Alaska’s botanical garden wafts fragrant for summer visitors
Courtesy Alaska Botanical Garden
Children can take advantage of many learning opportunities at the garden, from school tours to junior master gardener camp to story time in the garden. They can also check out a discovery duffle filled with kids activities and books about plants and gardening.
Alaska’s rich landscape of boreal forest is nowhere as accessible and informative as it is at the Alaska Botanical Garden at 4601 Campbell Airstrip Road in Anchorage. Just south of Tudor Road and adjacent to Far North Centennial Park, the eastern border of the garden is the north fork of Campbell Creek—home to a summer run of king salmon. Inside the garden, the 1.1-mile Lowenfels Family Nature Trail is an interpretive walk through spruce and birch forest.
The garden is a nonprofit organization supported by contributions, memberships, program fees and volunteers, and members enjoy reciprocal admission to many botanical gardens throughout the U.S. The garden began in the early 1980s with the Alaska Horticultural Association’s dream of an arboretum, and eventually resulted in the creation of a public garden—a labor of love for many local gardening groups and individuals. A plan guides the development of the gardens and infrastructure. Today, the Alaska Botanical Garden operates on 110 acres leased from the Municipality of Anchorage.
Existing gardens include a formal herb garden, alpine rock garden, three perennial gardens, a wildflower trail, junior master gardener plot and interconnecting nature trails. More than 1,100 species of hardy perennials and hundreds of native plant species thrive and bloom here in the subarctic growing season.
“There is a lot to see and do in every season,” said Education and Outreach Coordinator Patrick Ryan. “In spring, the snow melts from around the bases of the trees first—and a beautiful, fluorescent green moss appears. That’s followed by a little wintergreen plant with tiny green leaves.”
In May, the garden is just beginning to ramp up to its summer schedule. “May 19 is our annual plant sale and that’s also when the gift shop opens,” he said.
“Then May 26, ‘Alaska Public Gardens Day,’ is a free day for visitors.”
A big event for the garden is June 14, when it hosts the Midsummer-Gala-in-the-Garden fundraiser with music. The fundraiser is followed June 16 and 17 by the 15th annual Garden Fair, a family-oriented festival with emphasis on gardens and gardening.
“There are plant vendors, artists, photographers, food and educational demonstrations,” Ryan said. “There will be a children’s village, children’s events and music all through the garden.
Summer visits to the garden, especially the herb garden, are an aromatic and
visual delight. Birdsong and bird watching are abundant among the tall stands of trees. The garden’s nature trails are a great place to walk and hike; native
plants carry identification, so a wander through the woods also provides a learning experience.
This summer, watch for signs that the garden is growing in more ways than one. According to Ryan, improvements on tap for this year include completion of the newest perennial garden and a center to allow on-site management of the garden. Future planned developments include a visitor/education center, research plot and paved garden paths.