Summer blooms celebrated Saturday

Posted: Friday, May 28, 2010

America celebrated Public Gardens Day more than two weeks ago but that's just too early for Alaskan perennials, so the cities of Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks will mark the day on Saturday.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Juneau's city-owned Jensen-Olson Arboretum will dedicate a new trail, host history and plant tours and give away bright red lupines to mark the event.

The arboretum located "out the road" on Pearl Harbor is somewhat of a hidden gem. The 17-acre property just north of the Shrine of St. Therese was donated to the city in 2007, and manager Merrill Jensen started pruning and planting when he took over four years ago.

Since the grand opening, Jensen, who is not related to the property's namesake, added nine beds, planted 15 trees and catalogued more than 630 plant species. Because of the warm spring, the gardens are in great shape for Saturday's event, Jensen said Thursday.

"We're about a month and a half ahead of where we were last year," he said. "The spring stuff bloomed and now the summer stuff is coming in on its heels."

Public Gardens Day provides a chance to enjoy the best of the spring season, get ideas for backyard plantings, learn about local plants and flowers and just say "ahhhhh," Jensen said.

Four red cedar benches added this year help the public relax and enjoy the poppies, cherry trees and stunning ocean view. They were designed by former Juneau architect Jeff Robertson, who designed the Holy Trinity Church downtown.

The city drafted a proclamation this week to recognize Public Gardens Day in Juneau. Jensen requested a state proclamation from the governor's office but it wasn't addressed in time for this year's event, he said.

Juneau Rep. Cathy Muñoz will cut the ribbon on the Point Caroline trail built with the help of Trail Mix, a nonprofit trails advocacy group. It was built last year along the north edge of the property to an ocean-side point about a quarter mile from the road.

Friends of Caroline Jensen said she liked to walk along the property edge and sit out at the point. She died in February 2006, giving the property to the city to preserve for residents. The property holds 46 varieties of her favorite flower, the primrose. Merrill Jensen has plans to double that number.

The trail dedication is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. with history and plant tours at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Entrance to the arboretum is free but donations are accepted.

The Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks' Georgeson Botanical Garden also have public events planned Saturday.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or

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