Peonies, primroses, the 'Garden City'

Garden symposium's proceeds go toward 'Juneau beautification'

This year’s Juneau Garden Symposium promises to feature a few of Alaska’s lesser-known claims to fame: the largest collection of primrose species in North America and being a “peony paradise.”

It’s true. Southeast Alaska’s temperate climate suits the primrose just fine. In fact, the Jensen-Olson Arboretum boasts a certified collection. And just ask Pat Holloway, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who says peonies are Alaska’s newest “cash crop.”

Holloway will be on hand at the symposium, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, March 7 in the Egan Library at the University of Alaska Southeast. She will be joined by a handful of other local and regional gardeners. Also featured on the lecture docket are Merrill Jensen, horticulturist and manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, Brad Fluetch, a local peony grower launching a cut flower business, Lois Dworshak, Southeast’s invasive weed specialist, and Charlotte Jewell, a garden entrepreneur doing good things in Skagway.

Molly Hodges, president of the Juneau Garden Club, said she hopes this year’s event encourages participation from all over Southeast.

“I think we need to share throughout (the region) that we know about gardening because it’s a challenge to garden here,” she said.

This year’s symposium is sponsored not only by the Juneau Garden Club, but also the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, which Hodges said is new this year. It’s a natural fit — both groups focus on education as part of their key missions.

For the Juneau Garden Club, proceeds from the event fulfill the other half of the club’s mission — Juneau beautification.

“The garden club is responsible for all the flowers and trees around the ferry terminal,” she said.

The group also donates trees to the local arboretum. And some of the group’s projects live on, even though members don’t tend them annually.

“(There’s) that little hillside garden near the city museum, the sweet one near the bench,” Hodges said. “(And then there’s) the little island by the downtown library.”

Those gardens are now managed by the City and Borough of Juneau, she said.

Both days of the event will be held at UAS’ Egan Lecture Hall. The first event on Friday evening is free, but the Saturday lectures cost $40. Registration can happen online at http://bit.ly/ces-workshops or at the door. There will be a Saturday reception held from 6-7:30 p.m. at Paradise Café.

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