Monday, March 22, 2010

Tour a Nursery: Sutton's Greenhouse

Join me for a March ramble through an Anchorage, Alaska greenhouse.  Just what delectable morsels will we find?  I don't care.  Beggars can't be chosers: the fact that morsels will be there is enough for me.  Tally ho! 

 A banana plant I almost bought.  I might as well have...I decided I'm going back for it soon.

With all those garden bloggers in warmer climes showing off their emerging bulbs, flowering shrubs and trees, and dirt under their nails, a very jealous Last Frontier Gardener felt the need for a green fix.  What was to be done?  Nothing but willows blooming off to Sutton's Brown Thumb Greenhouse I went. 

Just being in a house whose sole purpose was to grow plants made me happy.  I scented a heady bouquet of "gardener's anticipation" mixed with a subtle garnish of "late winter desperation"...or was it the humidity and soil-less mix?

 They have a great selection of cacti and succulents.  For indoors, of course!

Fancy-leaved Begonia starts, for indoor or outdoor use.  These types have help me overcome a long-standing prejudice of the genus.

Those that have stopped in over the years know that Sutton's is a bit like a maze complete with connecting tunnels, steps, narrow aisles, and forbidden areas.  Each area seems to have its own theme, at least to me.  There is the herb starts area, the succulent area, small annuals, large annuals, tomatoes, pond plants, and potted arrangements.  That's just the inside.  Later in the year, the outside seems to magically turn into a plant flea market complete with stalls covered by umbrellas.  It is the place to find many bedding annuals in cell packs, perennials (including plug sizes, love these!), and potted trees and shrubs.  You can find such Alaska garden stalwarts as Meconopsis (blue poppy), Trollius (globeflower), Rhubarb, and Paeonia.  I've had good luck finding more unusual and even brand new varieties of perennials there as well.

Grabbed up one of these plug size Isolepis cernua for my ornamental grasses presentation next weekend.  The plug size is very affordable.  Fiber optic grass (actually a sedge) is great in containers: you won't regret using it.  A bit hard to find here though.

Anna and Patty are the friendly proprietresses for this family-run greenhouse, whose motto is "Turning brown thumbs green for over 45 years." A compelling reason to visit right there.  Their brand new website shares the greenhouse history in a nutshell, complete with picture of mom and grandma, the founders.  To illustrate the charm of the place, they have an after hours drop box for those that shop the outdoor plants when the greenhouse isn't open.  I've used it myself once or twice.  Of course, like anything that works on honor, there are the abusers.  Not only those that don't pay, but steal the payments of others.  Boo, hiss!

So many little plugs, soon to be potted up to four packs or six packs, if you don't purchase them first.   This is one of the only greenhouses around to offer the plug size in my experience.

At a visit last season I nearly tripped on a little dog coming in the door.  I was lucky enough to be given the tour of his private room.  Very posh.  Used to be the kids play house, now the dog's palace.  There's an analogy in there somewhere.  I was told when the greenhouse gets busy, he gets put away so he won't escape out the door and get lost on a busy road.  For those that know Anchorage, Tudor Road is about as busy as they get.  So you probably aren't going to see any wee doggies on your visit.  Too bad, he's quite a mascot.  At a previous visit, he followed my daughter around and won her over.  She was torn between petting the dog and trying to catch the goldfish in the small indoor raised pond, a difficult decision for any child.  We missed him at our March visit but were assured he was still around offering moral support.

Indoor pond complete with funky garden art.

You'll notice all the snow.  The only flowers outside in March are on the dumpster.

All that colorful foliage just waiting to gladden a container on your a couple of months.

For those in the area, Sutton's can be found on East Tudor Road at 2845, between a church and a resource center for the homeless.  (There is an analogy in there as well, but I'm not touching it with a ten-foot pole.)  All you southcentral gardeners or visitors, head on over to Sutton's to get your green fix.  They're open seven days a week, noon to 5pm. 

Do you have a favorite nursery you go to for a leafy fix?


If only my houseplants looked this lush.

This tour was for kicks and giggles, not for compensation....


  1. We've been to Alaska several times, mostly for fishing. I'd be very curious to see your nurseries and greenhouses. We'll be on Kenai peninsula in July.

  2. Hi Christine. Wow, I love all of the fancy leaved Begonia's. Since I have tried everything to grow some from seed and failed it looks like if I want one I will have to buy it already grown.So many pretty coleus too. Like my daughter always tells me when she sees me picking up something and putting it back, "You might as well get that now because when you get home you will wish you had of". LOL!

  3. @Tatyana@MySecretGarden

    Wow, you are a brave gardener! We call fishing on the Kenai in July "combat" fishing. So many salmon, so little time....

    I, too, have tried a lot from seed. My failure is mostly because I'm unwilling these days to devote the time and space to raising seedlings. Once I had two flats of seedlings destroyed by "dog chase cat", so I've been pretty unmotivated to start seeds the last couple of years. We have some great nurseries offering starts (veggie, annual, perennial) so I guess I've just been "cheating" that way.


  4. Alaska is quite the interesting place. Glad I came across this post

  5. That looks like such a nice place to visit! I'm envious we don't have a garden center nearby any more.
    Also you commented on my Spring countdown banner and I wanted to give you a link where you can get all sorts for free to use.

  6. I love so many things about this special nursery, the drop box for one. But my favorite are the flowers painted on the dumpster....who says you can't have flowers outside in the middle of winter?

  7. Spent several years working at a nursery doing propagation + retail.

    Really miss the greenhouses, my regular customers, Christmas season.

    Thanks for taking me into some greenhouses today.

    Garden & Be Well, XO TAra

  8. I love visiting nurseries and greenhouses! Definitely a good way to spend the day. Cactus in Alaska? Even indoors, that sort of jiggles my mind. Isn't the world a great place!

  9. I really love seeing nurseries in other places. This looks like a great one. I've never seen plants sold as plugs before. They seem like a great way to put a container together and probably much cheaper too. During the winter I practically become a regular at the nursery near us.

  10. A lovely tour to feed the gardener's soul, Christine. It's too early to do much here too but it's sure fun to look and plan. Off for pansies next week!

  11. I apologize for all the dirt under my nails and crowing about what's blooming in my garden. And here I was, jealous of those in Southern Florida who have gardens full of color. I have lived in colder climates, so I do appreciate the angst of slow springs.

    That is a fabulous nursery you have. I love family-owned nurseries. We have one called The Garden Gate. So much more of a pleasant experience than "big box" nurseries.

  12. Christine, I often visit my year-round local nursery greenhouses for a mid-winter green-fix. I think most northern gardeners do. Smelling life-giving soils can really boost a winter-weary mood.

  13. Christine, What a wonderful friendly sounding garden place. I grow a lot from seed but come spring, when all the garden plants come out, I can't resist picking up a few annual flowers, perennials shrubs... I have to keep my wallet firmly in my pocket :)

  14. Kicks and giggles...I like that Christine. Sutton's sounds like a fabulous place to lift a gardener's spirits. I love the painted dumpster and that banana... I hope you went back and grabbed it.

    Fry Road Nursery is my favorite. I've got their logo on my sidebar and they've got my blog linked on their site which is very nice. They've got a Scottish terrier "mascot" not to mention several cats but what's really cool about Fry Road is that, like Sutton's, they offer plants in plugs. In fact I probably wouldn't have half the plants in my garden if it weren't for the great prices at Fry Road.

    Thank you for this tour and good luck with your ornamental grass presentation.

  15. Christine - Looks like there is a lot more going on in an Alaksa garden in March then I would have thought! I'll be back!!

  16. Lovely photos, you chose a great place for a green-fix!

    Thanks for stopping by Hill Country Mysteries and leaving your thoughts. Always nice to meet a new friend. I'll be interested to see spring unfold in your area.

    The hummingbirds are favorite visitors here. I thought when we moved from Florida that we'd be giving up bird life. I didn't know the Texas Hill Country is a major fly-way route and we'd be hosting so many species. It's a gift.

  17. wow christine, i'm impressed with the variety and the excitiing for you...i'd probably ask for frequent flyer miles credit if i lived anywhere close to this place...better yet work there part time would be fun!

  18. Hi, Christine! Thanks for visiting my blog; I'm so glad to have met you--gardening in Alaska must be such a different experience. I'm looking forward to seeing how your season and gardening choices differ from ours in the Midwest. Already I'm envious that you can grow blue poppies! And what a wonderful nursery. I know that the greenhouses here must be in full swing, but they won't be offering anything for sale for several weeks yet.

    My husband and I have always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise.

  19. That looks like a very interesting place Christine. I love greenhouses and nurseries with so much to offer and that are different than everyone else.
    It was so depressing when you left your comment and said we had you beat in the snow department (and I find out you garden in ALASKA!!!) I'm starting to wonder if Colorado and Alaska aren't that much different.
    Glad you got your green fix. I am thinking that is just the thing to get me thru this latest round of snow! I have several favorite nurseries but the one I like best is an hour away (in Denver) so lucky for my wallet, I don't get there as often as I'd like.

  20. Hi Christine: I was at your grass presentation yesterday and I note you are giving it again this week downtown! I haven't looked at everything on your blog but it reminded me that tomorrow I want to go to Sutton's just for the "fix"--who knows, I might find something I can't live without--Yes I've been going there for years but not so much recently, and it's close to where I live, too.
    Envious of your 3/4 Zone--mine is definitely not 4 but it is fairly sheltered. I enjoyed your talk! I need to know more about the hardiness of the grasses--well, and that's only just the beginning. I went to the Fern presentation and that was very enjoyable as well. Good job!

  21. @LaVonne Rhyneer
    Hello LaVonne!

    You are among the (if not the very) first of my fellow Alaskans to comment on my blog. Thanks for stopping by the presentation and the blog. Sutton's is always a lot of fun...I'm incapable of just window shopping there.


  22. I'm going to follow up on your recommendation on the fiber optic grass and see if I can find it around here.

    I enjoyed every word and every photo in this post.

    We grow and luv rhubarb here in Wisconsin, too. I always put some in the freezer so that we can enjoy it during the winter.



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