather shoes.  It all started with one pair, justified because of the sale price and an upcoming wedding in the family.  Now I have to move into a home with a bigger closet.  And the LFG hubby is talking about getting a side job at the gas station.  I may be wearing rubber boots or flip flops six days of the week in summer, but watch out on Sunday when I get the peep toed heels out.  Ka-zam!

2. Chubby kid cheeks, preferably clean ones.

3. Sunshine on the couch, warming it to the perfect temperature for napping.  Do I ever get a chance for that nap?  Usually the first five minutes, then “ring, ring” or “mommy!”  Someday my nap will come.

4. Crunchy dill pickles.  Absolutely no sweet or squishy ones.

5. A good hair day.  I think possibly this falls in with numero uno in being mostly a woman thing.  Men, am I wrong?

Nassella tenuissima in container, October

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6. Ornamental grasses like Nassella tenuissima, backlit in the autumn sun.

7. Hearing people I love laugh, most likely at me.  They say they’re laughing with me, of course.

8. Front yard gardens: unique, funky, vegetable, jungle-like, anything goes as long as it’s not just lawn and one shrub.  (Though I must say, I don’t care for the broken down cars or blue tarps adorning some front yard “gardens” here in Alaska.)

9. Being done with housework…for the moment anyway.  I can hear the dust settling as I type.

10. To my shame, cheesy music like ABBA, Bee Gees, etc.  “If you change your mind, I’m the first in line.  Honey, I’m still free.  Take a chance on meeeee.” 

Am I the only one who loves having a good hair day?  Maybe the infrequency of such a thing makes it that much more precious, sort of like a non-rainy day this summer.  My hair often has twigs or a stray bug in it during the gardening season, so the bar is set pretty low.  Pathetic or empowering, you decide.

What do you love/hate on my list?  Please don’t tell me I’m the only one with a few cheesy CD’s lying around….

Monday, September 13, 2010

Flowers, food, and freaks

Or as the LFG hubby says, the three “f”’s of the state fair.  I might also add “full parking lot.”  For those that checked out the giant veggies last week on the blog, this week’s lowdown is not super-sized, but quite a bit more fattening, I’m afraid.

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One thing about our State Fair in Palmer, the flowers are always stupendous.  And they’re everywhere, even hanging near the restroom doors.  Something I noticed new this year (meaning it’s the first time I noticed it, not that it’s new) was the All-American Selections just inside the gate. 

fair 068Do you realize what this means?  This implies no less than that someone has conceded Alaska is indeed part of America.  I still struggle with some mail-order companies that just don’t believe it.  Also sighted in this area, selections of fruiting trees and shrubs like mountain ash (Sorbus spp.) and currants (Ribes spp.).

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If herbs and vegetables are more your thing, there is a delightful gated garden that, correct me if I’m stating the impossible, seemed to be growing okra.

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There is always a theme to the fair, and this year is no different.  I’m not saying the themes are always catchy, clever, or creative.  2010 was the “Imagine if…” year.  One of the most fun horticultural sightings is always the south side theme display.  This year they were inspired by the carousel ride just around the corner.

fair 104 If carousel rides aren’t your thing, try some of the fun booths, a few of which sported antiques, jewelry, pottery, clothing of all kinds and decades, garden themed items, and even bona fide living plants.

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And this wouldn’t be the Alaska State Fair without a few vendors displaying outdoor wares of another variety.  The Y chromosomes were hovering like bees.  I was actually knocked aside in a small stampede of teenaged boys on their way to view the 2011 model snow machines (or snowmobiles for you non-Alaskans).

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No fair is complete without the flower show.  Even this (rainy, miserable) summer, at least a few people managed to grow show quality flowers.  For anyone that’s wondering, no, I have nothing show quality.  Congrats to the winners (who must have sheltered each blossom with its own miniature umbrella from our month and a half of rain).

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One more garden item and then I’ll move on.  A spectacular perennial garden, with the romantic name “The Perennial Garden” is tucked between two large exhibit halls.  For the best use of new, unusual, and little known plants in a public garden, this is the place in south-central Alaska, and the Last Frontier Gardener is not one to gush.  Unfortunately, my skills with the camera are not a sight to behold and it was the one sunny day of the fair, which I’m not about to complain about.  I find wearing my sunglasses helps when viewing these washed out pictures, but to each their own.

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What is a fair without the artery clogging food?  They dip everything in hot oil here, from corn dogs and halibut to donuts and Twinkies.  (I went for the halibut, if you must know.)  My doctor needn’t worry, I starved myself so as to have all available calories for this jaunt.  Jokes about the grease aside, there really is a lot of different food choices and types of cuisine.  Next year I have made a mental note to try the cream puffs and the cheese curds, and will someone please tell me where the booth that was selling chocolate covered bacon was?

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After eating said grease, I wasn’t in the mood to defy gravity or tempt physics, so the kids did the rides sans me.  I risk sounding elderly mentioning this, but the music at each ride was deafening and a bit, uh, edgy.  Why do the little kiddie rides need heavy metal playing at louder decibels than a plane taking off?  “Mom, what does ‘shout to the devil’ mean?”

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And I can’t wrap it up without tipping my hat to the guys who have probably broken more bones and whose mothers are some of the most worried (or heavily sedated) in the world.

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Just to be clear, the guy sitting down is on top of a ramp about seven feet off the ground.  The other guy back flipped over him on a bike.  Probably the best entertainment at the fair and no one died that I’m aware of….  Ok, ok,  just one more of these fun pictures.

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I didn’t manage to capture photographic evidence of many freaks, though it made a handy title for the post.  What captured my notice was the fact that nearly every smoker in our state seemed to have showed up on the day I was there.  For some reason, I thought the fair had designated smoking areas.  I’ll go ahead and give this kid with crazy hair the freaky title for this post though I’m sure she’s as normal as can be.

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After four hours of trudging around and taking more than three hundred subpar photos, it was time to head home.  Now just where did I park?  Maybe I’ll take the train next year instead since they have a depot right at the fair.  Who doesn’t love a train ride?

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Had any greasy fair food lately?  How are the gardens at your fair?


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