Thursday, June 29, 2006

Garden Tours to Inspire!


Alaska State Master Gardeners hold a state-wide convention once a year. It rotates around the state with various MG chapters hosting. Some of you may remember the last one our local chapter hosted, in April of 2001. It was a great conference with lots of speakers, wonderful seminars and an array of interesting garden related venders.

This year, the state convention once again returns to the Mat-Su MG chapter and they are aiming to correct something they feel has been missing from the state-wide conventions, including their own past efforts. Garden Tours! It sounds terribly fundamental – garden convention, garden tours, right? Well, not exactly. Traditionally the Master Gardener conventions have been held in Feb. and I need not tell you how difficult it is to have a proper garden tour that time of year! While tours of commercial, year-round greenhouses filled in somewhat, there’s nothing like getting your feet inside someone else’s garden to make a gardeners life complete. Granted it can also make one feel tortured and inadequate as you gaze on those giant vegetables and perfect roses, but what’s to inspire if not wonderful gardens? If torture is part of that, so be it.

The days to reserve are July 21 and 22. The conference starts with a keynote from Ed Buyarski, the president of the American Primrose Society. Ed is an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker and promises to fill your head with lots of practical – yes, appropriate for our area! – information on these lovely plants. In addition to Ed, Dan Elliot, past president and current vice president of the Alaska Fruit Growers Association will present on growing apple trees in Alaska. Dan has over 100 varieties of apples in his home orchard and is a wealth of valuable information on the subject. I also understand that it’s a bit of a coup to have him as a speaker.

Stonehill Gardens will be catering a dinner on Friday evening and two Local Master Gardener authors will have their books available for signing. Jeff Lowenfels has just returned from a book promotion tour for his new book ‘Teaming with Microbes’ and will be introducing it that night. Hazel Koppenberg’s cracker and flat bread cookbook ‘The Cracker Box’ will also be available. Herbal Crackers from Hazel’s book will be featured at the dinner, along side wild Alaskan foods and fresh valley produce.

An extended lunch hour on Friday will include a self-guided walking tour of gardens in downtown Palmer featuring the Dr. Myron F. Babb Arboretum, the visitor center’s agricultural showcase garden, the historical garden at the United Protestant Church (the old log church across from the borough building), and the city garden at the Purple Moose Espresso. Three additional gardens will be featured on private tours throughout Friday afternoon: an urban rose garden in Palmer and a Master Gardener’s vegetable garden will be featured. Plant listings will be provided for each tour.

On Saturday there will be another keynote from Ed Buyarski followed by a full day of classes, presentations and activities. Saturday’s events will be held at the state fair grounds in conjunction with the second annual Alaska Garden and Art festival. Between the conference and the festival, Saturday topics include composting, potato late blight, landscaping for wildlife, beekeeping, pruning, garden photography, invasive plants, an ‘ask the experts forum’ with a wide range of plant expertise, beneficial insects, garden wildlife, children’s story time, children’s ‘build a fairy house’, yoga in the garden and sand cast birdbaths. In addition there will be tours of the three main gardens on the fair grounds; the Eckert Memorial Herb Garden, the Perennial Garden and Millie’s Vegetable Garden. These gardens are the babies of Becky Myrvold, head gardener at the fair, and are well worth a look. Becky is a treasure of plant knowledge and design insight and will be giving the tours herself.

Another first for this year’s conference is a children’s forum along side the adult forum, complete with a child’s registration fee. Speaking of price, the two day conference sounds like a bargain in any gardener’s book – only $85.00 per adult and $40.00 per child!

Participation in this event will be guaranteed to turn your brain into garden mush and you’re likely to walk away spouting Botanical Latin, or even worse, discussing microbes with you neighbor! But it still sounds like a no-miss happening. TO REGISTER, JUST CALL 745-7071 OR SEND YOUR REGISTRATION FEE TO: MAT-SU MASTER GARDENERS, C/O PO BOX 2876, PALMER, AK. 99645 ALONG WITH YOUR NAME, PHONE NUMBER, EMAIL ADDRESS (IF YOU HAVE ONE)AND KNOWN FOOD ALLERGIES. It's as simple as that and you can join the fun!

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