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Eagle River man grows a garden in his canoe

Posted: August 4, 2013 - 12:05am

EAGLE RIVER — Like plenty of local residents, C.J. Mitchell owns a canoe.

But he’s not launching it into Eklutna Lake on the weekends. Instead, it serves as a large flower bed where he grows bright red poppies in front of his Eagle River home.

“I’ve got all kinds of hobbies, but this one is unique,” Mitchell said on a recent sunny afternoon.

Mitchell first planted his canoe poppies two years ago. But they aren’t just for he and his wife, Judy — they’re for the entire neighborhood.

“I want to have something out here everyone can enjoy,” Mitchell said.

After coming up with the idea to grow flowers in a canoe, Mitchell found one with a hole in it at a yard sale. It was just what he was looking for.

The green canoe and red poppies complement each other well, Mitchell said.

“The color is just vibrant,” Mitchell said of his flowers.

Thanks to plenty of sunshine this summer, his poppies are taller than ever.

“You see the height of the flowers,” Mitchell said, using his hand to highlight the roughly 4-foot-tall poppies.

Mitchell’s garden isn’t the only one benefiting from the season’s abundance of sunrays.

All plant life at Eagle River’s Mile 5.2 Greenhouse is thriving, said owner Dale Walberg.

“Our property looks better than it ever has,” he said.

“The vegetables are doing really well. Herbs are doing spectacular,” Walberg said. “Everything is doing well this year.”

That’s good news considering four to six inches of snow fell throughout Chugiak-Eagle River less than 10 weeks ago.

The recent stretches of sunshine have made up for the late start to the growing season, said Eagle River’s Hank Warren.

“Once it warmed up, everything started growing really well,” said Warren, who has two gardens and a greenhouse at his home.

If it grows in the ground, it’s most likely on Warren’s property. He has everything from Alaska staples like rhubarb and raspberries to cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, beats, potatoes, sugar snap peas, spinach, cabbage, zucchini and dill.

Warren even planted white Fireweed in his garden about seven years ago due to its rarity in Southcentral Alaska.

Both Warren and Mitchell grew up on farms in Texas. Gardening was part of everyday life, as their families harvested vegetables for food.

Now retired, Warren and Mitchell use the activity as a hobby for the summer months.

Fighting the never-ending battle against weeds keeps Warren plenty busy.

“You try to keep the weeds out,” he said. “But, the weeds usually win.”

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