Strawberries worth the effort

Strawberries are fraught with enemies. For you to have a bowl of these beauties on your kitchen counter you need to put in some effort. Yes, there will be weeds among the plants; yes, slugs will damage the crop; yes, birds will tear them to bits ; yes, moose will pull up the whole plant and eat it; yes, you need to do something to help them. They are so worth it. Our strawberries may not be the huge red-all-the-way-through product you get at the grocery store. Be thankful. Ours are delicious. Smaller, paler and sublime.

Apple tree produces fruit this year

Those of you who grow apples have scoffed at my columnar apple tree. It has been said that it isn’t a “real” apple tree. But, in my defense, it has served a purpose: I have been able to say, yes, I have an apple tree.

The fact is that I don’t want an apple tree. The only thing I like about them are the blooms. I don’t like their growth habit, therefore, I don’t like to look at them.

Thank climate change for magnolia blooms in Homer

A magnolia in bloom right here at latitude 59 degrees 39 minutes north. Now that’s something to write home about. Well-known Homer gardener Shirley Forquer can do just that. She acquired her plant 12 or 15 years ago in Port Townsend, Wash., gave it a home and then forgot about it, more or less. Three weeks ago she noticed something white on the ground near the base of the plant and, lo, a bloom.

Don't be afraid to move your plants around

I went to a friends garden this week because she is frustrated with what she has going on. I truly think being overwhelmed by your garden is one of the main reasons people give up.


But this friend is ready to dig in (literally) and get things under control. She has very specific needs from her perennial bed and really all I had to do was listen. Sometimes saying things out loud is all it takes. Once she heard herself telling me what she really wanted it all started falling into place.

Berries bursting out all over

Where to start? The last two weeks have been so full, so interesting, so busy. And all of this in the garden. I can’t imagine life without it. So this column will be a bit disjointed, stick with it and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting and, hopefully, useful.

Want to be a happy gardener? Think small

Just when I think the entire world is going to hell I make an excellent discovery: a neighbor with a vegetable garden that is exactly four feet square. Think about that for a moment, go ahead, take two.

Here is a semi-retired couple who have never gardened and buy the book on square foot gardening and actually do it. They are growing exactly what they want to eat. All will be consumed fresh. They have given this thought and are having excellent results.

Deadhead, deadhead, deadhead

We all think about how we can make the most of our time. So there I was, considering the seed pods rapidly developing on the multitudes of columbine (which are having an excellent season), knowing in my heart of hearts that I really really needed to go out there and deadhead. Want more blooms? Deadhead. But, I find deadheading columbine a tedious chore. Much as I love to garden, this is one task I would like to skip. So I asked myself: Deadhead columbine or eat a slice of buttered toast accompanied by a cup of tea while standing over the kitchen sink? Decisions, decisions.

Annuals fulfill purpose by adding color, punch to garden

I talk too much. Three times this past week I have invited interested gardeners over to look at this creation. Now, I said “interested” and they are but when I start going into way too much detail and their eyes glaze over I should take the hint. Live and learn. Plus, I don’t have time to go into all this detail. There is work to be done.

Your garden is about so much more than blooms, veggies


here is more than meets the eye in a garden. Liz Johnson and I shared many a pot of tea on dark winter days as we poured over seed catalogs. We shared responsibility for the Garden Clubs’ “Car Wash Garden” for eons. That was an effort that sucked up more of our time and effort than a hanging basket that needs daily watering. 

Who would have thought we’d be mowing lawns in April?

Please, don’t let Al Gore know how much I’m loving this March and April. I feel like I should be wearing a hair shirt and walking on my knees to atone for my delight.

I’ve often said that if you don’t want nine months of winter/almost winter than you shouldn’t live here. You want fruit trees? Go to Washington. You want watermelons? Go to Texas. You want everything else? Stay right here.

Early spring is amazing

Never in the 44 years of living in Alaska have I had a garden party the first weekend of April, and there we were, with margaritas no less. Amazing. 

There has been a lot to think about the past two weeks. For instance: A friend pointed out that never ever in all her years in the Far North has she had to consider an outdoor seating arrangement in the shade. Now there is food for thought. 

Believe it or not: Gardening season around the corner

So here it is Sunday evening at elevation 396 feet. I spent the afternoon shaking almost two feet of wet, heavy snow off shrubs. I know, I should have been wearing a hair shirt. This activity felt like penance for loving challenging kinds of ornamental plants. 

But love them I do, and shake off the snow I will. The snow has turned to rain and the branches will probably break without my attention. Not on my watch. 

Now’s the time to assess your shrubs

This column is being written on Super Bowl Sunday. Taking into consideration that it would be impossible for me to care less about football I decided to address the mock orange that has graced the west corner of the house for about 15 years. I have yet to prune it. The other two have been pruned but this particular one of the trio is so magnificent that I have had pruning fear. Until last year. It did not bloom with gusto. This is a clear indication that something needed to be done. Also, the inside of the shrub was mostly dead wood.   


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