Chris Wood

Several readers have wanted to know how to collect seeds and when is the best time to do so. Over the years friends have given me seed, and it was not until a couple of years ago that I became interested in collecting seed and using this seed in my garden. Well worth the effort, seed collecting is one of my favorite pastimes in the fall. Here are some suggestions to consider when wanting to collect seed yourself for further use in your garden.

Alaska’s peonies have become a desired crop to sell to the Lower 48 for the wedding season because our peonies bloom at 1-2 months later and are perfect for June and July weddings for which they are highly desired. This year, our cool June has slowed the peony crops development. Peonies are picked in the mature bud stage, can be refrigerated for up to two months and will bloom when taken out and placed in water and last for approximately 7-10 days. Peonies have surpassed the rose in popularity for weddings.

Alaska’s short glorious summer is now in full bloom. Everywhere we look while out on our hikes there are native plants and flowers popping up across our forests and mountain hillsides. The rich layers of composting leaves and plant material have provided a perfect balance for our native plants and flowers to thrive.

At a garden club meeting a while back, we had a wonderful speaker from a veterinary pet emergency clinic who spoke to us about common house and outside plants that were poisonous for dogs and cats. I have had animals all my life and never have I witnessed them eating anything other than grass. Evidently, the eating of poisonous plants is very common and takes the lives of many animals every year.

Every spring, the first flowers to emerge in my garden are the primulas. Primulaceae is the name taken from the Italian word for spring, (primavera).

Frequently found in the Himalayas and western China and in the northern countrysides of Europe, this plant prefers the cool, damp conditions of the alpine mountain regions and is well-suited for us in Alaska.

We have just celebrated Arbor Day, which is designated on April 26 every year. The garden clubs in Alaska however do not recommend planting of trees in spring until late May when the ground is thawed sufficiently.

There is nothing more exasperating to a gardener than to see their plants being devoured by bugs. Just yesterday, tiny Thrips were all over my long awaited white Peony blooms and my disdain for these little creeps came out.

Whether you have a planter box on your apartment deck, a pot or hanging basket in your front or back yard sunny location, growing in containers is fun and easy. A small yard doesn’t mean you can’t have a garden, and containers are a perfect way to grow vegetables, flowers and herbs. I encourage you to give it a try.

In the days ahead as we plan and plant our gardens for summer, annuals provide that bold instant statement of color we desire. While we wait for our perennials to mature and bloom, annuals save the day, magically appearing seemingly overnight.

Annual plants, botanically speaking, complete their life cycle in one growing season and die off after the first fall frost.

(Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a new “In the Garden” column that will deal with all things gardening. Written by Eagle River master gardener Chris Wood, this column is intended to enlighten, entertain and educate everyone from novice gardeners to those with the greenest of thumbs. Please feel to write Chris with questions, comments or column ideas. We hope you “dig” this new feature as much as we do…enjoy!)