Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Be There or Be Square - The Alaska Garden & Art Festival!

DD Two

Summer is NOT over, yet!
I know we all feel like we’ve been shortchanged by Mother Nature lately, but, we do still have a few weeks left before the next frost sets in. July is the month when our gardens are really hitting their stride and a great time to get out to the garden tours. Next Saturday will be the 2nd Annual Garden and Art Festival at the State Fair grounds-an event that will knock your garden clogs off! This is the best way to enjoy all that head gardener Becky Myrvold and her staff have done with the over 35,000 plants that are planted in the beds every year along with 200 hanging baskets and 100 whiskey barrels that make the Alaska State Fair sing with color. So, stop your whining and get out to see the efforts of some real gardening athletes.

With a small crew of gardeners planting and pruning to get those great blooms for the fair, Becky hopes to be finished planting by next week. This year Becky decided to do the unthinkable-a white monochromatic color scheme. “I decided to go out on a limb and do an all white theme – so all of our beds and baskets will be all white, silver or gray and their wonderful variations! It was a challenge to myself – to see if I could create enough interest using only a monochromatic scheme. Did I pull it off? I really won’t know until later in the season.” Personally, my favorite part of my garden is mostly white with a hint of pink veronica. It just glows in the evening light! But, it’s a scheme sure to bring out the garden nannies and their grousing about color. “I suspect that the gardens will look lovely as usual, but, anxiety is part of the job. I vacillate between being worried that I have failed and being excited to see if it will be beautiful,” she noted. Becky’s really excited about the Ptilostemon diacantha, a thistle-looking plant with gray green foliage and white variegations.

Of course, it all started last fall with the seed orders and planning the garden theme, followed by the actual seeding in January. By March things are in full swing with pricking out the seedlings and starting the transplants. “The magic of seed germination” is Becky’s favorite part of the job. Going to the office in the morning to be greeted by “the beauty of a greenhouse in mid-April when all the plants are young and actively growing” is something many of us yearn for in the early dawn gloom. For Becky “the wonder of walking into the Perennial Garden and finding someone blooming I had forgotten I planted” and “poking around in the early spring for new shoots” is part of the joy of the job. You’ll notice she personifies her wards as ‘someone’ rather than as just a plant. This gardener is really ‘into’ her plants!

Part of the State Fair’s agenda is to educate the public about agriculture in Alaska. Their garden program illustrates just how many varieties of plants we can grow in our Alaskan gardens.
Like a movie director, the head gardener is invisible in the wings while the public enjoys the fruits of her labors. For Becky there’s satisfaction of a hard job well-done if all those perennial “plant crazies” who come each year can learn something new. And there will be lots of new things to watch for this year with the revamped plantings at Raven Hall, more paved paths in the Eckert Garden, and a picnic retreat at the Flagpole area.

Of course, the whole festival would not take flight without the unflagging efforts of the indomitable festival organizer Margo Frey, whose energies and organizational skills should be distilled and marketed as a supplement for the rest of us following in her wake! And she expects gardeners to heed the call to enter the Classy Container Contest. Do you have a stunner out there on the deck just waiting for the limelight? Well, bring that work of art to the Red Walk-In Gate on Saturday, July 22 from 11 to 2 for the judging. There will be wagons and helpers to transport your entries to the judging area. Be sure and make room for all the prizes, too!

Alaska Garden & Art Festival, Saturday July 22, 11-6, Alaska State Fair Grounds. For more information go to www.Alaskastatefair.org.

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