Monday, June 27, 2011

Alaska Gardener Answers the Unanswerable

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My writing options this week as far as subject matter goes were, and I quote verbatim: 1. the bunny and the dandelions, 2. something about the clouds, 3. something about gardening because this is a garden blog, and 4. the tortoise almost ran away.  As suggested to me by my sounding board of 12 years whilst I was collapsed in a heap regretting I had nothing to write about (again).  All were rejected in favor of answering reader “questions”.  Much more entertaining.  And I would have to do actual research (sort of) to find out about clouds beyond what I learned from Sesame Street and the ninth grade.

I had great fun answering the search queries that led to my blog here.  Now trolling keywords in blogger has become an addiction for me, along with jelly beans and cheap trowels.  Judge me not…I know each one of you has a similar cringe-inducing habit.  Otherwise, why the plethora of lawn gnomes, movies starring terrible actors, brisk trade in white tube socks, and extensive chocolate-themed aisles at Costco?

Query: those things in Alaska with the color

Answer: Subduing the natural urge to write “huh?” I take it to mean you are referring to blue tarps, that purple house on Hillside Drive or one of it’s many brightly hued brethren around town, or the approximately one trillion yellow dandelions around here.

Query: Keep closed unless airborne

Answer: If by keep closed, one is referring to a motor-mouth or a full purse, then I say “hear, hear.”  Actually, those needn’t be opened on a plane either.  I spilled the contents of my purse on a flight once and it wasn’t pretty. My favorite lip balm is probably still rolling around on some Delta flight, tripping up little old ladies in velour track suits.  And as for the blabby guy with the carrying voice that seems to be on every red-eye flight I am, well, I guess I didn’t need those five hours of sleep anyway.

Query: trees that moose won’t eat

Answer: I’ll let you know if I hear of one.  Even if they won’t eat it, they can still snap off all the leaders or mar it in some other conspicuous way before determining the tree is not snack worthy (my poor, poor Prunus maackii trees will never be the same).  Stick with evergreens, kid, and you may have a chance.

Query: alaska, when to give up on perennials

Answer: When you spend more time spraying, dividing, and coddling them than with your family, job, and other hobbies combined.  Have the Extension Service do a soil test.  Are you trying to grow them in construction backfill or a swamp?  And try the easy ones first.  In Alaska that’s Trollius and Iris.  Take a garden class at one of the nurseries.  Pick a veteran gardener’s brain.  Enroll in the Master Gardener course.  Say it with me: “I can do it.”

Query: gas station plants

Answer: No. You can’t make me.

Query: difficult neighbors and fences

Answer: If I had the answer to this, I’d be richer than Bill Gates, more revered than Mother Theresa, and probably a top advisor to the President of the United States.  I think this problem is ubiquitous, and generally speaking, difficult neighbors will still be difficult whether or not there is a fence involved.  So why not get the fence and then you will see/hear less of them.  I prefer a ten-foot brick wall with razor wire running along the top and accompanied by a drooling pack of mastiffs, but strangely enough city ordinances frown on this approach.  If all else fails, try cookies or homemade bread.

I’d like to thank all of those earnest searchers out there who were brave enough to tap out their heart’s desires, I’d like to thank Google for referring them here, and I’d like to thank you all for reading this goofy blog.  Next week, I really must write something about gardening.  Or perhaps I’ll run out of time (as usual) and be left with one of these lovelies: “Strolling with Stratus,” “Counting the Cumulus,” or maybe “The Nimble Nimbus.”

Do you search for garden answers on the internet? In books? Or in person?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I’m just a little black rain cloud

Now how many of you finished that phrase with “hovering over the honey tree” or some other Winnie the Pooh nonsense?  Today’s twittering (in the old fashioned but non-avian sense) is all about what to do when it’s pouring, drizzling, driving, or pelting rain. 

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For me, the answer should be: not gardening.  I imagine all that fabulous soil structure (I’m an optimist) I would be compressing to bits whilst tramping about.  Instead of “think of the children,” I think of the pore spaces and that precious oxygen.  Anyway, the children are in the basement watching “The Andy Griffith Show” reruns, so they will give me (a few giggles and) no grief.

Those fellow gardeners inhabiting famously dampish climates are no doubt old pros at what to do when even the briefest excursions must involve galoshes, trench coat, umbrella, wet suit, and snorkel.  If they don all that to garden, they get a gold star and a pair of wool socks from me.  We get a mere 16” a year of precipitation, so technically, I’m a desert dweller.  In a parka.

So far, on this rainy day I have:

  • consumed a pack of Skittles
  • changed from my shorts and short-sleeved shirt to a pair of sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt (I know, classy)
  • got suckered by an online sale and spent way too much time deciding if that cute cropped jacket was in fact “my” yellow or would make me look jaundiced
  • made my bed, then got back into it (don’t worry, I managed to eject myself from it’s cocooning coziness for a second time)
  • noticed the tortoise did his business
  • scrounged the house looking for that giant jar of jelly beans that was (too successfully) hidden from me last night
  • looked at the dead leaves and other outdoor debris on my white living room carpet, and thought “I should vacuum”

I did manage to comb my hair, but thought it was too trivial to mention in my list. So you don’t get a wrong impression of me (I’m only lethargic on days when it’s cold, rainy, snowy, or hot), yesterday, a cloudy but dry day, I managed to spend a couple hours outside jack hammering dandelions out of the lawn.  Note to self: wear gloves next time, dummy! 

We have about 8 more hours of “lawn vs. weed” labor…and then the back yard.  I’m thinking of investing in either 1. a flamethrower, industrial size, or 2. a large earth mover, whereupon I will bury about 50% 85% of the lawn and plant trees, shrubbery, and ornamental grasses.  While I’m dreaming, I might as well have a pony.  (But not a Shetland, I’ve heard they are mean….)

This is a strange day and a strange post.  I seem to have both done and written pretty much nothing.  I’m not even making dinner tonight.  We’re having leftovers.  Hurrah for inclement weather and Winnie the Pooh.  Silly old blog.


What do you do on a rainy day? Do you garden in the rain? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shameless promotion: in Alaska this weekend??

Every year in June (the 11th & 12th this year), the garden event of the year unfolds off of Tudor and Campbell Airstrip Road.  Yes, I tapped that out with a straight face.  Now Alaskan’s know that our gardening scene is a more subdued affair than a similar event in say, Seattle, Portland, Connecticut, England or any other big hotbed of horticulture.  But though we are few, we are just as ready to spend our dough on plants, trinkets, and art for the garden. 

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ABG Garden Fair 039Some of the art is, as art tends to be, subject to the viewer’s taste.  Our city has a different bunch of artists decorate fiberglass salmon every year.  They resulting “pieces” (I’m using arty language here) are then salted throughout Anchorage.  The Botanical Garden got one last year, and as you can see above, the placement at a public garden was only natural.  Besides the “high fahlutin’ art” for sale at the garden fair, there is quite a selection in the more modest “trinket” category, as seen below.

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There are scads of well-known plant vendors/growers/nurserypersons lining the walkways and hawking choice selections.  But don’t forget to stop by the ABG’s own plant nursery and gift shop.  As a courtesy, they offer a plant holding area, much like babysitting for plants, only the babysitter’s are volunteers.  I am proud to be a humble sitter of leafy greens for the past…well, more years than I care to say.  It’s like shopping vicariously and none of the guilt at the end of the day.  “Can you believe he bought that thing?” or “Where did you find that? You say it’s the last one??  Nooooo!”  Well, something like that, anyway.

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If you have all the plants you care to own (is there a gardener out there that can really say that?), enjoy the multitudinous offering of classes, presentations, and informational booths.  There are even classes for the kids at the “Children’s Village.”  And if music is your thing, imagine wandering through a delightful woodland with live music wafting through the trees.  Now I realize some think music can’t waft, it can only drift, permeate, or float, but I’m hear to tell you it can indeed “waft.” I get a kick out of the bagpipers when they wander through.  It’s like that flick Braveheart without all the blue paint and Mel Gibson.

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Now, now, I know you’re freaking out at this point: “Where’s the food, woman?  We can’t mill around without food.!”  Simmer down, there is a very reputable food court that offers such tantalizing morsels as chocolate dipped ice cream bars covered in sugared pecans.  (Pardon me as I dab up a spot of drool.)  I also favor the reindeer sausages, but for those that frown on cooking up Santa’s fleet, the menus and cuisine run the whole gamut. 

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Those savvy ABG folk, they’ve thought of everything.  Lots of portable toilets, so no mad dashes for the car on that account.  Plenty of wagons to tote loads to the car.  Oh wait, you’ll probably be riding a bus there, as the parking lot nearby is way too small.  The shuttles run continuously, so if you have to wait, it won’t be for long.  There are usually pickups at the Alaska Club and the Troopers parking lot.  Check ABG’s website for more details. 

Just remember to bring your umbrella, bug dope, sunglasses, camera, Uncle Ted, kitchen sink, and discretionary funds for the Alaska Botanical Garden’s annual Garden and Art Fair.  And don’t forget to say hello to me and the plant sitting crew in the Plant Holding area from 9:30-12:30 on Saturday morning.  Arrive early for the best selection (and smallest crowd). 

Hours: Saturday-11-6, Sunday-11-5, members only preview Sat. 10am

Going to a garden fair this summer?  Have all the plants you need?  Favorite fair food? 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I guess I’m still insane

How else to explain the weekend spend marinating in bug spray, smelling like the proverbial bull got loose in a chemist’s laboratory, and with a clothing-permeating, heavy dusting of partially combusted spruce trees? 

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I know I’m not the only one that lost my marbles and went camping this Memorial Day weekend.  How do I know, you ask.  Why else the miles long processional featuring motor homes, motorbikes, and fifth-wheels, boats of all shapes and bikes strapped to every auto extremity, and absolute impossibility of fueling up at the gas station without a long wait?  It’s a fact of life, long weekends mean camping here. 

Normally, I would say long weekends mean fishing here, but the big runs of salmon haven’t quite come in yet in south-central Alaska.  Once they do, abandon all hope, ye who drive out of town on the weekends.  Your drive time will be sluggish, nearly as much so as the behemoth motor homes that could be mistaken for greyhound buses on steroids.  (Except the motor homes have tricked out interiors that resemble a Vegas casino lounge.  If I ever win the lottery, I'll be sure and buy myself one of those palaces on wheels to “camp” in, but mostly to hold traffic up by crawling at a rate of speed Fred Flintstone’s ride could beat.  Step on it, would you?!) 

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Some high points: 1. sighted 24 bald eagles fishing on the mud flats for hooligan at low tide, a first for me, 2. we were able to get one of only two spaces left at the Black Bear campground near Portage Glacier, 3. I didn’t forget the pink and white frosted animal crackers, which would have been, as a grown man put it “a crisis”, and 4. we had a seventy degree day, maybe the “best day of the summer” as another grown man put it.  Dreary thought, as summer doesn’t start officially for another three weeks.  And in Alaska, perhaps not even then.  (All together now: knock on wood!)

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Some low points: 1. the dratted barking dogs, all night long, 2. my sleeping bag was, shall we say, insufficiently warm, 3. wood smoke in my eyes for an extended period, and 4. the absolute worst Kevin Costner movie I’ve ever seen, which is saying something.  Might I suggest when one goes camping, if a movie is in order, pass by “The New Daughter”.  My eyes/brain are still cramping up from the experience.

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Still, the taste of an ooey, gooey, slightly burnt marshmallow and it’s attendant graham cracker and chocolate bar make up for a lot.  Perhaps not Kevin Costner’s movie, but close.  And the feeling of exhilaration from a bike ride literally over the river and through the woods was worth something.  It won’t build the enamel back that I ground from my teeth whilst watching the movie, alas.  I must be crazy for watching it to the end.


Seen a bad movie?  Camping tips?


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