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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Low Maintenance Gardening in Anchorage

Low or No Maintenance Gardening in Anchorage

by Emma Forsberg, web and social media manager for Dan Benton

Spring has arrived! Many people in Anchorage are already busy planting and growing their annual seedlings. Every year, many look forward to choosing new flower types and colors for their annual garden displays. If you have a brown thumb or very little time to plant a garden of annuals, here are some ideas for planting low to no maintenance gardens for your Anchorage yard. If you are feeling overwhelmed and just want a professional to install your garden plants for you, I have added links to local gardeners and greenhouses in Anchorage at the end of this blog post.

Perennials are plants that come back on their own every year without having to plant new seeds. Although there are many perennials to choose from, I have mentioned just a few of the hardiest and easiest to grow perennials I could find. If I can grow them, anybody can!

If you want to go see garden examples, visit Anchorage's Alaska Botanical Garden located on Campbell Airstrip Road off of Tudor. They have many types of gardens on display and would be a great resource to begin your own gardening plans.

4 Hardy Perennials for Anchorage Gardens

1. Lilies of Course!

Along with the bleeding hearts, lilies will never let you down!

You can even divide a large bulb (or root stock?) and start another patch of them from the mother plant.

There are many colors and styles of this hardy favorite. Here is the Alaska Master Gardeners' Lily web page to help you choose the perfect lily for your Anchorage garden.

2. Bleeding Hearts

These plants are truly ubiquitous to Anchorage gardens. I have one of these and it always comes back every spring. You can't go wrong with this flowering perennial.

Here is an interesting article about bleeding hearts published by Alaska Home Magazine. Bleeding Hearts: This queen of hearts is a favorite of hopeless romantics year after year Story by Carrie Miner

3. Peonies
i actually grew this myself!

Years ago I bought and planted a peony. I forgot to put a label on a stick near it so I quickly forgot what it was that I planted. The shoots and leaves came up year after year and I had no clue what it was until finally, on the 3rd or 4th year it started blooming. Now I have giant peonies every summer. I'm sure I could have gotten it to bloom sooner if I had followed the right instructions on what to feed this plant. If you are patient, you can grow nice large peonies too – without having to be a master gardener! Here is the website of the local Alaskan Peony Growers Association to help you in learning about how to grow peonies – maybe even how to get them to bloom sooner than I did.

4. Delphiniums

I read through several suggestions for hardy perennials and delphiniums are mentioned frequently. These grow to tall and full bloomed plants that make good tall back row border plants. I have planted some delphiniums, but they never took hold. I think the constant rain of pine needles in my yard where they were planted may have something to do with it. Good luck – I have heard they are tough enough for Anchorage. Here is an article about how to maintain and grow delphiniums published in the Alaska Dispatch News Tips for dealing with delphiniums By Jeff Lowenfels

As your perennials start to expand and take a larger foothold of your garden, you may want to divide them the thin them down in order to get their blooms to grow larger again. You may also want to make your perennial bed larger by dividing to establish new plants of the same species. Here is an article published in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner about dividing perennials: Divide perennials in the fall by Michele H├ębert

4 Perennial Space Fillers

Here are four plants to plant in your Anchorage garden to fill in large areas. These plants fill up a lot of space and add a little non-flower interest to a hassle-free yard.

1. Rhubarb

Rhubarb is super hardy and even provides some pie filling when ripe! The leaves of rhubarb quickly grow to large diameters and provide a great fill for large empty corners of your yard. They can even be divided and grown in multiple areas from one mother plant. Here is the Cooperative Extensions PDF publication, Growing Rhubarb in the Alaska Garden

2. Ferns

Whether you transplant wild ones or buy them from a store, ferns are always a great way to fill in big spaces.

They are hardy and thrive in shady areas. Here is a web page on how to transplant a fern :

If you would like to know more about Alaska's local wild ferns, here is a great pamphlet published by the US Dept. of Agriculture on the wild ferns of the Chugach and Tongass Parks.

3. Ornamental Grasses

There are many to choose from. Some ornamental grasses have varied leaf color and even interesting seed displays after the summer grown matures.

Here are some interesting ornamental grasses to consider from the Alaska Master Gardener's website:

4. Hostas

These are good shade growing leafy perennials. They are not as large as rhubarb but fill in nicely. Here is the American Hosta Society's web page to find out which species of hosta will do best for Anchorage's planting zone.

Moss Gardens

If your yard is overshadowed by a large pine tree like mine, growing a moss garden may be the right move for you. Moss gardens don't need to be mowed or trimmed and can tolerate bad soils well. In fact, they prefer acidic soil, so the pine needles won't harm them. Here are some ideas on establishing a moss garden and useful information about the local mosses in Alaska.

What's a moss milkshake?

Moss Acres is a website about growing and maintenance of moss lawns and moss terrariums and any other moss related things. They have an online store to order your moss growing supplies.

USDA's Mosses and Liverworts of Alaska Pamphlet

Getting to know acrocarps and pleurocarps.

Here is a great blog post about the very basics of moss cultivation for gardens by -

4 Moss Garden Boards on Pinterest

Alpine Rock Gardens

Similar to moss gardens in that these hardy plants can adapt and thrive in harsh conditions. I like the idea of rock gardens because you don't have a lawn to maintain around your plantings. Alpine plants that are found in nature clinging to rocks and steep slopes found on mountainsides. Here are some ideas and plant types to try using on your own rock garden. Anchorage's location near the Chugach Mountains makes access to viewing and learning about alpine plants readily available.

Alaska Rock Garden Society

Learn about rock gardening in Alaska. They offer plant workshops, garden tours, and more.

Alpine Garden Society

Here is a gardening organization dedicated to alpine plants. Here you may find useful information about creating an alpine rock garden.

Alpine garden design ideas on Houzz

Houzz is an awesome website with all sorts of ideas about anything to do with the home. They have tons of photos of homes and gardens all over the country.

4 Alpine Rock Garden Pinterest Boards

Transplanting Wild Alaskan Perennials

Perhaps the easiest and most guaranteed way of establishing a truly no maintenance garden would be to transplant naturally occurring perennials. Wildflowers and plants that grow around Anchorage include: wild roses, geraniums, blue bells, lupines, daisies, forget-me-nots, columbines, irises, fireweed, and wild chives. It would be best to read up on the types of soils and water native plants need to help ensure their survival after transplanting to your garden. Here are some links for finding out more about native perennial gardening.

Alaska Native Plant Society

A website for learning about the naturally occurring plants of Alaska.

UAA Alaska Native Heritage Program

A program run by UAA to document native species of Alaska.

Blueberries, Raspberries and more

Here are a few links of interest about growing wild Alaskan berries in your garden.

Rules for Transplanting Wild Plants

Please be aware that there may be rules for harvesting plants for cultivation from State and Federal lands. Also, please get permission from private land owners before harvesting on their land. Here are some resources for researching what the rules are for harvesting wild plants.

Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources Wild Harvest Manual

US Forest Service Plant Collection Permit

Anchorage Gardeners

There are a lot of landscapers in the Anchorage area. I have just added the ones that posted gardening services on their websites. Some landscaping companies focus on land excavation and grading rather than the smaller details of choosing plants for garden beds. If I have left a company out, please feel free to add it in the comments section and I will update this blog post!
Above the Grade Landscape
Arctic Green
Faltz Landscaping Nursery
Frontier Landscaping
Green Acres
Green Earth Landworks
Ground Effects
Hillside Landscaping & Excavating

Anchorage Greenhouses

These are just the ones I found on a Google search for Anchorage greenhouses and nurseries. You can also buy plant starts from large retail stores such as Fred Meyer or Walmart. If I have left a company out, please feel free to add it in the comments section and I will update this blog post!
Alaska Mill and Feed
Arctic Organics - at the Farmers Market once a week
Bell's Nursery

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Jack White Real Estate
3801 Centerpoint Dr., Anchorage, AK
Phone: (907) 727-5279

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