Chris Wood

Dependable, beautiful plants, Hostas (Plantation Lily) are noted for their lush foliage and low maintenance in the garden. Touted as a shade perennial, Hostas grown in Southcentral Alaska can be a shade or partly sunny perennial.

Historically, Hostas are believed to have originated in the shady forests of China. They made their way to Europe in the 1830s and made their way to America several years later. There are thousands of cultivars of varying sizes, shapes and colors.

Kale is a super green that grows well in our cool soils and is gaining in popularity. Historically, kale is thought to have originated in Asia Minor and was brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. Ancient Rome saw kale as an important vegetable of the peasant class. English settlers brought this vegetable to America in the 17th century.

While we are out there working hard to grow a beautiful garden in just a few short months, the creepy crawlers are munching away at our bounty. It can be so frustrating to find holes and sticky slime all over your pristine vegetables and flowers. Instead of spraying bug killers all over a garden we plan to ingest, consider creating a garden that is full of all sorts of bugs that can help us in this endeavor. Some of the bugs are pests that destroy our plants while others east the plant-eating bugs. I can go for that!

Now is a good time to divide your overgrown perennials to ensure healthy vigorous plants that will continue to bloom for you year after year. As a bonus of dividing perennials, more plants are made to keep and expand your garden or share with others.

As perennials mature and become larger, their roots become crowded and they will find it increasingly difficult to absorb nutrients from the soil. This decrease in nutrient uptake results in less growth of foliage on top and eventually less energy to produce blooms.

Several readers have wanted to know how to collect seeds and when is the best time to do so. Over the years friends have given me seed, and it was not until a couple of years ago that I became interested in collecting seed and using this seed in my garden. Well worth the effort, seed collecting is one of my favorite pastimes in the fall. Here are some suggestions to consider when wanting to collect seed yourself for further use in your garden.

Alaska’s peonies have become a desired crop to sell to the Lower 48 for the wedding season because our peonies bloom at 1-2 months later and are perfect for June and July weddings for which they are highly desired. This year, our cool June has slowed the peony crops development. Peonies are picked in the mature bud stage, can be refrigerated for up to two months and will bloom when taken out and placed in water and last for approximately 7-10 days. Peonies have surpassed the rose in popularity for weddings.

Alaska’s short glorious summer is now in full bloom. Everywhere we look while out on our hikes there are native plants and flowers popping up across our forests and mountain hillsides. The rich layers of composting leaves and plant material have provided a perfect balance for our native plants and flowers to thrive.

At a garden club meeting a while back, we had a wonderful speaker from a veterinary pet emergency clinic who spoke to us about common house and outside plants that were poisonous for dogs and cats. I have had animals all my life and never have I witnessed them eating anything other than grass. Evidently, the eating of poisonous plants is very common and takes the lives of many animals every year.

Every spring, the first flowers to emerge in my garden are the primulas. Primulaceae is the name taken from the Italian word for spring, (primavera).

Frequently found in the Himalayas and western China and in the northern countrysides of Europe, this plant prefers the cool, damp conditions of the alpine mountain regions and is well-suited for us in Alaska.

We have just celebrated Arbor Day, which is designated on April 26 every year. The garden clubs in Alaska however do not recommend planting of trees in spring until late May when the ground is thawed sufficiently.

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