Gardeners preparing for Southeast gathering

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2002

People Outside assume that we continually suffer under the weight of snow, are washed away by hurricane-strength storms or bemused by brain numbing winters.

David Lendrum is a master gardener and owner of Landscape Alaska. Responses or questions can be sent to

The thought that we in Southeast Alaska have one of the best gardening climates in the world is too strange for them to believe. Our long cool moist growing season gives us an incredible advantage when it comes to color longevity of bloom and rapid establishment of perennial color.

I am no Pollyanna; chill winters and early falls combine with the last couple of late springs to limit the palette to those species hardy enough and quick enough to fit into the schedule. Those that do fit respond by roaring into growth with ferocity that leaves newcomers astounded. The long days encourage tremendous growth, and compared to warmer places where photosynthesis is limited due to temperature, we have spring all summer.

That is why we have such an abundant, wild world. The native vegetation grows so extravagantly that things are literally growing on each other's backs. They emerge from still frozen soils, and within a few days the earth is covered with green again. It is beginning even as we speak.

This calls for an understanding of our difficult but rewarding setting, and that is the basis of the biennial Southeast Gardening Conference. Every two years gardeners of our region meet for a weekend of fun, enchantment and entertainment leavened by strong doses of hard-won information. This year's conference will be the first weekend of May, which is just a few days away.

Centennial Hall will be filled with the devoted soil and plant folk from all over Southeast and many from much further. This convocation has become a destination for many gardeners, and this year's program will draw even more. Susanne and Sandy Williams (of Douglas fame) have assembled a cast of entertaining, charming, informative speakers that will fill the halls with laughter, and give each attendee something valuable to take home.

Ciscoe Morris, the Seattle-based TV gardener will be one of the principal speakers, along with Jim Hole, whose Alberta-based greenhouse empire is one of Canada's treasures, and Michaela Colley from Seeds of Change in New Mexico.

These out-of-towners will join a cast of our own gardeners who will present workshops focusing on our more immediate concerns. Debbie Hinchey of Anchorage has a statewide reputation as a floral enthusiast, championing such occurrences as the Alaska Botanical Garden, the Alaska Rose Society, and her own contribution as a creator of extravagant blooming displays in the commercial world.

Ward Findlay will show his flower arranging techniques, Janis and Ed Buyarski will introduce the biblical-themed gardens they have spearheaded at the Shrine of St. Terese and landscape architect Chris Myrtl will show us some of his favorite ornamental trees and shrubs. Cliff Lobaugh will carry us off to his island garden where he grows some of the best vegetables and flowers in the world, and Margaret Tharp MLA (and WOM) and I will discuss some of our work creating landscapes by transplanting native plant communities.

The gala opening event is a reception at Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventures on Thursday May 2, to which all are invited, and a complete listing of times, ticket prices and places can be found on the Web at Posters, flyers, and more information is available from the extension offices in Vintage Park (465-8749) or from many of your friends who already know the schedule by heart.

The American Primrose Society will sponsor a concurrent show and sale, and some of the most beautiful small plants you have ever seen will be displayed and offered. A trade show featuring many local commercial organizations, and some individual artists will be set up in the hall, and I hope that Marion Simpson will have her enchanting watercolor cards for sale.

Rumor has it that we will be enjoying better-than-usual weather this year, so don't be caught flatfooted when it comes to enjoying the gardening and landscaping opportunities that this welcome change will bring. Get yourselves ready, we are. This week the first vans of new nursery stock begin arriving, I spent the last week down in the Willamette Valley collecting treasures, and I heard from shipping lines that others were being sent north too.

Whether you are going to dig in the ground, or just dig the scene, this summer promises to be one to remember, so warm up your shovels. It's time to garden.

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