Independence Day becomes interconnected day

Landscaping in Alaska

Posted: Wednesday, July 05, 2000

Editor's note: This is David Lendrum's column from the Fourth of July last year. It is being reprinted at his request.

This week we are all preparing for the Fourth of July festivities. Decks and patios are being cleaned, yards mowed and flowerbeds spruced up. The whole world seems to be on a rush to summer, exploding into bloom and growth.

Doesn't it feel great to have the ground bursting open in front of you and to have things growing up all around? Can't you feel the same tides and storms that sweep across the wild world? Don't they resonate in our gardens, aren't we part of the larger world?

Reassuring and thrilling at the same time, the realization that we are not alone in our homes comes with the high summer. We have a place in the local ecosystem, we interact with the plants and animals that surround us. The same forces that propel the columbine to bloom drives us to stay up all night.

The rush of abundant nature overwhelms our energies and designs. Meadows fill with color, the insect population peaks absolutely drive us insane and the bloom cycle is in full swing.

Then the trees and shrubs start to bloom; they fill the world with their display. The salmonberries revel in world-filling abundance; Bill Smith in Douglas tells me that he has never seen so many in bloom before. Thimbleberries below Joe and Judy Thomas' yard on Auke Bay are thick and heavy with flower. He says there hasn't been a season so full of flower in living memory.

Apple trees, like the big one behind the old St. Anne's Hospital downtown or the semi-abandoned one in the vanished David Street homestead of Jim Ruotsala's parents, are in bloom. Apples have a small time in the spring when they abandon all sense of decorum. Their gray-green leaves and branches lift up their fragrant and frilly flowers, and they wave and whistle to all the other apple trees all over town.

The Saskatoons have filled the air with their fragrance and the upcoming berry crop is already heavy on the slender branches. Their family resemblance to the apples is most obvious at flowering time. By the time the fruit is ripe they will look like another creature altogether.

Edie and Jack Trambitas always have a glorious show in their yard on Peterson Hill above Auke Lake. This year is the best ever, with the white painted bedstead and cradle filed with blooming comforters, the sweeping patterns on the ground and the bicycle with flowerfilled baskets. All of this is overseen by the relaxing couple portrayed in effigy. This is a real family garden with generations of planters and caregivers all contributing under Edie's direction.

For years, Jack grew some of the largest dahlias around, and he would cut these enormous blooms and place them in the alder trees along the roadway. Tourists would almost drive off the road. We would get requests every summer for one of those blooming trees like the ones in that yard.

It is a glorious time of year and after our almost eternal winter we are all ready for the joyful abundance. Take a ride around town, cruise the neighborhoods and see how lovely the gardens have become. Big old hawthorns, venerable lilacs, mountain ash in stately array and the pyrotechnics of the giant flowered rhododendrons hold sway over the lesser creatures. The shorter lived but just as colorful members of the kingdom are in holiday dress too; honeysuckle, delphinium, and summer-blooming primrose all are filling the air with their contributions. Chocolate lilies, marsh marigolds and wild iris, Alaskan cotton and the beautiful creeping dogwood all fill the meadows and forest edges. The luckier ones among us have them closer to home, mixing and blending the local with the selected creates gardens of great beauty that echo the sense of the place.

Some gardeners place the cultivated gently into the indigenous, while others have to gather the wild and restore it to their developed spaces. Gratefully we transplant and reseed the locally adapted wild plants into our yards, blurring the edges of the ``mine'' and the ``it,'' creating a place called ``us.''

Independence Day becomes Interconnected Day; the fullness of our lives is celebrated in conjunction with the natural peaking of the surrounding lives. Flower and flesh, species and species, this is the fullness that fills our days. Fireworks are a matter of perception, some are a flash in the night, some are a swell into bloom that takes weeks, some are a creation of a lifetime.

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

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