At the peak of summer - time for a party

Landscaping in Alaska

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2001

Bobbing and weaving like tiny lanterns through the landscape, the ripening berries beckon all comers. Highbush cranberry is bursting forth into fulsome color and along the roadsides and over the meadows the colors of the wild world are sweeping all before them. They signal the peak of summer delights is about to begin; the fish are here; and it's time for summer garden parties.

The annual progression of seasons and blooms can be said to start and begin in the depths of winter, but it seems that this time of year might as well signal the beginnings of each cycle. Flowering means fertilization, that source of all productivity and the recombinant miracle that binds us all together. Generation after generation this meeting and blending allow every chance and any combination the opportunity of life.

Warm rains (comparatively at least), lengthy days (long enough to get tired) and abundant flowering set the stage for our human festivities too. The gardens look spectacular, full of every shape and color we ever hoped for, fragrant all day long and changing in aroma even as the colors change through the day and into the evening. Floral scents wax and wane according to the life cycles of those they seek to attract. Morning fliers will be lured to ripe havens by subtle threads, evening ones by richer and even more intoxicating ribbons of information-rich air.

All our senses invite us to partake of the wonderful bounty, and with glad hearts we go - out into the woods, over the waters and into our neighbor's gardens, too. Invitations fly like those beckoning berry lanterns: "Come and see" and "stop in for a look" are called from each yard as the glad cultivator shares pleasure with friends. Roses, foxgloves, Shasta daisies and the rich, almost too-sweetly-perfumed, summer-blooming Primroses fill the beds and line the walkways.

Growing these beauties for oneself is reason enough for all the effort, but being able to share them with an appreciative audience is 10 times better. Having a bouquet on the table that was picked from your own garden is a pleasure; giving one to a friend is even more fun. Looking over the same set of flowering beauties and watching each unfold and show itself is ecstasy. Visiting other gardens and being guided to favorite views is sublime.

Information is treasure, new combinations and individual responses to the challenges of site and soils are how we learn. Designs and patterns are passed from brain to hands to eyes to brain, as creations are paraded and shared. These visits allow the chance to see how others have responded to the same situations that we all face.

Water washing off the roof across the landscape destroys many young gardens. Channeling all the gutters together into a buried pipe that bursts forth in a waterfall before winding it's way into a wild pond is an artistic solution. The most common characteristic of rainforest gardening is that it rains in the summer, dealing with that rain as if it were a bountiful gift is much superior to any hiding away or letting it dominate.

Native vegetation is sought by gardeners in other climates as treasure. They have lost all but a few remnants left in gullies or along fencerows too difficult to cultivate. We can incorporate the best of our wild plants into our yards easily, some by building around existing specimens, and others by relocating young plants and growing them along with the rest of the yard. Looking around at our neighbors' gardens we see a blending of wild and domesticated species that flow naturally and fade off into the surrounding world seamlessly.

The summer garden-party season is a great way to enjoy the efforts of our hosts, share the pleasure with the rest of the guests and remember that you are invited to a party to entertain as well as be entertained. Participate in every opportunity, turn down no invitation, and greet each guest as if they were your own.

This weekend will be the annual Master Gardener sponsored Garden Tours. Pick up a ticket at Hearthside Books and a map at the Extension Service offices in Vintage Park. The self-guided tour leads you through yards that have been groomed and arranged for this peak-of- the-year time. Each garden is hosted by Master Gardeners who will help you enjoy the settings. It is always a thrill to peek into private places for a day.

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



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