An Alaskan Landscape

By Amy Reed, An Alaska Master Gardener in Anchorage, AK
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Footprints outside the window.

This is my first time writing a blog, and I am excited to share my adventure with my new flowerbeds!  My husband, daughter, and I moved to Anchorage from Eagle River this past winter. Because our new yard was covered in snow, I had no idea what I was in for come spring!  The new house abuts the Chugach State Park, so from the grizzly bear prints in the snow, I knew I would be sharing the yard with nature.

When the snow (FINALLY) thawed this past spring/summer, we were surprised to find how many perennial flower beds the previous owners had planted.  My in-laws were visiting at the time, and I put them to work helping me unearth the beds from the mounds of leaves, dead branches, and clippings. It was a daunting task, and it took almost three solid weeks to clean out all the beds around the house. I kept hearing shouts of, “Come check this out! There is a path here!” and “What is this plant?”  My
favorite phrase, however, was “Do you think this tree is alive?”  My husband had the time of his life cutting down trees with his new chainsaw and chopping them into firewood. After renting a chipper, we were left with a mulch pile about seven feet high by eight feet across.  It was incredible!  I felt like I was being so “green” to spread the paths near the house leading up to the State Park with the mulch.  Little did I know that all it did was provide our friendly neighborhood bear with easier access to our yard!

One of the main projects my husband and I overtook was leveling the previous owner’s raised garden beds. You might ask, why would you do such a thing?! The four raised beds were enclosed in an eight foot tall cedar board/wire mesh fence with a beautiful door.  In the center of the garden was a birch tree in a raised bed. The entire enclosure was a really neat concept, and for most gardeners a welcome sight as they would not have to construct their own raised beds. However, I decided that the area would
be better suited as a firepit for my family to enjoy rather than another garden area. I started the deconstruction of the garden the last week of May while the ground was still frozen. It took almost a week of manpower tugging and snipping out the fencing and using a crowbar to remove all the cedar boards.  As I got further into the project, I was excited to see all the good soil that was still in the raised beds. It was basically a compost pile due to the dry leaves, sticks, and mulch that had accumulated in the beds.  The boards surrounding the soil, however, were quite rotten, and I felt that we had made
the right decision to use this area for another purpose.  My husband used his tractor to remove the
final posts and level the area.

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The firepit.

We then contacted two guys in the area to help us construct our fire pit. They first laid weed control paper down, spread gravel, and hauled massive stones into the area for seating. A pit was excavated out and lined with stones. The final result was amazing!  It was a hard decision to remove the fenced in raised bed garden, but in the end, we had an area that we would use as a family for a long time.

I decided to take the Alaska Master Gardener Online Course, because I felt that it was now my job to keep the flowerbeds around the house alive and thriving. The owners before us obviously made it a labor of love to landscape with so many different perennials and create stone pathways around them. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was only accustomed to growing marigolds and morning glories. After I married, we settled in Texas for five years, where xeroscaping was the name of the game. Water
restrictions were so frequent there; my husband and I learned the art of conserving and landscaping with drought resistant plants.  Now, having been in Alaska for over six years, I am learning slowly by trial and error and also picking many a greenhouse owner’s brain about what works well here.
I felt I had just enough knowledge to not completely destroy my yard.  Now, having finished the Alaska Master Gardener Online Course, I feel I have at least more information to aid in keeping my landscape alive and thriving. Or at least now know where to get the information when I need it!

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Multicolored delphiniums in the yard.
It has been an incredible summer watching the different flowers, from roses, to multiple colored delphiniums, to peonies bloom.

When walking by every bed this past week, the constant buzz of bumblebees drones loudly.

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