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Talk Dirt To Me

Gardening in Alaska presents big challenges, whether it's the extra effort in finding plants tough enough to survive our Zone 2-4 climate, communicating with like-minded Alaska gardeners, or keeping up with the latest trends, issues and solutions. We'll try to help with that. We'll also tour gardens from Homer to Anchorage to Wasilla to Willow whenever we get the chance, and post the best garden photos around. Presenting a forum about cold-weather gardening and for cold-weather gardeners is what we are all about. We hope you'll join us on the Talk Dirt garden blog.

Photographer and gardener Fran Durner (fdurner@adn.com) writes the blog.

February Garden Calendar - 1/29/2010 9:28 am

UA Anchorage recognized as a Tree Campus USA - 1/27/2010 10:36 am

Stone walls provide beauty and exercise - 1/26/2010 8:43 am

USDA program for high tunnels offered - 1/25/2010 8:08 pm

Worms could eat your garbage too - 1/24/2010 8:01 pm

Wildflower Garden Club offers annual scholarship - 1/21/2010 1:08 pm

Where did you find inspiration last year? - 1/19/2010 3:57 pm

Zaumseils say farewell for now - 1/18/2010 3:57 pm

Alaska gardeners make their lists for Santa

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Were you naughty or nice? Alaska gardeners share what's on their Christmas lists this year. Please share your own wish list in the comment section below.

I have asked Santa for Lauren's (Lauren Springer Ogden) book on Plant Driven Design. I've also requested a few (that's three) Sorbus decora (Dwarf Showy Mountain Ash) trees for my garden. I've always loved the berries and fall color of Mountain Ash trees, but didn't have a good place for such a big tree. At 20' tall, the dwarf will be perfect. - Brenda Adams, Homer

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No praise sung for holly, ivy in Northwest forests

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Mark Tomkiewicz, of the Nature Consortium, leads a team through the ivy on walking trails in a park in Seattle. The wet, mild climate of Western Washington and Oregon is ideal for English ivy and English holly, ornamental plants beloved when they stick to the yard or show up in Christmas wreaths and other decorations. But they are hated when they beset parks, green spaces and forests. (AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey)Mark Tomkiewicz, of the Nature Consortium, leads a team through the ivy on walking trails in a park in Seattle. The wet, mild climate of Western Washington and Oregon is ideal for English ivy and English holly, ornamental plants beloved when they stick to the yard or show up in Christmas wreaths and other decorations. But they are hated when they beset parks, green spaces and forests. (AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey)If thoughts of frogs jumping out of your Christmas tree wasn't enough to scare you, then check out this story from the Associated Press on how holly and ivy are now invading and choking the natural landscape in the Pacific Northwest.

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Last minute gifts for your gardener

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Ten Top Gifts for Gardeners

Waiting until the last minute to shop? Stumped for gifts for your favorite gardener? Here are some ideas to help you out and that should be easy to find in town.

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Alaskan rhubarb probably first came from Russia

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Master gardener Annie Nevaldine is dwarfed by rhubarb plants in Palmer in June. Photo by Jill ShepherdMaster gardener Annie Nevaldine is dwarfed by rhubarb plants in Palmer in June. Photo by Jill ShepherdQ & A with Jill Shepherd on the history of rhubarb in Alaska

I attended a talk Jill gave in early October on rhubarb and was amazed to hear about the research she has been doing on the history of gardening in Alaska and how rhubarb, which seems to be a very Alaskan plant, first arrived here.

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Div. of Ag invites plant industry to develop internal guidelines to control invasives.

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An email sent yesterday from Andrew Weaver, a Natural Resource Specialist at the Plant Materials Center with the Alaska Division of Agriculture:

"This winter and spring the Division of Agriculture is establishing a cooperative program to recognize the horticulture industry for taking voluntary steps to reduce the introduction and spread of invasive species to Alaska. These voluntary steps will be crafted by and for you as a horticulture industry cooperator. You are likely already engaging in practices that warrant recognition by this program. "

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Free pumpkin seeds for the asking

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Dale Marshall and J.D. Megchelsen check out Dale's pumpkin before unloading at the weigh-off at the State Fair in September. Fran Durner/ADNDale Marshall and J.D. Megchelsen check out Dale's pumpkin before unloading at the weigh-off at the State Fair in September. Fran Durner/ADNAnchorage giant pumpkin grower Dale Marshall doesn't look like Santa Claus but he is sure to bring holiday cheer to gardeners jonesing to try their hand at growing a giant pumpkin for themselves. He's offering free seeds from the pumpkins he entered at the State Fair this year. Click here to read about those pumpkins and see photos of them. They weighed in at 572 and 594 pounds!

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Northwest Flower and Garden Show coming up fast

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A 95-yr-old Japanese maple was one of the full-sized trees in the garden design exhibits in 2008. Photo by Fran DurnerA 95-yr-old Japanese maple was one of the full-sized trees in the garden design exhibits in 2008. Photo by Fran DurnerIn case you were looking for an excuse to flee the dead of winter (as if we need the least little prodding), the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is from February 3-7. You might remember the dread that struck our hearts like a pointed icicle when the owners of the show said this past February was their last show and they had been trying to find a buyer to no avail.

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Pigeons are nobody's friends

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Pigeons, like vultures waiting to move in on a meal, hover over my backyard. Photo by Fran DurnerPigeons, like vultures waiting to move in on a meal, hover over my backyard. Photo by Fran DurnerThe first one arrived in my backyard on Friday and by Monday there were four of them. Pigeons. They’ve been called everything from rats with wings to war heroes. A pure white one is the icon for peace and the Holy Spirit. If only.

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Looking for independent Xmas tree sellers

A reporter here is researching independent, street corner type, Christmas tree sellers. We know about Minnesota Bob, but are there any other tannenbaum purveyors in Anchorage, Eagle River, Wasilla or Palmer?

If you know of one, you can email reporter Debra McKinney at dmckinney@adn.com or post it in the comment section below.

Thank you!

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Dimond Greenhouses owner, Wayne Leiser, passes away

Well-known horiculturist, Wayne Leiser, 63, died Monday, November 30, 2009, at Dimond Greenhouses.

A service will be at 4 p.m. Monday at Holy Cross Catholic Church, Lake Otis Parkway and Lore Road. A potluck-style reception will be after the service at Dimond Greenhouses. Please join his family to share stories and remember him.

Wayne was born Dec. 8, 1945, in Bellingham, Wash. He grew up in Bellingham and moved to Alaska in 1964. In 1966, he joined the Navy, where he met the beautiful Sheryl on one of the four trips he made to New Zealand.

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Quinhagak teacher wins greenhouse grant

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Sherry Pederson, (center in gray hoodie) with students and teachers at the Quinhagak school, gets the news of the grant from Jenny Jones. Photo by Jim BarthelmanSherry Pederson, (center in gray hoodie) with students and teachers at the Quinhagak school, gets the news of the grant from Jenny Jones. Photo by Jim BarthelmanBy ALEX DeMARBAN
The Tundra Drums via The Associated Press

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Checking in with garden clubs and organizations

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Summer may be over but we know that garden clubs and organizations keep going all year long. I'd love to know what's going on with your club and I'm sure I'm not the only one, so please share a tidbit from your corner of the garden in the comment section below.

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December Garden Calendar

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Christmas lights wrap a small tree near the Borough Building in Palmer last year. Stephen Nowers/ADNChristmas lights wrap a small tree near the Borough Building in Palmer last year. Stephen Nowers/ADNDecember 1, Tuesday, 10:30am. Valley Garden Club Christmas party. At the old Catholic Church on Bogard Rd. in Wasilla. Bring a gift for the Chinese Auction and a dish for the wonderful potluck. Bring gifts, food etc. for families that VGC sponsors for the holidays. Call Fran for more info at 745-7676.

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Animal tales: The vegetarian vole

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Ermines are among the predators that keep Alaska's vole populations in check. (BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News)Ermines are among the predators that keep Alaska's vole populations in check. (BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News)
During final desperation cleanup this fall – the kind of deal-with-God gardening where you promise not to ask for one more gardening thing before spring in exchange for six hours before freeze-up – a Disney mouse came rocketing down the side of the house.

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Review: The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden

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The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden: How to Have a Beautiful, Productive Garden and the Time to Enjoy It, by Valerie Easton with photos by Jacqueline M. Koch.The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden: How to Have a Beautiful, Productive Garden and the Time to Enjoy It, by Valerie Easton with photos by Jacqueline M. Koch.When Valerie Easton's husband of 30 years threw down the shovel and quit as her yard boy to have more time to do the things HE liked to do, Valerie realized just how weary she was of tending her quarter-acre yarden. Soon after her youngest graduated, Valerie and husband downsized to a smaller home and a MUCH smaller yard.

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Reflections of the past summer

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Now that we've had some time to reflect, what would you say have been your successes and/or failures of the past summer?. Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

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Holiday flower show warms the day with blooms

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How does Amelia Walsh get her Lewisia cotyledon to bloom so beautifully at this time of year? Fran Durner/ADNHow does Amelia Walsh get her Lewisia cotyledon to bloom so beautifully at this time of year? Fran Durner/ADNTake a moment or a lunch hour today or tomorrow to stop by the Wells Fargo Bank building at the corner of C St and Northern Lights to see the 49th annual Holiday Flower Show sponsored by the Anchorage Garden Club. The lobby is filled with amazing blooming plants, artistically arranged displays and a Christmas tree decorated all in red and white.

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Stock up for Thanksgiving

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Alex Davis in the Northway Mall last year. Fran Durner/ADNAlex Davis in the Northway Mall last year. Fran Durner/ADNMissing the farmers markets as you think ahead towards Thanksgiving?

Several of the farmers and vendors have moved inside where it's warm and cozy and can be found on Wednesdays at the Northway Mall from 11-6.

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Colorado based grocer operates own farm

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Mike Gilliland, chief executive officer of Sunflower Farmers Market, sits among the vegetables growing in the company's experimental garden in Longmont, Colo. Sunflower is one of the few, if only, grocery stores in the nation to operate its own farm.  Photo by Kenneth D. Lyons, The Denver Post via APMike Gilliland, chief executive officer of Sunflower Farmers Market, sits among the vegetables growing in the company's experimental garden in Longmont, Colo. Sunflower is one of the few, if only, grocery stores in the nation to operate its own farm. Photo by Kenneth D. Lyons, The Denver Post via APBy STEVE RAABE / The Denver Post via Associated Press

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