Extraordinary gardens in Alaska

You might not think that our area can grow much, but the Mat-Su Valley is more sheltered and temperate and has several world-famous gardens that are open to visitors. There’s nothing like nearly-round-the-clock sunshine to produce lush, huge blossoms. Visitors are amazed by the dinner-plate sized dahlias, abundance of blue and purple flowers which flourish in the cooler summer temperatures, and hanging baskets that achieve prodigious volume in our short seasons.

–If you arrive in Alaska through Anchorage this summer, you can’t help but notice the hanging baskets on downtown lamp poles. Traditionally, they are a mix of sapphire lobelia and a yellow annual to create the state flag colors of blue and gold.

–Downtown Palmer is also decked out in gorgeous hanging baskets. The Palmer Post Office boasts some of the biggest, massive mounds of blossoms in their baskets. What’s their secret? Other biggies can be found at the Palmer Visitor Information Center, near the center of downtown, in the log cabin. There you’ll also find the the historic gardens which are beautifully kept and display the kinds of berries and vegetables traditionally grown on colony farms in Palmer’s early days. The flowers are doozies, too. To learn about tree varieties grown in colony days, walk over or drive through the Arboretum. It’s in so-so condition; it doesn’t get much funding for upkeep, but it’ll give you a taste of what kind of trees are native or are brought into this area.

–Two world-renowned gardeners whose places you have to see to believe are Les Brake’s Coyote Gardens off of Willow Fishhookand Stan Ashmore’s Blue Poppy Farm on Lazy Mountain outside of Palmer. Both, located out in the middle of nowhere, have been featured in national magazines like Better Homes and Gardens and on the Today Show.

–If you’re here during the Alaska State Fair in August, take time to explore all the beautiful gardens, created and kept by mastermind Becky Mryvold

–Worth the trip is The Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage; you can also see if there is an event being held by the Alaska Master Gardeners

–The local greenhouses and shops are full of information, perhaps the most knowledgeable of all is Jaime Rodriguez at Alpine Garden Nursery

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